A child or young person has special educational needs (SEND) if they have a learning difficulty or disability that needs special educational arrangements to be made for them.

School funding for children with SEND without an EHC plan

Most children and young people with SEND can have their needs met in inclusive mainstream schools, early years setting or further education. Schools receive funding to meet the SEND needs of children without an EHC plan. This is funding that schools already have. It's called the notional SEN budget and is £6,000. The school should use this money to meet a child's SEND needs and put in place a graduated response.

What is an EHC plan meant to do?

An EHC plan is for children and young people who can't have all their special educational needs met by the help available at their school or setting and need extra support through a person-centred plan. The extra support will mean that for most learners their needs can be met in their current school or setting.

An EHC plan describes your child or young person's special educational, health and care needs. It sets outcomes that will help your child learn and prepare for the next stage of their education and adulthood, such as:

  • skills and abilities you'd like the child or young person to have
  • employment or higher education
  • independent living
  • good health
  • joining in with the community

The plans are legal documents that belong to the child or young person. They can start from birth and could continue into further education and training, so from the age of 0 to 25 years. They are reviewed every year so that they can adapt to your child's needs as they develop. 

How the EHC plan can help your child achieve their outcomes

The EHC plan describes the extra support your child needs to achieve their outcomes

In a mainstream school or educational setting this could mean things like:

  • equipment or resources
  • extra training for staff
  • accessing specialist services and advice
  • accessing particular activities
  • a level of teaching assistant support
  • a combination of different options

The EHC plan is flexible and responsive. The school or setting normally decides the best way to allocate this support. They do this in discussion with other professionals, parents and learners. 

It can also describe support from health or social care, if they're involved. It also shows what friends, family and others in the community will do to help. 

Find out more about the EHC plan in this short video:

What an EHC plan can and can't help with

What an EHC plan can and can't help with
 An EHC plan can help: An EHC plan isn't:
  • collect up-to-date advice on your child's needs
  • share the views, wishes and goals of you and your child
  • working together to decide support and plan for the future
  • identify outcomes that will make a difference to your child
  • define the support your child needs to meet those outcomes
  •  a guarantee of full-time or one-to-one teaching assistance
  • needed because your child has a particular diagnosis
  • a guarantee of a place in a special school
  • the only way your child can get help and have their needs met
  • guaranteed or always appropriate until the age of 25

You may hear things from different sources about the EHC plan process. Read about some of the most common things people hear and our explanation about what really happens.

What does an EHC plan look like?

Your EHC plan should be based around you, your needs and wishes. See examples of good practice for an EHC plan.

Is an EHC plan right for your child?

Most children and young people can have their needs met and receive the support they need without an EHC plan. 

The graduated response: assess, plan, do and review

If your child has SEND their current school or setting should put an 'assess, plan, do and review' model in place. This is known as a  graduated response

The school or setting has funding to support this work and should use the services available on our Local Offer to help meet your child's needs.

All mainstream schools and educational settings have a person called a  special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) who will know about the graduated response. It's helpful to talk to your SENCO to discuss your child's needs. Some useful questions are:

  • what's been done and what support is already in place?
  • are there services or professionals that could offer further support?
  • have different approaches been tried and reviewed?
  • has the school or educational setting got evidence of a graduated response?

If your child or young person needs more help

For a small number of children, a graduated response may not be able to fully meet their needs and they may need extra help. We might need to consider whether that help and support needs to be provided through an EHC plan. 

We will agree a needs assessment if both of these apply:

  • the child or young person has, or may have SEND
  • they may need SEND support that they can only get through an EHC plan

If a needs assessment is agreed, it won't always result in an EHC plan. This could be because there isn't evidence of a graduated response, or because:

  • the school or setting can support the child or young person through SEND support
  • the child or young person's needs are unclear 
  • it's not clear what help they're getting at the moment

We start thinking about an EHC plan when a graduated response is already in place and your child's needs are still not being met.

Who can apply for an EHC plan?

The school or educational setting

The school or educational setting, or anyone who thinks an assessment might help, including:

  • doctor
  • health visitor
  • social care professional
  • specialist teacher 

Find the form for a request for a needs assessment on Dorset Nexus.

If you're a school or educational setting you also need to make sure the child's parents complete the summary of parent or carer views form.

Parent, carer, family friend or young person

If you're a parent, carer or young person, find out how to request a needs assessment for an EHC plan.

Education and Early Help (SEND) Team

Name: Education and Early Help (SEND) Team near you
Full contact details