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 their education, health and care (EHC) plan.

There must  always be an annual review of the EHC plan before a transfer to a new phase of education. Please see our pages on annual review for more information. 

What is a new phase of education?

This is defined in regulation 2 of The Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 (the SEND Regulations 2014) as a transfer from:

  1. early years education to school
  2. infant school to junior school
  3. primary school to middle school
  4. primary school to secondary school
  5. middle school to secondary school, or
  6. 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 SEND Regulations 2014 states  that the EHC plan must be reviewed and amended before

  1. 31 March if the transfer is from secondary school to a post-16 institution
  2. 15 February in any other case, or
  3. 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 your local authority (LA) should start the annual review process in the autumn term of the year before your child or young person moves to:

  • a new setting as part of that phase transfer, for example from primary to secondary school, or 
  • to a new phase. Some children attend an “all through school” which means they will move for example from primary education to secondary education whilst in the same setting. The review process still needs to be carried out for these pupils.  

This review must still take place even if an annual review would not normally be due at that time. The above deadlines are very important because if the amended EHC plan names a setting you do not agree with, you will have a right to appeal the to the SEND Tribunal, and you would ideally want your appeal to be decided in time for a September start date at the new setting.

If your LA is late in starting the annual review process, you can use our template letter to complain.

After the review meeting, your LA must send to you a notice, setting out the proposed amendments to the EHC plan. You must be given the chance to make representations about these proposed amendments and about the school or college you want named in the EHC plan. If you do not agree with the proposed amendments, or would like  further amendments made, please see our pages on objecting to proposed amendments to an EHC plan for more information.

What process must my LA follow?

Where a child or young person is moving to a new phase of their education, a 4 step process must be carried out:

  1. LA reviews the EHC plan.
  2. LA sends its proposed amendments and a copy of the plan (with section I left blank) to you within 4 weeks of the annual review meeting.
  3. You have at least 15 days to make representations about the proposed amendments and 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 (please see our pages on choosing a school for more information).
  4. LA issues a final amended EHC plan, with notice of appeal rights, by the statutory deadlines in regulation 18 of The SEND Regulations 2014.

Our annual review checklist contains detailed information on each of these steps. You can use this resource to check whether the necessary steps are being followed in your phase transfer review.

Secondary transfer forms – or other schools’ admissions policies. Do I have to use them?

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 for a school or college place.

EHC plans should be dealt with separately to this. However, many LAs will ask you to fill in forms with your preferences.

It is not lawful for LAs to require you to use these forms, but there might be a risk if you do not use them.  This is because if you do not use these preference forms, your LA may decide to name a school or college you are not happy with. Remember though - even if you do list several settings as your preferred choices your LA can only refuse to name your first choice of school or college 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-step process outlined above must be carried out and 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 for schools before step 2 in the list above. This means that:

  • your LA should not ask you to say which school you would like your child or young person to go to before your LA has said which changes it is planning to make to the EHC plan, and
  • once your LA has said how it is proposing to amend the EHC plan then you should be asked which school you would like to request.  

You must not be disadvantaged by refusing to go through the normal admissions process, as you are not required to do so.

If your LA does ask you before this process to say which school/college you would like for your child or young person and you give them your preferences, you can change your mind during the review process. You have a legal right to request that a particular school or college be named in the amended EHC plan when you receive a draft EHC plan or an amendment notice telling you what changes the LA is proposing.

I do not agree with my LA’s decision at phase transfer. What can I do?

If your LA:

  • refuses to name your requested school at phase transfer and names a school you are unhappy with
  • names a type of school at phase transfer but not an actual setting
  • refuses to amend the EHC plan at phase transfer, or
  • amends the EHC plan at phase transfer, but you are unhappy with sections B and F,

you can appeal this in the SEND Tribunal. You also have the right to mediation.

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.