What to do first

If you think your child has SEND that requires more support than the help available through a graduated approach at their:

  • early years setting
  • school
  • college
  • educational setting

then please talk to them.

This will normally be the teacher or the special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO). They will be able to explain more about the options that are available to meet your child’s needs.

If your child is still not making good progress even with this extra Special Educational Needs (SEN) support, you will have a review with the setting and other agencies involved. Once this happens, an Education, Health and Care (EHC) assessment may be necessary.

EHC assessments identify educational, health and social needs. They set out the additional support and provision to meet those needs. In most cases the request should be made in partnership between the school and family.

Who can ask for an EHC needs assessment

The following people have a specific right to ask a local authority to carry out an EHC needs assessment for a child or young person aged between 0 and 25:

  • the child's parents
  • the young person themselves if they're over the age of 16 but under the age of 25
  • someone acting on behalf of a school or post-16 institution. They should only refer the person with their or their parents' knowledge and agreement, where possible

Also, anyone else can bring a child or young person who has (or may have) SEN to the attention of the local authority, particularly if they think they may need an EHC needs assessment.

This could be any of these people:

  • foster carers
  • health and social care practitioners
  • early years practitioners
  • youth offending teams or probation services
  • those responsible for education in custody
  • school or college staff
  • a family friend

Again, this referral should be with the person's or their parents' knowledge and agreement. 

The EHCP could provide extra support that will allow their needs to be met in their current school or educational setting.

An EHC needs assessment will not always lead to an EHCP.

The information we gather during an EHC needs assessment may show ways that the school, college or other provider can meet the the needs of the child or young person without an EHCP.

Find the following EHCP forms on Dorset Nexus:

  • request for a needs assessment
  • summary of parents' view if you're a school or educational setting 

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 EHCP.

Get help from your school or setting SENCO

Have a discussion with the SENCO at your child or young person's school or educational setting about the different options available to support them. If possible a request for a needs assessment for an EHC plan should be made by the school or setting. It's no quicker to request the assessment yourself as we will still have to get advice from the school or educational setting. 

Or discuss your options with us.

Call us if:

  • you'd rather start this process yourself or you're still not sure about your options
  • your child or young person doesn't attend school or an educational setting

You can get impartial support from:

  • SENDIASS (SEND Information, Advice, and Support Service)
  • DPCC (Dorset Parent Carer Council)

Person centred approaches and planning

We aim to put your child at the centre of the review of their education, health and care plan (EHCP) by taking a person-centred approach.

Young people with SEND don't always have much control over their lives or the decisions or choices that are made for them. We can help your child play an active part in planning for their future. We do this by placing them at the centre of:

  • the review meeting
  • the planning
  • any decisions that affect them

Person-centred planning (sometimes called PCP) aims to:

  • put the child or young person and their family at the heart of the process
  • highlight the child or young person's strengths and interests
  • take a 'tell us once' approach to families sharing information with control of what's shared
  • listen and respond to the importance of their views, wishes and aspirations
  • focus on what outcomes (goals) families and young people are seeking for their futures
  • collaboratively plan the support needed to achieve the goals
  • bring services and professionals together to discuss and agree an overall approach for EHCP's
  • give children and young people and their families better choice and control over their futures

Find out more about person-centred planning in this video:

Person-centred planning for the EHCP.

School or setting completes the request for a needs assessment form

We'll need information from you and your child's school or educational setting if you're asking for a needs assessment. The school or educational setting will complete the request for a needs assessment for an EHCP form with your help. They will also ask you to complete the summary of parent or carer views form.

You'll be asked information about:

  • you and your child's views, wishes and goals
  • your child's strengths and needs
  • any existing support your child has both at school and at home

You can also speak to your child's school or educational setting or contact the Education and Early Help (SEND) Team to:

  • provide additional information to support the request
  • comment on something that's written in the request

Sign the form once it's complete. If your child is over 16 they'll need to sign it too. 

