An Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan is a plan which specifies a child 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 (section 37 Children and Families Act 2014). 

The contents of an EHC plan must be specified and quantified. The Upper Tribunal has previously 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) 

In this case an appeal was made to the SEND Tribunal relating to a school being named in a child’s EHC plan, the parent felt that her child should attend a dyslexia specialist school and not the mainstream school named by the LA in the plan. The SEND Tribunal allowed the appeal and ordered the LA to amend the plan to name the dyslexia specialist school in Section I. The SEND Tribunal added that the child should receive one hour of one-to-one speech and language therapy each week and specified this should be taught by staff with relevant qualifications and experience. The decision was then appealed to the Upper Tribunal by the LA, which prompted the Upper Tribunal to review case law on the level of specificity needed in an EHC plan. It concluded that the decision made by the SEND Tribunal was correct and it had been entitled to order the amendment of the EHC plan to name the specified provision and entitled to conclude that the child was not progressing adequately in a mainstream setting. 

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, depending on the individual circumstances.

The full case report can be accessed online.

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

In this case an amendment made by the SEND Tribunal to a child’s EHC plan was removed by the Upper Tribunal as it lacked specificity. The SEND Tribunal had decided that the child needed extracurricular support for one hour a week to be provided at home from a trusted and familiar psychologist. This was deemed too vague and uncertain, and the order was not supported by either expert or professional advice.

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 a 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 online.

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 (paragraph 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 whether 1:1 or in a group of a particular size.

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 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.