An Education, Health and Care plan (“EHC plan”) is a plan which specifies a child’s or young person’s special educational needs, the outcomes sought for them, and the required special educational provision, together with relevant health and social care needs and provision (s37 Children and Families Act 2014).  

The contents of an EHC plan must be specified and quantified. Recently, the Upper Tribunal (“UT”) has looked at how specific an EHC plan needs to be, to meet the legal duty in the Children and Families Act.   

Worcestershire County Council v SE [2020] UKUT 217 (AAC)  

The appropriate and necessary level of specificity and detail in an EHC plan will depend on all the individual facts in a case. An EHC plan should be a realistic and practical document, which helps (rather than hinders) a child or young person.  

Factors affecting how specific an EHC plan needs to be include:  

  • all the circumstances of the case (a more complex case may require more specificity and detail); 
  • whether a degree of flexibility is needed to meet the child’s needs, considering all the facts; and 
  • the setting to be attended (or if it’s not appropriate for the provision to be made in a setting).  For example, where provision is being made at a special school or college. It may allow more flexibility than where it is being made in a mainstream school is involved, depending on the individual circumstances. 

The full case report can be accessed here. 

London Borough of Redbridge v HO (SEN) [2020] UKUT 323 (AAC)  

Following on from Worcestershire v SE above, this case confirmed that where detail can reasonably be provided in an EHC plan, it should be. Even where there is need for flexibility (to meet the child or young person’s needs) in an EHC plan, the duty remains on LAs to specify.   

When deciding how specific a particular EHC plan needs to be, as well as looking at all the principles in Worcestershire v SE, the following also apply:   

  • The EHC plan must give the LA a clear picture of what it is required to provide.  
  • The EHC plan is a free-standing legal document setting out the LA’s duties. The parent or young person has the right to rely on what the plan says, so it needs to be clear. 
  • The type of provision ordered by the SEND Tribunal will usually indicate the necessary level of detail. Often, the professionals involved will provide the details of the provision they consider necessary. 
  • More detail may be needed if the child is to attend a mainstream school, where staff may have less expertise than in special schools.    
  • The SEND Tribunal may look at what is sensible and provide a method for how a particular type of provision is to be made. 

The full case report can be accessed here.

Implications of these decisions:  

These decisions do not change the need for provision to be detailed, specific and (normally) quantified as set out in the SEND Code of Practice (para 9.69). For example, LAs may still need to specify hours per week in Section F of an EHC plan along with what the provision is, if a qualified professional needs to deliver it, how often and 1:1 or in a group of a particular size, if necessary in the circumstances.  

If you are preparing to appeal to the SEND Tribunal regarding provision in an EHC plan, you will need to show that:  

  1. a certain type of provision is needed, and
  2. a particular level of specificity or detail is necessary.  

If professional reports and evidence don’t clearly state a child’s or young person’s needs and the specific provision required to meet them, you should ask the relevant professional to clarify this.   

You can also use these cases to argue against vague wording proposed by an LA, where the LA cannot show flexibility is required as a result of the child’s needs.