Assessing a child's special educational needs

If a child has a significant or complex need, a parent, education provider, or the young person over the age of 16 can request an assessment to find out if they need specialist support.

You should always speak to your child's teacher or pre-school leader in the first instance if you are worried about their learning.

The outcome of the assessment can either identify that the level of support required can be delivered through the educational local offer or, that the local authority needs to make special educational provision when an education, health and care (EHC) plan will be written.

Who can request an assessment of the child's needs?

The following people can request that the local authority conduct an SEND needs assessment for a child or young person:

  • The child's parent or carer
  • A young person over the age of 16, but under 25, acting on their own behalf
  • A professional acting on behalf of a setting, school or post-16 institution*
  • Professionals (this could include foster carers and health and social care professionals) who think an assessment may be required must bring the child or young person to the attention of the local authority who will consider if an assessment is required.*

*This should be done with the knowledge and agreement of the parents or young person, where possible. 

We will need the following evidence to make an informed decision as to whether an assessment is required.  We would expect this to be provided by the professionals working with the child or young person.

If we have already undertaken an EHC assessment for the child during the previous 6 months, we are not required to carry out another assessment, but may choose to do so if appropriate.

You can request an assessment by contacting the EHC team with your evidence below:

By email

EHCP@northamptonshire.gov.uk

By post

Education Health and Care Team      

Northamptonshire County Council

One Angel Square

Angel Street

Northampton

NN1 1ED

Support with the application process for parents or carers

If you need support with your child's application you can contact:

The assessment process

The EHC assessment process has 5 stages and takes a maximum of 20 weeks.

Following a request for an assessment, the local authority must determine whether this is needed. We must make and communicate this decision to the child's parent or the young person within 6 weeks of receiving the request.

All requests are considered against a set of conditions under the National Education Act. A specialist panel made up of several professional bodies will help the local authority decide whether an EHC needs assessment is required.

There are 3 possible outcomes of an initial application:

Outcome of application What happens next?​
​The child does not meet the conditions for an assessment of special educational needsA letter will be sent to the applicant giving reasons for this decision and further options for support.​
​There is not enough information to make a decision​The application will be returned to the applicant with a request for further information in order for it to be re-considered.
The application meets the conditions to proceed with an assessment of special educational needs A case worker is allocated to be the single point of contact for the family and to manage the assessment process. They will explain the assessment process and any support required.

The child and parent or carer should be at the centre of the assessment process.

The case worker will contact the family to discuss the assessment process  and gather information. This discussion will include:

  • What works and what is not working
  • What needs to change
  • Desired outcomes (for the child and their parent or carer)
  • Personal budgets

The following documents are used in this stage:

Process timeline

The case worker will follow a timeline for the assessment process and make sure that timescales are met and the process is easy as possible for the family.

Working together

The case worker will identify and contact any professionals who should be consulted to produce the assessment, including:

  • teachers or staff at the child's school
  • an educational psychologist
  • specialist teachers who have been involved
  • medical professional (usually a doctor, but may also include speech or physiotherapists)
  • social services (who will only give advice if they know the child)
  • any specialist teacher
  • any specialist therapists

The case worker will liaise with these professionals to make up an assessment team, who will share information and discuss how the assessment will move forward.

Gathering information - assessment team

We will gather information in conjunction with the parents and young person. They will submit reports of the information they have gathered by a required date. The format and content of this information will include:

  • A clear description of the child's needs
  • Impact these needs could have on current and future education provision requirements
  • Outcomes sought for the child

The case worker makes arrangements for any assessments that need to take place so that everyone understands the needs of the child or young person.

At the end of the information gathering period, the case worker will present all the information to an SEN officer. The SEN officer reviews all the information and decides whether an EHC plan is needed.  The case worker informs the family of the decision.

EHC plan - writing and reviewing

If the EHC plan is agreed, the case worker will write a draft plan which is sent to the family to review and decide whether they wish to:

  • request changes to the draft plan
  • name their preferred education placement and/or
  • request a personal budget.

The draft is also sent to all professionals who have been involved in the assessment.

Parents can request a meeting with the case worker to discuss possible changes to the draft plan. In some complex cases this meeting could involve other professional bodies who have been involved.

The final draft EHC plan comes back to the SEN officer to consult the requested education placement. 

EHC plans - find out more

If the decision is to not create an EHC plan

The case worker will send a summary of the assessment to the parents. The summary will include information received during the process and how resources normally available to the educational institution will support the child or young person.

The SEN Officer can meet the parents to discuss the decision and the support available.

Parents have a right of appeal if the decision is to not issue an EHC Plan, after considering formal mediation.

Parents return the draft to the SEN officer to consult the requested education placement.

Completing an EHC plan

The completed EHC plan, including the agreed school placement, is reviewed and formally signed off by the professional leads before being issued.

The final EHC plan is given to:

  • the parents or carers 
  • the child or young person
  • all professionals involved in the assessment process.

EHC plans - find out more

The final EHC plan is issued to parents, educational establishment and Clinical Commissioning Group. The plan stipulates the annual review dates.

The education provider will meet with the parents and child or young person to agree short term targets to fulfil the outcomes and provision agreed in the plan.

What if a parent or carer is still unhappy with the EHC plan?

At this stage, if the parent or carer or young person remains concerned they may:

  • Formally raise their concerns through agency complaints processes
  • Seek mediation
  • Take up their right to appeal to SEN tribunal

If we decide not to assess, we will  write and explain  why and will offer a telephone call or meeting to discuss this decision. We will include in the letter the information that we used to make our decision, such as feedback from professionals.

There is a right to appeal the decision. Please see information about mediation and complaints -  an appeal may not not necessary.

Contact the team

If you have any questions about the EHC assessment please contact us.

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