Annual Reviews… Every year they come around again, often leaving us frustrated, confused and even anxious.

So much can happen in a year, be it progress or a setback. Reviewing the entirety of what has developed over twelve months can seem overwhelming and intense.

The pressure is really there to get the best you possibly can from an Annual Review. In knowing this and having spent far too many hours wading through case law, here are a few simple but essential ways to ensure a successful review…

1.    Know your facts – debunk the myths

There is one myth that tends to crop up when Annual Reviews are mentioned, and it is that Annual Reviews are the meeting called to consider the EHCP (Education Health and Care Plan) – which is NOT TRUE. The meeting is part of the review, but it is not the entirety of the review itself.

In factuality, the review encompasses all the actions taken by the local authority to formally review the continued applicability of the EHCP, including its decision after receiving the report of the meeting to either maintain the EHCP, change the EHCP or cease to maintain the EHCP.

2.    Prepare in advance and then share

Although it may seem obvious, preparation really is key to getting the most out of an Annual Review. All ground must be covered, leaving no stone unturned. It is crucial that you find and read as much relevant and up to date information about the child or young person. These may include recent school reports, recent assessments, recent updates from health and/or social care etc.

Look at all the information you have at your disposal objectively. Is the EHC plan fit for purpose? Does it fully encapsulate the child or young person? Is the provision working? Is the provision specified and quantified? Does it fully describe what is wanting to be achieved? Does anything need changing?

Being in a room full of professionals can be daunting so make notes on anything and everything you think needs to be discussed and changed.

Once all the information is gathered it then needs to be distributed ahead of the meeting to everyone who is attending. This is essential in order for everyone involved to have read and considered all the evidence and data gathered.

After considering all the available information, if you think that more assessments need to be done ahead of the review then it is best to request this a few months prior to the review meeting.

3.    Make sure the meeting is person-centred

This may seem like it should be a given, but far too often it is seen that professionals focus on outcomes rather than the needs of the child or young person. They should be drawing attention to how the person is actually feeling.

The meeting is held to review the person in question’s progress over the year, therefore the meeting should be person-centred. This means the meeting should be facilitated in a way that supports the child or young person in order for them to express their views in the most appropriate way.

If possible, the child or young person should attend the meeting. If they cannot attend the meeting it is important that their views are heard at the beginning, be it in writing or in an audio or video form. If the young person is aged 16 or above, they can elect to have an advocate present for them.

4.    Schedule for next year

After the meeting, the head or delegate (usually referring to SENCO) must prepare and send out a report recommending any changes to the EHCP. The report must include all the information collected prior to the meeting and refer to any differences in recommendations of everyone who attended the meeting.

In terms of timescale, the whole process, including the giving of notice, has to be completed within twelve months of the previous review. Scheduling the meeting for a date a year later will be too late for the local authority to comply with this timetable. That is why it is best to arrange the next annual review promptly or better still at the meeting itself.

If you need more information on the Phase Transfer Annual Reviews, please click here.

5.    Ask for help if you need it!

Remember it is always okay to ask for help and there are a variety of people and places that can do just that. If you need help to understand a report or assistance in preparing for an Annual Review, no problem is too big or too small for us to help you with!

We have a variety of services available at Sunshine Support to help you along your SEND journey. If there is anything we cannot help with then we can direct you to the services that will best suit you and your needs.