Wait for a decision from us

We'll let you know what happens next once we've received your request for a needs assessment. We will tell you if a needs assessment has been agreed within 6 weeks. 

If a needs assessment is agreed it doesn't always lead to an EHCP, but it could tell us how the school or setting can meet your child's needs without a plan. The whole EHCP process shouldn't take more than 20 weeks. 

Find more information about the needs assessment process for an EHCP.

Contact your local Education and Early Help (SEND) Team.

For impartial information and advice at any stage of the EHCP process contact Dorset SEND Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS)

Stages of the EHCP process and how long they should take

Stage 1 - this is the start date

We've got the request for a needs assessment for an EHCP. 

Stage 2 

We’ve made a decision about the needs assessment request.  We have let you know our decision and next steps. This will happen within six weeks.

If we agree a needs assessment should take place, we will gather information on the child or young person and their needs.  The information will be used to decide if an EHCP is needed. 

Stage 3 - by 16 weeks

We’ve made a decision on an EHCP and have let you know whether it has been agreed or not.

We have sent a draft EHCP to you. You have 15 calendar days to check through the draft and tell us any concerns or requests for changes, or to request a meeting.

Stage 4 - by 20 weeks

We have sent you a final EHCP.

What a review of an EHCP is

If your child has an EHCP, they will have a review at least once a year. This is also sometimes known as the annual review.

As a parent or carer it's very important for you to prepare and attend the review meeting to help plan for your child's future. It can feel a bit overwhelming or stressful, but it helps if you think about what you want to say beforehand.

The review is a time to think carefully about:

  • how your child is doing; what's going well and what's not
  • their long-term aspirations
  • their progress towards the outcomes in their EHCP
  • any new information about your child
  • if anything is causing you concern

The review is a process and will take place over a period of time. The review includes:

  • the time leading up to the review meeting
  • the review meeting itself
  • the period after the review

The review is when you can ask for changes to the EHCP. 

Plans don't normally need to be changed very often. The change should be significant, for example a new diagnosis, or a change in:

  • support
  • outcomes
  • placement, for example a request for a special school

Find out more information about the timetable and process for a review of an EHCP.

What is the legal framework for a review of an EHCP.

When a review takes place

The review of your child's EHCP must be at least once a year, or every 6 months for children under 5. If you have a good reason you can request a review of your child's EHCP at any time. 

This could be if you have a particular concern, or you want to ask for your child to move to another school or educational setting.

You can have more than one review in a year, you don't have to wait until the scheduled one. If you want an additional review you should speak to your child's nursery, school or educational setting. 

Your child is due to move to another school because of their age

If your child is due to change school or educational setting, the review meeting should take place in the autumn term before they move so that there's enough time for planning and updating the plan.

For example, if your child is in year 6 of primary school, the review meeting must be held in the autumn term before they move to year 7 at secondary school. 

Where the review takes place

Most reviews take place at the child or young person's school or educational setting.

Who should be at the review

  • your child
  • you
  • the school or educational setting
  • other people, for example, professionals

Your child 

Your child attends the review meeting if possible and their school or educational setting should help them to be there and be as flexible as possible. If your child doesn't feel comfortable attending then their school or educational setting will support them to make sure their views are known in another way. 

Your child's wishes about the meeting should be considered as much as possible, for example, your child may:

  • prefer not to have many people present at the meeting
  • wish to invite a friend or another person
  • wish to attend only part of the meeting
  • wish to have part of the meeting without you being present; this might feel uncomfortable but it's part of them growing up and taking more responsibility for their future
  • prefer to contribute to the meeting in other ways, such as by video

Whether your child attends all, part or none of the review meeting, their contribution helps them participate in decisions about their education and their future. Your child may have very clear and valuable ideas about what they want and what works for them. Even if they don't contribute, it's important for them to know what's being discussed and what's going to happen. 

If you're worried about discussing some things in front of your child, you should raise this with the SENCO or class teacher before the review meeting. They can arrange to have part of the meeting without your child being there. You may have to arrange a separate meeting if there isn't enough time to discuss everything. 


