Understanding annual reviews
This guide is for parents/carers of children and young people in England who have an Educational, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) in place. We hope it will help you understand the annual review process for your child’s plan.
If your child doesn’t have an EHCP, they’ll be getting support through the ‘graduated approach’, which doesn’t require a formal annual review. However, we strongly recommend that there are regular review meetings with your child’s nursery or school. How often you have these meetings will depend on your child’s needs and the progress they’ve made.
What is the annual review?
The annual review is a legal process designed to check on whether the needs and provision specified in the EHCP are still up-to-date and relevant for your child. A review must take place at least every 12 months, and for children aged up to five years reviews should take place more frequently.
When should an annual review take place?
An annual review can take place at any time during the school year. However, if your child is going to be moving from one stage of education to the next, the annual review must take place by the following dates:
- Move into primary: should take place by 15 February.
- Primary to secondary: should take place in Year five by 15 February.
- Secondary to post-16: should take place in Year nine by 31 March.
The local authority tells each school’s headteacher which pupils’ EHCPs must be reviewed that term at least two weeks before the term starts.
At the Year nine annual review, a careers advisor must be made available, along with key agencies. This review is also known as a ‘transition to adulthood’ review meeting.
Sometimes additional reviews, known as interim reviews, may be needed. This might be because:
- Your child is at serious risk of disaffection or exclusion.
- The local authority has to meet the 15 February deadline for naming a new middle or secondary school.
- Your child’s needs have changed suddenly.
Who co-ordinates the annual review meeting?
The Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Co-ordinator (SENDCo) for the nursery or school is responsible for contacting everyone who should be at the review to let them know the date, time and venue for the meeting. The SENDCo often chairs the meeting and sends out all relevant reports to everyone attending the meeting, including you as the parent, two weeks in advance.
Who should attend the annual review meeting?
- You, the parents or carers
- The SENDCo
- The child’s class teacher and any other key teaching professionals
- The child or young person, if appropriate
- Professionals from outside agencies, for example, a Qualified Teacher of children with Vision Impairment, social services, local authority representatives from the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS) or Special Educational Needs and Disability Order (SENDO), health professionals and others
- You may also wish to bring a relative or friend to the meeting to support you
How can I prepare for the annual review?
Preparing for the meeting is important because the more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll feel about expressing your feelings and making a positive contribution to the meeting.
Everyone attending the meeting receives copies of any reports relating to your child two weeks before the meeting. This gives them time to read and consider the contents and to prepare relevant questions for the meeting.
How to prepare:
- Make sure you have copies of all the reports and go through them carefully in advance.
- Highlight any points that you’re unclear about and that you’d like explained further.
- Talk to your child about their thoughts and feelings on school and the support they’re getting. Write this down or ask them to write it down in their own words if they’re able to. You might like to ask them questions about:
- What do they like most about school?
- What do they like least about school?
- What do they think about the support and help given in school?
- Ask them to list what they find helpful and what they don’t find helpful in school.
- Write down examples of behaviours at home, both positive and negative, which you feel may prove useful as evidence of how your child is, or is not, making progress.
- Write down any questions you have with a space next to each one so that you can note down the answers when they’re given at the meeting.
- At the meeting you’ll be asked for your opinion on the following, so have a think about:
- Any progress you think your child has made.
- Any areas of difficulty you think your child is experiencing.
- If you have an additional need yourself, for example English is not your first language or you have a sensory impairment, tell the SENDCo before the meeting so that they can ensure the meeting is fully accessible for you and your family.
An independent support person can also attend meetings with you through the SEND Information Advice and Support Services (SENDIASS). You can find out more about the service, which you’ll need to arrange in advance, on the ‘local offer’ section of your local authority’s website.
Consider whether the outcomes in Section E of the EHCP have been achieved
Section E describes the outcomes that you’re seeking for your child, which need to be clear and measurable. These outcomes may have an education, health or social care focus.
At the annual review meeting, professionals (from education, health or social care), may say that some, most or all of the planned outcomes have or have not been achieved. They have to provide evidence to support their view.
If your child has successfully achieved one or more of the outcomes, it may be appropriate to set new outcomes to challenge them further. If your child hasn’t achieved an outcome, the reasons for that need to be discussed at the meeting. That may raise questions about whether the current support remains appropriate or whether alternative support should be considered.
What happens at the annual review meeting?
The meeting is all about reviewing your child’s progress. You and your child remain the primary focus, so don’t be afraid to ask for an explanation of anything you’re unsure about or for more time if you feel you’re being rushed. Remember, you can bring a representative or friend to the meeting too.
- The chairperson introduces everybody.
- A summary of the last meeting, specialist reports, curriculum progress reports and assessment data are distributed to everyone.
- The chairperson summarises the purpose, aims and objectives of the meeting.
- The chairperson informs every one of the order of the report presentations.
- The meeting gives you, and anyone else, the opportunity to share any relevant or new information about your child.
- The chairperson should ensure that everyone (especially you) feels at ease and able to voice their thoughts and feelings at all stages of the meeting.
- The chairperson nominates someone to make notes and take minutes for the meeting.
- Outcomes, actions and plans are agreed and documented.
- A date is set for the next review meeting.
Something to be aware of in the meeting is the importance of using the right language in your child’s EHCP. In the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice 2015, where the text uses the word ‘must’ it refers to a statutory requirement under primary legislation, regulations or case law. Therefore, we recommend that you look for the use of the word ‘must’ in your child’s EHCP to ensure that the planned provision has the full force of the law.
What happens after the meeting?
- A summary or minutes of the meeting should be provided, and copies made available to all interested parties, including you as the parent.
- The SENDCo must make a note of any changes that have been recommended to your child’s EHCP and report them to you and to the local authority.