Local Authorities across the East urged to meet vital education deadline

Figures show that in 2023, 266 primary school children in the region did not receive their transition EHCP by February 15th
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Local Authorities (LAs) in the East are being urged to meet a vital education deadline amidst concerns that hundreds of children with special educational needs (SEN) are being let down by delays issuing final transition education healthcare plans or statements.

The legal deadline for local authorities to notify the families of children in England who have an Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP) in place in regards to which school place they have been allocated is 15th February.

But figures obtained via an Freedom Of Information Request by specialist education law experts at Simpson Millar have revealed that in 2023, 9 LAs in the region reported delays, impacting a total of 266 out of 1970 (13%) pupils with an EHCP in place.

File image of children in a classroomFile image of children in a classroom
File image of children in a classroom

Nationally, the data shows that the delays impacted a total of 3079 of 22,285 (13.8%) of children in England with an EHCP in place. However, figures are expected to be much higher as a number of councils did not, or were unable, to respond to the request for information.

Authorities who fail to meet the deadline are in breach of their statutory duty, as families who are not notified of their school placement by the deadline have less time to manage the transition process for the children, many of whom struggle to adapt.

It also means that there is less time to appeal the decision with a view to securing an alternative education setting.

“Local Authorities are legally obligated to carry out a Transition Review and make a decision on where children will be educated before they move into secondary school” says specialist education expert Sarah Woosey from Simpson Millar.

“The February deadline is crucial for parents who need time to prepare their children for the transition, and for those who wish to appeal the provision or placement set out in the plan.

“The fact that so many local authorities, once again, have been unable to meet the deadline in the past is quite concerning and hugely upsetting for parents.”

Previous data obtained by Simpson Millar shows that the issue of Local Authorities failing to meet the deadline has existed since before the pandemic, with figures showing that in 2017 103 of the local authorities in England who responded acknowledged delays. This affected 17% of the total number of children in England with an EHCP in place (2421 out of 14079 pupils).

Sarah said: “When an LA misses the deadline it means that parents have less time to appeal a decision, and because of this it’s not uncommon for children to miss the start of the school year while the appeal process takes place. For any child missing out on the start of school can have a detrimental effect, but this is particularly true for children with additional educational or health related needs. These delays also need to be seen in context of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal which deals with disputes over EHCPs dealing with the highest number of appeals on record and so there also been delays in dealing with the challenge to disputed EHCPs.

“Even where appeals are not needed, based on the latest figures, hundreds of children with SEN could be subjected to a stressful, poorly managed and hugely overwhelming transition from primary to secondary school which is extremely concerning.

“We would urge the local authorities to do all that they can ahead of this year’s deadline to ensure that affected pupils receive their notification in time so that no one is left in limbo, as has been the case in previous years.

“For those who do fail to meet the deadline, it is possible that they will be subjected to legal action in order to hold them accountable for failing to meet their statutory duty.”

Simpson Millar is also urging parents to take note of the deadline, and to be aware that if they do not receive their transition education healthcare plan by the 15th of February, they are entitled to take legal action against the local authority to speed up the process of receiving notification, and for lodging a potential appeal.

“The sooner a parent acts against a local authority who has missed a deadline the greater chance they stand of getting prepared for September. Whilst it should not have to get to this point, we find that often, when legal action is threatened, the LAs engage far more quickly as they know the courts will not be impressed,” Sarah added.

“In 2023 we dealt with close to 100 cases, and we expect the number to be even higher this year as provision of suitable educational settings for children with special educational and healthcare needs continues to be stretched to breaking point.”

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