This case concerns child, C, whose parents appealed against sections B, F and I of his EHC plan. The FtT ordered a number of amendments to be made to Sections B and F of his plan and dismissed the appeal in respect of section I naming a specially resourced provision (“SRP”) within a mainstream school. It was the LA’s case that, as the tribunal ordered that C be placed in an SRP for pupils with autism, there was less need for specificity (relying on the argument that less specificity is needed if the child is in a special school).

The parents appealed to the UT on the basis that the EHC plan was not “so specific and clear as to leave no room for doubt as to what has been decided is necessary in the individual case” (Laws J in L v Clarke and Somerset CC [1998] ELR 129). The LA argued (relying on East Sussex CC v TW [2016] UKUT 528 (AAC)) that as the tribunal had ordered that C be placed in an SRP for pupils with autism, there was less need for specificity. The parents submitted that the placement must be read in the context of the tribunal’s reference to the fact that the amount of time that SRP pupils spent in the provision varied, and that the majority of pupils already in the unit were spending time in the mainstream.  Indeed, the evidence before the tribunal was that a primary purpose of the provision was to “facilitate access to the mainstream curriculum… to work towards their full and independent inclusion in all aspects of school life”. A secondary purpose was to provide a haven from the sensory and social pressures of the mainstream school environment. Further, the EHC plan provided for whole class teaching as well as individual and small group teaching. 

The UT concluded that, given the particular facts, the FtT failed to have sufficient regard to the issue of support in the mainstream and leant towards finding that provision was not being made at the equivalent of a special school. On this point the UT Judge concluded “however, it is not necessary for me to decide the point because, as [the parents] point out, the authorities do not suggest that, even for children in specialist provision, the requirement of specificity can be abandoned where detail could reasonably be provided. On balance I find that, in the circumstances of this case, in the examples given below (under Section F of the Plan) detail could reasonably have been provided.”  Judge Rowley then identified several points which were not specific enough:

(a) “[C] will have support from a Learning Support Assistant”

(b) “[C] requires a programme to develop his social communication and social interaction skills delivered in 1:1 and small group settings with opportunities to practice (sic) new skills learnt throughout the day.”

(c) “Daily opportunities with a teacher to improve self-esteem and develop a positive self through increased awareness of individual strengths and attributes and through achieving success in a variety of contexts”.

(d) “[C] requires a structured programme to develop his motor planning coordination skills.”

(e) “[C] requires the equivalent 25 hours of support to be used flexibly across the school day to include individual, small group and whole class teaching to meet the outcomes described.”

The decision was therefore set aside on the basis that the FtT had erred in law.

The full case report is available here.

Implications of the decision:

The presumption that EHC plans of children in special school are not required to be as specific as those of learners in mainstream settings is incorrect. Specification should reasonably be given in all cases.