The education health and care plan (EHCP) was designed to replace the statement of SEN. I was part of a parent feedback group which saw the form being designed, and I thought it was a brilliant idea.
Here was a form which brought in all the different aspects of a child’s care, from health to social aspects. Here was a truly child-centred project. I never thought it would turn into this complex, opaque minefield that seems to have no direction.
The local authority sends me documents about the support it can provide for me, only for me to send them back again using its pro forma, and officially claim that my child needs support from them. Don’t worry, I don’t understand it either.
Understanding the process
When I first started this process, I was quite blasé. Like any parent of a child with additional needs, you become accustomed to the quirks of the public sector. After three months, 10 emails, buying a £40 book and more hours than I have wanted to count, I have actually mastered the process of how the EHCP works.
In my experience, there are three barriers to overcome. Stage one is a screening process to identify the need; it does not matter if this need is obvious — you still need to prove it to even start the process. You then wait six weeks.
If it is decided that your child does need to be identified as having SEN then a decision is taken about whether to assess your child for the EHCP. If you meet all the criteria then you might be assessed. However, that does not mean that any funding will be attached.
At any stage, you can be rejected, and it is a very effective barrier system. It’s like playing Monopoly but you don’t hold the dice and the board just keeps saying 'bypass go'. You do get an adviser – mine was excellent — but just to find out about this adviser took several weeks.
I have been told that only parental pressure would let me win in this system. The irony is that I have also been told that my application will probably get rejected as my child is doing too well. My child has Down’s syndrome and she will always be, at best, two years behind her peers.
As a parent, I am going to have to be relentless in my pursuit of this document, but surely everyone should have access to a decent education. It should not be a matter of parental — for want of a better word — screeching. No child should be discriminated against because they have additional needs; it isn’t too much to ask.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out what is happening and, for the first time in my adult life, I am frightened. Frightened that we are living in an area where people are condemned to a lack of a decent education and from getting the support they deserve.
I will need this document. My daughter will not and cannot access SEND resources or education without it. Whatever pathway we follow, this document must be completed and won. I am not looking forward to it but, in reality, I don’t have a choice. I am tired, because at the end of the day, this is not a fair fight.
Sara Jane Porter is a teacher in a further education college