What is an EHCP and an IEP, and how can my child get one?

If your child has additional needs or special educational needs (SEN), a support plan could help. This might be an education, health and care plan (EHCP) or an individual education plan (IEP).

IEPs and EHCPs focus on your child’s individual needs, to help them reach their full potential. Here’s what you need to know about getting support.

a teenager sits at a computer in school

What does SEN or additional needs mean?

Your child may have special educational needs or additional needs if they experience:

  • Emotional and behavioural difficulties.
  • Cognitive difficulties (understanding, processing and learning).
  • Trouble with speech, language and communication.
  • Sensory or physical difficulties (including medical conditions and visual/hearing impairments).

Legally, a child has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or a disability that needs special educational provision.

What's the difference between an IEP and EHCP?

An IEP sets out your child’s goals for the school year, and any special support needed to help achieve them:

  • Your child’s school can create an IEP and put it in place. You can work with the school to develop a plan.
  • A school can create an IEP to support any child. This is often done before applying for an EHCP. It might be instead of an EHCP, if the school can meet your child’s needs themselves.

An EHCP outlines any special educational needs that your child has. It also covers the support your local authority must put in place to help your child:

  • The EHCP is a legal document. That means your local authority has a legal obligation to provide the support in the plan.
  • An EHCP request needs to prove that your child’s needs are beyond what the school can provide. Otherwise, the local authority will not consider the request.

      How is the support put in place?

      Your child’s school will have a SEN register or plan. The school special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCo) manages the SEN register. They will add your child to the register if your child needs extra support.

      • The school should then speak to you and create an IEP for your child. They will cover the support that the school is able to give your child. They’ll explain how they will provide the support. Read our article on working with your child’s school to get SEN support.
      • If your child needs more support, the next step would usually be to apply for an EHCP. The local authority will only approve the EHCP if your child’s needs are not being met by the measures on the IEP.
      • It’s important that the school is open with you and takes into account your feelings and views. They should keep you involved in any issues your child is facing and the impact on their education.

      You do not need to have a formal diagnosis when implementing an IEP or applying for an EHCP. But to apply for an EHCP, you will need to have identified likely special educational needs. A diagnosis would often be underway when applying, but the application process can begin before a formal diagnosis.

      Applying for an EHCP

      As a parent or carer, you can apply for an EHCP on the behalf of a child or young person up to the age of 25.  Young people aged 16-25 can also apply for themselves.

      Your child’s school or early years setting may offer to write and request an EHCP needs assessment.

      The government has an overview of the EHCP application process.


      Want more support? For advice on your specific issue, speak to one of our parenting coaches.  

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