Reporting Year 2021

Education, health and care plans

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Last updated
See all updates (4)
  1. Amendment on commentary - change in proportion of pupils in "mainstream education" now referenced as "mainstream schools".

  2. A correction was made to the Personal budgets sections - previously this stated 81% of budgets were in place for education, but this should be social care. Description of mediation cases clarified in Mediations and tribunals section

  3. A correction was made to the headline statistic for initial requests. This read that there had been a 10% drop, however this should read 8%. No other figures affected.

  4. 13 May 2021 - A correction was made to underlying data where local authority names were not consistent across years. For example, Durham/County Durham and Bedford/Bedford Borough. Figures are not affected.

This publication provides data on children and young people with an education, health and care (EHC) plan in England and, historically, for those with a statement of special educational needs (SEN). 

Data is presented for both the caseload as at January 2021, for example the number of EHC plans, and for activity during the 2020 calendar year, for example the number of new EHC plans in the calendar year.

As such, this is the first publication in the series that covers the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Data covering SEN in schools, including EHC plans and SEN support, is available in the ‘Special Educational Needs in England’ publication, available in the ‘Related pages’ sidebar.


Headline facts and figures - 2021

The total number of EHC plans has continued to increase

There were 430,700 children and young people with Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans as at January 2021. This has increased each year since 2010.

The number of new EHC plans made in the calendar year has also continued to increase

There were 60,100 new EHC plans made during 2020. The number of new EHC plans has increased each year since their introduction in 2014.

However, the number of initial requests for an EHC plan has decreased for the first time

There were 76,000 initial requests for an EHC plan during 2020, down from 82,300 in 2019 and the first decrease since EHC plans were introduced.

The proportion of new plans issued within 20 weeks has decreased

In 2020, 58.0% of new EHC plans were issued within 20 weeks, down from 60.4% in 2019.

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Education, Health and Care plans

The number of Education, Health and Care plans has continued to increase

There were 430,700 children and young people with Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans as at January 2021. This is an increase of 10% from 390,100 as at January 2020. This follows similar increases in recent years.

The combined total of children and young people with statements and EHC plans has increased each year since 2010. EHC plans were introduced from September 2014. The period for local authorities to transfer children and young people with statements of SEN to EHC plans started in September 2014 and ended on 31 March 2018, as such we no longer see statements of SEN in the total. 

Children of compulsory school ages continue to account for over two thirds of EHC plans

This is virtually unchanged from last year and percentages remained stable from 2020 across all age bands.

From September 2014, EHC plans replaced Learning Difficulty Assessments (LDAs) for children in further education. The percentage of children and young people with an EHC plan who are aged 16 years old and over has subsequently increased since January 2014 but is now stabilising.

The proportion of children and young people with an EHC plan in mainstream schools has increased

This has increased from 39% in 2020 to 40% in 2021. Whilst numbers continue to increase in special schools, the proportion of overall EHC plans in these settings has been falling in recent years. This is driven by larger increases in mainstream schools. As such, the proportion within mainstream schools has increased for the first time in recent years.

Data is also collected for children and young people where they are not currently receiving provision in an education setting or are awaiting provision in a different education setting. 14,500 children and young people were recorded under one of these categories in January 2021 (shown as ‘educated elsewhere’ in the table above and broken down in further detail below). 

10,800 young people were recorded as not in education, employment or training (NEET) and a further 2,200 children and young people have been recorded as ‘Other’, which includes those who have been issued with a notice to cease the EHC plan (for example, after taking up employment).

Awaiting Provision 

Awaiting provision includes children and young people who are awaiting the provision specified on their EHC plan. This includes some children and young people who are in an education setting but are awaiting provision in another setting, for example those currently attending a mainstream school and awaiting provision in a special school. This also includes some children and young people who are not currently in an education setting but are awaiting placement, for example where they have moved in to the area and a placement has not yet started.

Due to changes in the data collection, comparisons to previous years are not advised. This includes changes to the categories recorded. Figures for awaiting provision up to and including 2017 are known to also include those not in employment, education or training (NEET), which is now a separate category.

Of those awaiting provision, 1,460 are children of compulsory school age who are not currently in some form of education. This represents 0.3% of all EHC plans. A further 248 children are under compulsory school age and 2,438 are young people above compulsory school age.

Elective home educated

Data was collected on elective home education specifically for the first time in 2020. The data for 2021 shows an increase of 23% from 2,983 to 3,660. In each year this represents 0.8% of all EHC plans. 

New EHC plans

The number of new EHC plans has continued to increase

There were 60,100 new EHC plans made during 2020, an increase of 6,200 (11%) when compared against 2019. The number of new EHC plans has increased each year since their introduction in 2014.

Almost half of new plans continue to be for ages 5 to 10

This was similar to previous years. Age 11 to 15 was the next highest group at a quarter of new plans. This has been the second highest group since 2017, when it overtook the under 5 age group. 

New plans for those aged 20 to 25 made up just 0.4% of all new plans, down from 0.8% in 2019 and continuing a decline from a high of 2.2% in 2017. 

