Sophie is 5 - she has an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan and is educated in a special school. 

What the SEND Review says:

What the current legal framework says: 

Sophie has profound and multiple learning disabilities as well as complex health needs which require daily management and support.

If the current law was followed, the EHCP process would be a positive and straightforward experience for Sophie’s family.

Given her profound and multiple difficulties, the local authority would readily agree that Sophie satisfied the legal tests for assessment and the issuing of a plan, and her parents would not have to fight.

All relevant professionals, including social care and health, would provide advice and information on Sophie’s SEN, the provision she requires, and the outcomes intended to be achieved within six weeks of being asked to do so. Such advice would be clear, accessible and specific.  

When Sophie’s parents receive her draft EHC plan, Section B will clearly identify each of her special educational needs, and Section F will contain detailed, specific and quantified provision to meet each of those needs. It will leave no room for doubt as to what is required in her individual case. 

Sophie’s parents can request any school. The local authority will name their chosen school in Section I of the EHC plan unless there is a valid reason for them to refuse. If there is no suitable and materially cheaper school available, an independent school will be named. Regardless of distance, home to school transport will be provided.

The school will have capacity to meet Sophie’s needs because the local authority must secure the specified provision in the EHCP in full and so must provide any additional resources and funding that may be required.

Sophie’s parents will feel included and supported because their views, wishes and feelings have been considered; they have participated fully in all decisions, and have received all the information and support they needed in order to do so.  

If Sophie’s parents disagree with the final EHCP, they can appeal straight to the SEND Tribunal. However, they will have no need to do so because the law has been followed and they now have a good, legally-compliant EHCP which meets Sophie’s needs.

Future experience - under the Government's proposed reforms:

The new standardised EHCP process means multi-agency professionals across education, health and care can work together and with the family (exactly as they are required to do under the current system), but they are now constrained by the national standards.

The EHCP process is efficient, but Sophie’s parents feel that she is being offered standardised support rather than the support she needs as an individual. Sophie’s needs are complex, and she does not fit neatly into any of the boxes or categories within the national standards. Nonetheless, Sophie’s parents are told that this is all that she is legally entitled to.

The local authority officer (who has not met Sophie) draws up a shortlist of local schools which are able to provide the standardised support in the EHCP (rather than the individualised support that she in fact needs). Sophie’s parents, who know her best, feel that none of these schools are right for her. They have identified another school in a neighbouring local authority which they believe would be perfect for her.  However, they have no right to request this school as it is not on the list.

Sophie’s parents wish to appeal to the SEND Tribunal, but they must first go through compulsory mediation. They have already been discussing these issues with the local authority for many months, but there is no middle ground - they cannot compromise on the support and placement that they know are vital for Sophie’s future, and the local authority will not compromise as they know they have done all that the new law requires. Mediation is unsuccessful and simply delays matters further.

The case then goes back for consideration by the “independent” multi-disciplinary panel who considered her case in the first place. Unsurprisingly, their recommendations remain the same. More time goes by.   

Sophie’s parents appeal to the SEND Tribunal, which takes several more months. The SEND Tribunal follows the new law and determines that Sophie is only entitled to support as set out in the national standards and a placement within the local authority’s shortlist. The EHCP remains unchanged.

Sophie’s needs are not met in the new school, and the placement breaks down. Sophie is not receiving any education, and the local authority is under no obligation to provide alternative education under s. 19 Education Act 1996 because they have already offered provision that meets the national standards.  Sophie’s parents are desperate, but they have no further rights and nowhere left to go.

It's never been more vital to stand up for the rights of children and young people with SEND. We encourage you to tell the Department for Education what you think about the proposed reforms. The public consultation runs until 11.45pm on Friday 22 July - read our guidance on how you can respond to the Government’s proposals here.