Annual Reviews

What is an Annual Review?

There is a requirement for all Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) to be reviewed by the Local Authority (LA) at least annually, referred to as an Annual Review.

In Early Years EHCPs should be reviewed every 3 to 6 months. (Code of Practice 9.178).

The Annual Review is more than just a review meeting, it is a process that must be completed on or before the anniversary of when the EHCP was first issued or the anniversary of the last review. It is laid down in law and in the Code of Practice.

The Annual Review process

Although the overall Review process is the LA’s responsibility, it is usual practice for Steps 1 to 4 to be delegated by the LA to the school, setting or the education provider, (Code of Practice 9.173-9.175)referred to for the purpose of this document as the “host”.

Step 1

The host will write to all the professionals involved with the child or young person, which may also include specific professionals employed by the school, to obtain written advice. They must also write to the parent or young person inviting them to contribute their views wishes and feelings. This should include their view of the current arrangements and provide an opportunity to discuss changes which the parent or carer may want to be made to the EHCP. These reports should be sent to the host within 2 weeks of the request being made.

What the Code of Practice states:

9.166 Reviews must focus on the child or young person’s progress towards achieving the outcomes specified in the EHC plan. The review must also consider whether these outcomes and supporting targets remain appropriate.

Step 2

The host will then send out invitations to all those required to attend (CoP 9.176), at least 2 weeks before the date of the Annual Review meeting. The host is also required to circulate copies of all the reports they have received with the invitations. This will usually be the same people they contacted in Step 1 but may include others if it is thought their assistance or contribution may be able required.

Step 3

The Annual Review meeting should be held in the style of a Person Centred Planning Meeting but in whatever format the meeting takes it must enable full involvement of the parent, child or young person and consider their views wishes and feelings especially when making decisions.

(CoP 9.166 to 9.168 and Section 19 Principles).

Ensure that the following are covered and that school do not simply focus on how things have gone in the past year in school:

The meeting:

1. must focus on progress made towards achieving outcomes

2. must establish whether the current outcomes remain appropriate and if required agree new ones

3. must review the short-term targets and set new ones

4. must review the special educational provision and the arrangements for delivering it to ensure it is still appropriate and enabling good progress

5. review any health and social care provision and check its effectiveness towards achieving the outcomes

6. check if the aspirations have changed (consider them in the context of paid employment, independent living and community participation (CoP 9.69)

7. must check if the parent or young person would like to request a Personal Budget.

What the Code of Practice states:

9.168 Reviews must be undertaken in partnership with the child and their parent or the young person, and must take account of their views, wishes and feelings, including their right to request a Personal Budget.

Step 4

After the meeting the host must prepare a report that includes any recommendations for amendments to be made to the EHCP. This should include where there are differences of opinions and not just the general consensus. This must be sent to everyone who had been invited and the LA within 2 weeks of the meeting taking place.

Step 5

Upon receiving the report the LA has to decide which one of the three following options applies.

Whether the EHCP:

1. should remain unchanged

2. needs to be amended

3. should be ceased (Code of Practice 9.199-9.210)

The LA must inform the parent or young person of this decision within 4 weeks from the Annual Review meeting.

What happens next?

If the LA decides on option 1 or 3 (CoP 9.176) they must inform the parent / young person of the following:

  • their right of appeal to the tribunal and the time limits for this to take place
  • the requirement for them to consider mediation if they decide to appeal
  • their right to receive information, advice and support.

The EHCP must be maintained until the 2-month period for the appeal to be lodged at the Tribunal has passed. If an appeal is made to the Tribunal the EHCP must be maintained until the hearing has taken place and they have given their decision.

If the LA decides on option 2 they should make the amendments as soon as possible. (Code of Practice 9.193 – 9.198).

The LA must:

  • send to the parent / young person a copy of the unchanged version of the EHCP along with a notice outlining the proposed amendments.
  • include the supporting evidence for the proposed changes. This may include additional reports and notes from the meeting.
  • give the parent / young person at least 15 calendar days to respond with their views. This could include naming a school. (Code of Practice 9.78 and 9.94). They should also be informed of their right to meet with the LA to discuss the proposed changes.

Once the LA has received its response from the parent / young person, within 8 weeks of when they informed the parent / young person of the proposed changes, the LA must issue an amended EHCP.

The amended EHCP should clearly state it is an amended version and be dated.

In very rare cases, within this 8 weeks, the LA may decide that no changes are needed. They will then inform the parent / young person of this decision and give their reasons why.

It should:

  • be clear which parts have been amended.
  • have attached to it the additional reports and the minutes from the review meeting that have informed the decision.
  • still clearly state the date the original EHCP was issued as this will still be the date that determines when the next Annual Review is to be completed by.

The LA must also inform the parent or young person of:

  • their right of appeal to the tribunal and the time limits for this to take place
  • the requirement for them to consider mediation if they decide to appeal
  • their right to receive information, advice and support (SEND Advice Surrey).

This is particularly important if the parent or young person is unhappy or not satisfied with the changes that have been made to the EHCP.

What happens if I have an appeal going on at the same time:

The annual review must take place within 12 months of the last review or of the date the EHCP was first issued. This is not affected by an ongoing appeal. As such, the annual review still needs to take place.

The annual review could be an opportunity to try and resolve some of the issues in dispute. If the LA issues a new amended EHCP after the annual review, this can be treated as a working document in the current appeal, rather than you having to register a new appeal.

Additional information to be aware of regarding Annual Reviews:

The Annual Review is required to check all sections of the EHCP not just the educational targets and provision. It can provide an opportunity for parents and young people to request changes and updates. It may also be that what they expected to happen, based on their understanding or interpretation of various elements of the EHCP, may not have been delivered exactly as they had anticipated.

Section A – aspirations should be checked to see if they remain the same. There may be additional aspirations to be included perhaps due to new experiences, interests or circumstances.

Section B – new needs may have emerged or existing needs changed and/or are having an impact on other areas of their life (in or out of school) or the parent or children and young people may not feel their needs are described accurately or be a true representation of who they are. An example may be where a need has been described in the EHCP as a behaviour issue when the underlying reason behind the behaviour has now been identified as being due to a communication disorder or learning difficulty.

Section C – there may be a new diagnosis or on-going investigations. Health conditions included may have stabilised or improved. Alternatively, what had previously been reported as a relatively stable health condition may now be less so.

Section D – change of circumstances may have occurred or a more up to date assessment has now been completed that should be included. Parent / young person may request an assessment of their Social Care needs.

Section E – outcomes are expected to last for two to three years but they still need to be reviewed to check they are still relevant, SMARTened up or changed. (Short-term targets will also be reviewed and new targets set).

Section F – there should be provision to match each need included in B. Perhaps some of the provision didn’t occur or hasn’t been as effective as expected or perhaps there’s an alternative approach that could be tried.

Section G – anything included here requires agreement by the LA from the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). Any health provision, such as Speech and Language Therapy that educates or trains must be included in Section F.

Sections H1 & 2 – any provision included here will depend on what needs, if any have been included in Section D. It must be reviewed and may have already changed since it was originally included.

Section I – if relevant the suitability of the school (or placement) may also be discussed. The parent / young person may want to ask for a different school or type of school if they believe it will provide a better match to their needs.

Section J – any Personal Budget already in place should be reviewed particularly where provision has been amended. This is also an opportunity to request a Personal Budget if the parent / young person would like one.