When children and young people move between phases of education parents, carers or young people often have to think about what school or college should be named in the EHC plan.

There should always be an annual review of the EHC plan before a transfer to a new phase of education – see the section on annual review for more information. 

What is a new phase of education?

This is defined in regulation 2 of the SEN and Disability Regulations 2014 (the “SEN Regs”) as a transfer from:

(a)  early years education to school;

(b)  infant school to junior school;

(c)  primary school to middle school;

(d)  primary school to secondary school;

(e)  middle school to secondary school; or

(f)  secondary school to a post-16 institution.

Very often this process is called a “phase transfer” and we will use that expression here.

What happens to the EHC Plan?

Regulation 18 of the SEN Regs requires that the EHC plan must be reviewed and amended before—

(a) 31 March if the transfer is from secondary school to a post-16 institution

(b) 15 February in any other case, or

(c) If a young person is moving from one post-16 institution to another post-16 institution at any other time, at least five months before that transfer takes place.

This means the local authority (“LA”) should start the annual review process in the autumn term of the year before the child or young person moves setting. If the LA are late in starting the annual review process, you can use our model letter to complain.

The LA must send the parent or young person a notice, setting out the proposed amendments to the EHC plan. The parent or young person must be given the chance to make representations about these proposed amendments and about the school or college they want named in the EHC plan. If the parent or young person does not agree with the amendments, or wants further amendments made, see the section on objecting to proposed amendments to an EHC plan for more information.

So – where a child or young person is moving to a new phase of their education, the process is as follows:

  1. LA reviews the plan;
  2. LA sends proposed amendments and a copy of the plan (with section I left blank) to the parent or young person within 4 weeks of the annual review meeting;
  3. Parent or young person has at least 15 days to make representations about the proposed amendments/content of the plan and to either request that a particular school (from the list in section 38(3) Children and Families Act 2014) is named or to express a preference for an independent placement (see choosing a school for more information);
  4. LA issues a final amended plan, with notice of appeal rights, by the statutory deadlines in Regulation 18.

Secondary transfer forms – or other schools’ admissions policies

Under the law, there is no requirement for parents of a child with an EHC plan, or young people with an EHC plan, to go through the normal admissions process. EHC plans should be dealt with separately to this.

However, many local authorities will ask parents or young people to fill in forms with their preferences and IPSEA has been sent copies of some of these recently. Unfortunately, while it is not lawful for LAs to impose this requirement on parents or young people, there might be a risk in not following this process.  It’s not clear whether, if these preference forms are not used, the LA will name a school parents or young people aren’t happy with. Do remember, though, that even if you do list several preferences the LA can only refuse to name your first preference if one of the legal reasons for refusal applies.

LAs can’t get around the statutory process of phase transfer where a child or young person has an EHC plan and is moving to a new phase of their education. The 4-part process outlined above must be carried out in the order listed.

LAs must not make children or young people with EHC plans go through the usual schools admissions process and cannot require them (or their parents) to make requests for placements or express preferences prior to the point at which notice of proposed amendments has been sent in accordance with the SEN Regs. A parent or young person must not be disadvantaged by refusing to go through the normal admissions process, as they are not required to do so.

Additionally, parents or young people who express preferences before to the annual review can change their mind in the exercise of their statutory right to request that a particular school be named in the amended EHC plan.

A refusal to name a particular school at phase transfer can be appealed to the SEND Tribunal.


If you haven’t been able to find the answer to your question on this page, please see our FAQs on choosing a school, or the sections on annual review or on choosing a school or college.