Our 9-year-old son has a diagnosis of ASD (Aspergers) and has a statement. We believe we are due to have Alistair's statement transferred to an EHCP in October (annual review), although this has been postponed for the last 2 years. Are we are required, at this point in time, to name our preferred secondary school (He will start year 5 in September)? If so, we fully expect the LA to refuse our choice and if so, we will be prepared to take the issue to Tribunal.
What would be the likely point in time at which a Tribunal would take place, on the assumption that we would want a conclusion prior to Alistair going into year7? Our key reason for understanding this is that we will need to arrange independent reports and legal representation, but wish to avoid a situation where the reports are completed "too soon" and can be challenged as "out of date" by the LA.
You are right to be expecting the EHC plan transfer to start this October, as all local authorities are required to complete all their transfers by 1 April 2018, so October 2017 really is getting to the last moment to do this.You must be informed by the local authority at least two weeks before the EHC plan transfer starts that this is what they are going to do, and the date they will start. In practice, the start date is generally the date of what would have been the statement annual review, and that meeting has it's purpose changed. Once the EHC plan transfer process starts, it must be finished, i.e. a final EHC plan issued, within 18 weeks.
As Alistair is in year 5, you probably won't be asked to name your preferred secondary school at this point, and even if you are, that will only be for information purposes. It's year 6 where the secondary transfer process kicks off, as that's when an EHC plan naming Alistair's secondary school must be issued by 15 February in year 6, so that will be 15 February 2019. You will certainly be asked for your secondary school placement preference during the autumn term of year 6.
In terms of a tribunal appeal, the final EHC plan being issued by 15 February in year 6 should give enough time to complete the tribunal process before he starts year 7, as long as you don't take up all the two months allowed after the issue of the final EHC plan (or, if later, 1 month of receiving the mediation certificate) to lodge the appeal. It should take 12 weeks from you registering the appeal to the hearing, with the tribunal aiming to get the final decision sent within 10 working days of the hearing. You will need to consider mediation first unless you are only appealing on placement (Section I in an EHC plan), but you don't have to mediate, and if you do, the mediation should be arranged within 28 days of you asking for it.
So, it will be the autumn term of year 6 that is a good time for thinking about legal representation and independents reports.