The challenges of EHC Plans and how colleges are grappling with them
Holly Newton, Director of Operations, eSpirALS

As readers of this article will no doubt already know, an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) is a legal document which can be issued for any young person (up to the age of 25) with additional needs.  It describes that young person’s special educational, health and social care needs, affecting their education, and it explains the extra help that will be given to meet those needs and support the young person to achieve what they want to in their life.  It must be reviewed annually, and it may be a trigger for an educational establishment to access additional funds to pay for the support identified.  So far, so commendable.

The challenges of an EHC Plan, however, are rather more complex than our description makes it sound.  In the first instance, the Plan needs to be written in such a way that a varied audience can read and understand it; the young person themselves, perhaps their parents, the managers of their education and Local Authority professionals at least.  Added to this, there is no requirement to have a standard plan format: as long as it covers the required sections (A-K), individual authorities can present them however they choose.

We know of colleges who work with up to ten different LAs so often have to deal with ten different formats and ten slightly different ways of working. And, although having an EHCP is not an automatic trigger for additional funding, it can be valuable supporting evidence, so it is very likely that someone in a college is going to want to ‘audit’ Plans in some way.

So how can a college grapple with all of these challenges? Here are some of the ideas from some of our FE clients:

Some colleges have decided to make life simpler by devising their own form for the annual EHCP review, making allowance for any LA variations they are required to meet.  The form is based on the EHCP itself, with the thoughts and comments from the specialists and LSA’s that support the learner included.

We have also known of some LAs who have been persuaded to adapt their methodologies.  Colleges have a longer history of dealing with students than local authorities do, so sharing this experience with LA staff can convince them that there are better ways of working.  Nurturing a positive working relationship with someone of influence in your LA will, of course, be key here.

Finally, using an electronic system can be a huge help too. We believe that eSpirALS is the only Learning Support Management software of its kind available to colleges. It includes an EHCP Review feature, which allows colleges to record, store and share EHCP annual review information and to export it, for secure sharing externally. In addition to this it allows the upload of EHC Plans to share with key staff in the college.  Our customers tell us that it does make their life easier.

In putting together this article, we came across a variety of useful sources of information about EHCPs, for both professionals and parents, so we thought we would sign-post some of them: The Independent Provider of Special Education Advice in England Contact, the charity for families with disabled children The Council for Disabled Children