One of the complexities of writing EHC plans is the need for plan writers to strike a balance between keeping plan wording as close to the advice wording as possible, and creating a plan that meets the Code of Practice requirements. It is not the plan writer’s place to change wording, as the assessing professionals are experts in their field and should have written their advice in collaboration with the child/young person and their family. However, the plan must also be clearly written, comprehensively cover all needs and reflect all of the advice submitted (yet remaining concise and functional), and not read as though it has been ‘cobbled’ together from different sources.
Local Authorities often have different views on what approach our plan writers should take, ranging from asking us to copy advice wording verbatim (including grammatical errors) to requesting that information is assimilated in such a way that the final wording is an overall summary of all the advice (and might bear little resemblance to any one particular report). On occasion there can be a real lack of understanding of the plan writer’s role, such as when Local Authority staff ask us to create outcomes and provision where the advice has not done so, despite our writers always flagging this kind of missing information.
Our ideal approach lies somewhere between the two extremes. Plan writing is not a typing or copy and paste job; it is a highly skilled task and it typically takes us 6-12 months to fully train a plan writer. However, we also impress upon our writers that information must be lifted from the advice as closely as possible, rather than summarising in their own words, for a number of reasons: we are not involved with the child/young person and therefore are not qualified to create information; there is huge scope for information to be misinterpreted or mispresented if wording is changed too much, which could lead to disputes by families or professionals; and the sources of information should be clearly identifiable, as per Code of Practice requirements.
It might then sound straightforward to copy information exactly as it is in the advice, and simply select the most appropriate sentences and paragraphs. However, there are a number of obstacles to this approach:
- Advice often contains grammatical inaccuracies or is not written in a clear, succinct and accessible way, and therefore requires editing;
- Technical jargon may need to be explained, or overly colloquial or emotive language may need to be made more formal and factual for a legal document;
- Paragraphs from different professionals often need to be intertwined in order to provide a complete and comprehensive picture of the child/young person’s needs, which can require minor rephrasing;
- Information frequently needs to be moved to the correct section or slightly rephrased, such as when provision wording is used in Section B (e.g. ‘He requires support to..’) or Section E (e.g. ‘He will have x support’), or when the format of Section F provision wording is inconsistent;
- Editing is often required when professionals include lengthy observations, overly detailed explanations of provision or multiple examples, or when Quality First Teaching is recommended instead of special educational provision;
- Information can need re-ordering and/or editing to ensure that corresponding sections of the plan match up and the Golden Thread is evident;
- Sometimes summaries of the impacts of needs are requested, which requires slight reframing of information that is not always explicitly framed as impacts.
It is important that SEND teams and assessing professionals all have an accurate understanding of the plan writer’s role and consistent expectations regarding how much agency plan writers can and should have in drafting plans.
If you would like to chat with us about how we could support your SEND team with EHC plans, please get in touch.