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How to appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal

View profile for Andrew Barrowclough
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Our website already contains useful information setting out the law and regulations in relation to tribunal procedure but this blog will hopefully add to that information on a practical level.

When can I appeal to the tribunal?

The following specific situations can give rise to a tribunal appeal. Parents cannot appeal to the tribunal simply because they are unhappy with the conduct of the LEA. A specific situation must occur so it is important to know what those triggers are:

  • A decision not to carry out a formal Statutory Assessment.
  • A decision to refuse to issue an EHCP following assessment.
  • If a Statement/EHCP exists: -
    • The contents of that Statement (Parts 2 and 3) or EHCP (Section B or F);
    • Any decision taken by the Local Authority to cease to maintain the Statement/EHCP.
    • A disagreement about the school named in Part 4/Section I of the Statement/EHCP or if the LEA does not name a school (e.g.: the LEA names a type of school). 
  • A decision made by the Authority to amend, or refusing to amend, the Statement/EHCP following an Annual Review meeting.

You cannot appeal about the way the LEA carried out an assessment or the length of time taken or even about how the LEA is arranging to provide the help set out in the child’s Statement/EHCP.  The Tribunal will also refuse to hear appeals about the way the school is meeting the child’s needs or about the contents of Part 5 and 6 of the Statement.

How do I lodge an appeal?

Lodging an appeal is fairly straightforward. You can download the relevant forms from the government’s website in either Wales or England. You can lodge the appeal entirely online and in many respects the tribunal prefers this in its attempt to eventually become paperless. There is no fee for lodging a tribunal appeal. You need to ensure that you have the appeal letter from the LEA and this is of crucial importance. This is the formal letter giving a parent a right of appeal.

In England if you are following the new EHCP system you have to also send a mediation certificate before an appeal can be lodged. You do not have to actually attend mediation though. You can just call the mediator, listen to what they have to say and then thereafter ask for the certificate to be issued. Mediation is sometimes useful but in our experience most parents simply want to get on with an appeal. By the stage of the final statement/ EHCP or final decision about assessment being issued extensive negotiation has taken place already. If the LEA haven’t agreed with the parent’s views by that point it is unlikely that they will suddenly agree in a medication meeting.

At HCB Solicitors we have expert specialist education law solicitors who have assisted parents in lodging hundreds of tribunal appeals. We can either lodge the entire appeal for you or we can advise you on the best steps to take yourselves.

The SEN Tribunal procedure in a nutshell in England

  1. Appeal is lodged by parent
  2. Appeal is registered by tribunal and the entire timetable is set out immediately
  3. LEA respond to appeal and file attendance form
  4. Parent files attendance form
  5. All further evidence is due (1 month before final hearing)
  6. Bundles are sent out (by the tribunal if the case involves a statement or by the LEA if the case involves an EHCP)
  7. Working document is due (2 weeks before hearing if the case involves a Statement or EHCP)
  8. Final hearing
  9. Tribunal decision is received 2 weeks after the hearing date

The SEN Tribunal procedure in a nutshell in Wales

  1. Appeal is lodged by parents
  2. All evidence and the attendance form is due 6 weeks after the appeal is lodged
  3. Bundles are sent out by the Tribunal
  4. Working document is due (2 weeks before the hearing)
  5. Final hearing

Top tips for Special Educational Needs Tribunals

  • The tribunal is evidence based so it is very important to have good experts lined up to assess comprehensively, prepare a detailed report and to attend the final hearing to help parents. Whilst parents know their children better than anyone else technically speaking you are usually not ‘qualified’ to give an expert view. The tribunal needs to base its decision on sound expert advice. At HCB we have a team of experts we work with and we can give you their contact details upon request.
  • Work with your child’s school as far as that is possible. Sometimes the relationship between parent and school has broken down entirely but the argument is not really with the school- it is the LEA’s decision that is being appealed against. If you can get agreement from your current school that your child requires more support or an alternative environment that will assist a great deal.
  • Make sure your child has their say. The child’s views are very important in the process.
  • When further evidence has to be filed it is important that you also prepare a detailed written statement setting out the case. This can be a ‘witness statement’ or a ‘case statement’ but it should argue the case properly.
  • If you are asking for a change of school placement make sure that the new school have assessed your child and a representative from that school can attend the final hearing. The tribunal may have questions to ask that witness.
  • Make sure you have provided the tribunal with as much detail as possible about your prospective placement is you are asking for a different school. This includes the qualifications of the teacher and the peer group.

Our tribunal success rate is extremely high (98%) as we prepare cases carefully and we use very experienced expert witnesses. We would therefore be confident in assisting you with your case but if you want some brief advice rather than instructing us formally just give us a call on 02920 291704 or email us on education@hcbgroup.com. We are always happy to help and will get you moving in the right direction. Good luck!

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