It's very important that you attend the review meeting so that you can let everyone know what you think and take part in discussions and planning for your child's future.

If it's impossible for you to attend the review meeting, for example, because of work or travel, then the school or educational setting should support you to be able to attend, for example, changing the time. 

You can bring a relative, a friend or anyone else who can support you if you want. You can also invite someone from SENDIASS.

Other people

The school or educational setting invites professionals to the review meetings, for example

They won't be able to attend all meetings. They should attend if they need to be part of discussions and have something valuable to add. If they can't attend they can provide a written contribution so that everyone has up-to-date information.

You don't have to have every professional who's worked with your child at the meeting and sometimes this may not help the meeting to be focussed or make progress.

What to expect before the review meeting

Before the meeting your child's school or educational setting will send you some information to help you prepare and know what to expect at the review meeting.

It's important that you think about:

  • what you want to say 
  • what's gone well so everyone knows what's working
  • what you're worried about 

It's important that you're well prepared before the meeting so that discussions can be clear and useful.

If you feel you need support during the review process, speak to:

What to expect at the review meeting

The review process and meeting are person-centred. This means that we put the child or young person and their family at the centre of the review process. Person-centred reviews have a facilitator. This is normally a member of staff from the educational setting. A facilitator is there to:

  • guide the meeting
  • make sure everyone's included
  • keep everyone on track and focussed
  • say when we need to talk about something at another meeting

Everyone at the meeting develops an action plan to address any issues or concerns that people have. The facilitator records the action plan which explains:

  • what will happen
  • who will do it
  • and when it will be done by

It's important to discuss the positives as well as the negatives as this lets everyone know what's going well and what isn't. This helps everyone to:

  • decide what support needs to be in place
  • understand how to support your child
  • understand what everyone needs to work towards

Don't be afraid to celebrate what's going well as this shows the progress your child is making and what support is working. It means that support can be matched to your child's changing needs and progress. 

What to expect after the review meeting

The school or educational setting should:

  • complete the review form
  • provide any additional information gathered during the review process, for example, a new professional report
  • provide a copy of the action plan that should show who's responsible for action points and when they have to complete them by

The review form will include any recommendations for changes to the EHCP. The school or educational setting will send the review form to us, Dorset Council, and to everyone who was invited to the review meeting. This should happen within 2 weeks of the meeting

When we receive the paperwork, we decide if the EHCP:

  • should remain unchanged
  • needs to be amended
  • should be ceased (ended). This means the EHCP will end and we don't have to make sure that the support in the plan is put in place

We won't end the plan just because your child's making progress. They may be making progress only because of the level of support they're getting and this needs to continue. 

We'll only end the plan if your child has done so well they don't need the additional support from their EHCP any more. Their school or educational setting will continue to review and meet their needs to make sure your child's progress continues.

We must let you know our decision within 4 weeks of the review meeting. When we tell you the decision, we'll also let you know your rights of appeal.

What are outcomes?

Outcomes are what a child or young person is able to do at different times in the future. Outcomes set out observable skills that the young person hopes to have within a set period of time. They are usually broken into long-term and short-term outcomes. 

They should be:

  • realistic
  • achievable
  • related to hopes and dreams for the future

 Outcomes should be created by these people together:

  • the child or young person
  • parents or carers
  • any education, health and care professionals who are involved

Why use outcomes?

We use outcomes because:

  • they let us think of the skills and abilities we'd like the child or young person to have
  • they help us focus on a positive and possible future for the child or young person

Long-term outcomes

Outcomes may:

  • reflect the attributes and skills we hope the child or young person will have by the end of the next phase
  • be broad so that they're relevant in the next stage of education

Reviews of these outcomes take place each year, at the same time as the short-term outcomes. 

Short-term outcomes

Short-term outcomes are long-term outcomes that have been broken down into smaller steps. They should be achievable within a year. 

We will review them each term or at least once a year.