Provision in mainstream schools continues to increase

Provision in mainstream schools has increased to over 70% of new plans made during 2020. Special schools accounted for 15% of new plans, decreasing from 18% in 2019 and continuing a decline seen in recent years.

Requests and assessments

A parent or guardian can ask their local authority to carry out an assessment if they think their child needs an EHC plan. A young person can request an assessment themselves if they’re aged 16 to 25. A request can also be made by anyone else who thinks an assessment may be necessary, including doctors, health visitors, teachers, parents and family friends.

The number of initial requests for assessment has decreased for the first time

There were 76,000 initial requests made for assessment for an EHC plan during 2020, down from 82,300 in 2019 and the first decline since data was first collected in 2016. Of those, 16,400 (22%) were refused, the lowest rate of refusals since data was first collected.

Once a request for assessment has been approved, an assessment is undertaken and a decision on whether to issue a plan or not is made.

The number of assessments during the calendar year increased

Assessments increased from 57,300 in 2019 to 63,200 in 2020, an increase of 10%. Of these, 60,100 (95%) resulted in a plan being issued, with 3,100 assessments (5%) where it was decided not to issue an EHC plan.

The map below shows the percentages for initial requests refused, assessments that resulted in a plan and assessments where a decision was made not to issue a plan, for each local authority for the 2019 and 2020 calendar years.

Timeliness - EHC plans issued within 20 weeks

Percentage of EHC plans issued within 20 weeks decreased in 2020

The whole process of EHC needs assessment and EHC plan development, from the point when an assessment is requested (or a child or young person is brought to the local authority’s attention) until any final EHC plan is issued, must take no more than 20 weeks. The relevant legislation provides for exceptions to the time limits in certain situations.

The law on the timings for EHC needs assessments and plans changed for the period 1 May to 25 September 2020. Where during that period it was not reasonably practicable or impractical to meet a statutory time limit for a reason relating to the incidence or transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), that time limit did not apply. Instead, the local authority (or other body to whom such a time limit applied) would have to complete the process as soon as reasonably practicable. One of the time limits in question was the requirement for local authorities to issue an EHC plan to someone eligible for one within 20 weeks of an initial request.

Of the new EHC plans made during the 2020 calendar year (excluding cases where exceptions apply), 58.0% were issued within the 20 week time limit. These figures include the whole of 2020 and therefore include new plans made during the coronavirus pandemic unless exceptions apply. This is a reduction from 2019 when 60.4% of new plans were issued within the time limit.

Mediations and tribunals

Mediations remained steady compared to 2019

Following the assessment of needs of a child or young person, if the local authority decides not to issue an EHC plan, or if parents/carers disagree with the educational provision set out in the EHC plan, they would be able to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal. They then decide whether they want to go to mediation or proceed to the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability), part of the Health, Education and Social Care Chamber within the First-tier Tribunal. 

Mediation cases are defined as the number of mediation meetings that have occurred, regardless of whether the case then went to Tribunal. A mediation meeting is one in which the mediator, parents/carers or young person and the Local Authority met to discuss the case. 

More information about the Tribunal can be found at: www.gov.uk/courts-tribunals/first-tier-tribunal-specialeducational-needs-and-disability

Statistics covering the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/tribunals-statistics

There were 4,100 mediation cases held during 2020, similar to 2019. Of these, 1,100 (27%) were followed by appeals to the tribunal. This is a small increase from 2019 and the highest percentage since EHC plans were introduced.

Some mediation cases in 2020 calendar year could have been followed by appeal to the tribunal in 2021, which would not have been recorded in this collection.

Personal Budgets

Proportion of personal budgets in place for EHC plans unchanged

An optional personal budget is an amount of money identified by the local authority to deliver provision set out in an EHC plan where the parent or young person is involved in securing that provision. See the SEND code of practice: 0 to 25 for further information on personal budgets. 

There were 22,200 personal budgets in place for EHC plans issued or reviewed during 2020, an increase from 20,300 in 2019. This represents 5.2% of all EHC plans, unchanged from 2019.

Personal budgets in place that have direct payments for social care make up 81% of personal budgets. 

Help and support

Methodology

Find out how and why we collect, process and publish these statistics

National statistics

The United Kingdom Statistics Authority designated these statistics as National Statistics in accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and signifying compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics.

Designation signifying their compliance with the authority's Code of Practice for Statistics which broadly means these statistics are:

  • managed impartially and objectively in the public interest
  • meet identified user needs
  • produced according to sound methods
  • well explained and readily accessible

Once designated as National Statistics it's a statutory requirement for statistics to follow and comply with the Code of Practice for Statistics to be observed.

Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.

Contact us

Ask questions and provide feedback

If you have a specific enquiry about Education, health and care plans statistics and data:

School Census Statistics team

Email
sen.statistics@education.gov.uk

Telephone: Special Educational Needs statistics lead
0370 000 2288

Press office

If you have a media enquiry:

Telephone
020 7783 8300

Public enquiries

If you have a general enquiry about the Department for Education (DfE) or education:

Telephone
037 0000 2288