An Annual Review, as the name suggests, is a yearly review of a child or young person’s Education and Health Care Plan (“EHC Plan”) and in particular the needs, provision and outcomes in that plan. It is an opportunity for parents/carers to feed back as to how the Plan is or isn't working and request that changes are made to some/all sections of the EHC Plan; including those that are not subject to appeal to the SEND Tribunal, e.g. section A and E. It is important to note that the Annual Review is much more than just the meeting to discuss the EHC Plan and any amendments required. It is an entire process beginning with obtaining the views of all the professionals involved in the EHC Plan (not just the school) and ending with the issuing of a new Final EHC Plan, which gives rise to appeal rights. There are specific steps that the local authority must follow throughout that process and they must complete it within a set timescale.
Ordinarily, the Annual Review process will take place at a different time of year for every child, as in theory (and under the legislation) Annual Reviews must be done by the anniversary of the date that an EHC Plan was first issued and should be completed within 12mths of that date every subsequent year. The exception to this is phased transfer reviews which have statuotry deadlines for when the new EHC Plan must be produced, regardless of when the EHC Plan was first issued. For parents/carers of children in Y6 who will be transferring to secondary school the statutory transfer deadline is 15th February of the year the child will start Y7. A recent case in the High Court confirmed that local authorities have a maximum of 12 weeks after the Annual Review meeting to issue a Final EHC Plan, and this means that for children in Y6 the Annual Review process needs to begin in the first term of Y6 and ideally no later than the middle of October.
Arranging the Annual Review is the responsibility of the local authority, although if a child/young person attends a school or college then the administration of the review process is generally delegated to that institution. Often, sadly, local authorities fail to follow at least some, and often most, of the steps of the Annual Review process that are clearly set out in law. These are:
Consultation by the local authority with the parent of the child/young person (and school/college if relevant) about the EHC plan, taking into account their views, wishes and feelings.
Information is gathered from relevant parties (i.e. parents and children/young people, involved professionals etc) about the EHC plan which is then circulated two weeks prior to the meeting.
An Annual Review meeting is held to discuss the EHC plan to which school, professionals and parent/carers are invited (but need not all attend).
The local authority prepares a report of the meeting and circulates it to everyone who attended or submitted information.
There is a Review of the EHC Plan by the local authority in light of the meeting.
The local authority notfies parents/carers of their decision, namely whether they intend to maintain, amend or cease the EHC Plan, within four weeks of the meeting.
The local authority Issues a Final EHC Plan within 12 weeks of the meeting (unless the decision was to cease the EHC Plan).
Annual Reviews can also be held more frequently than on the anniversary of the EHC Plan if circumstances dictate. Commonly this would be when a placement is in danger of failing or has already failed. A local authority is not required to hold an early Annual Review, however, and if they refuse, that refusal cannot be appealed.
SEND Advocacy can advise on Annual Reviews and support you to ensure your child or young person's EHC Plan accurately and comprehensively reflects their needs and contains the provision needed to support them. If you need someone in your corner to help you secure the education your child or young person deserves, contact us today.
 In practice there are often delays, particularly at the Draft EHC Plan stage, so that this rarely occurs.