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One of the areas of therapy practice is in the area of stress and anxiety management for parents, who are navigating the EHCP process. During my travels and engagements, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with a diverse range of people, including those who work in the education sector. I recently took the initiative to gather some insights on thoughts on the EHCP process. To maintain anonymity, I ensured that the comments and views I collected were anonymous in the record.
Rule 101 in Therapy, always find the human on the other side
In my opinion, parents should take the lead in requesting a statutory assessment for their child directly to the Local Authority, rather than waiting for schools.
Take control of the process, in my experience, some schools may not have a clear understanding of their responsibilities when it comes to supporting students with additional needs.
This lack of understanding can cause unnecessary delays and frustrations for parents and ultimately their children.
To get started, I recommend that parents visit the IPSEA website for guidance and resources on the process of requesting a statutory assessment. Once the Local Authority agrees to assess the child’s needs, the school’s involvement becomes minimal, and other professionals’ input carries more weight. It is also important to note that some schools may be unhelpful or obstructive, which can further delay the process, hence bypassing the hold-ups.
Above all, parents should not be discouraged by uncooperative schools, or slow response from the Local Authority, and should exercise their right to seek additional support for their children.
From a former school employee.
In my opinion, the EHCP process is in dire need of reform. Firstly, the amount of paperwork and evidence required to process an EHCP is incredibly burdensome, everyone refers to a lack of funding, which contributes to the problem, making it harder for EHCPs to be approved, even for severe cases. This can result in schools having to jump through hoops to prove that they have tried everything to meet their students’ needs, without success, which is both brutal and demoralising for everyone involved.
Secondly, the time it takes to process an EHCP can be a significant issue. With the current system, it often takes years for applications to be approved, a plan written, a plan updated, etc. which is clearly unacceptable.
Teachers take on the role of specialist teaching while still being full-time class teachers to 29 other students, where sometimes a class might have 2 EHCP students (or more), alongside 2 to 3 others, flagged as needing extra help.
SENDIST Tribunal Experience – Parent
I would not say it was a family-centric or even a friendly process, but then perhaps naively, this is after all a Ministry of Justice Tribunal process. Though I have heard from others there can be variability of experience based on the Panel makeup. It is after all a driven process, so if you think the issues that have driven everything in your world for the last 3 years are central at the hearing, you may be disappointed.
One of the eye-openers for me was how much of the school’s shenanigans was completely irrelevant to the Sendist Tribunal Process or even a factor that influenced the outcome, in the grand scheme of things. Yet before you reach this end stage, the whole process seems to be all around the school’s view, or lack of one.
Is the other side set out to win by any means, in my view yes. Did they throw the kitchen sink at our case, yes, did my child secure an agreeable outcome, AKA win? YES!
A Parents Past Reflection
There are without doubt many obstacles in the way of getting a diagnosis for a child with special needs. The process is complicated by the involvement of multiple stakeholders, including the GP, referral services, the school, and the council. I can relate as a parent who has gone through the struggle of getting an autism diagnosis for my own child.
I believe it’s essential to take charge of the situation and involve as many agencies as possible, starting with the GP, seeking appropriate referrals, and being able to converse with SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) can be of benefit, can be variable.
As a parent, you can request an EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan) assessment from the local council directly, if via the school is not happening. In my experience, having a great SENCO was incredibly helpful, [but], even within my social group, this view was not readily agreed with.
It took us around four years from the first engagement with the health authority to an official diagnosis for my child. My advice to parents would be to start early if the evidence is that help is needed, be persistent, and proactive, and involve as many agencies and professionals as possible to get the support and resources your child needs to thrive.