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How to Appeal to SENDIST
“I don’t agree with the local authority’s decision about my child’s special educational needs”
The Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) deals with disagreements between parents and local authorities.
If you decide to go ahead with an appeal, then there are strict time limits. The appeal must be lodged within two months of the date of the decision. Extensions to this time limit are exceptionally rare.
What is SENDIST?
SENDIST is an independent Tribunal governed by various regulations. It hears and decides parents’ appeals against the decisions made by local authorities concerning a child’s special educational needs, as well as considering claims of disability discrimination in schools.
What can SENDIST deal with?
SENDIST deals with the following types of appeals:
- Refusal to make an EHC needs assessment
- Refusal to make an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP)
- The content of an EHCP
- The support detailed in the EHCP
- The school named in an EHCP
- A refusal to make amendments to an EHCP following an Annual Review. This can include description of special educational needs, the special educational need and/or the school named in the EHCP.
- The amendments / deletions made to an EHCP following an Annual Review
- Decision to cease to maintain an EHCP
It is not possible to appeal about the way the Local Authority has carried out an assessment, or the length of time it took.
How does an appeal to SENDIST work?
An appeal is started by an appeal form. It is important to use the correct form and set out your case fully, including reference to the relevant legal tests. You should send any evidence you have to support your appeal right away.
In many cases, you will need to secure a mediation certificate before you are able to start an appeal. You should check with the Tribunal, or take specialist legal advice about whether your type of appeal requires a mediation certificate
Once the Tribunal receives the appeal form, it will process the appeal. This means that it will apply a timetable. The Tribunal is currently listing hearings using a standard 12 week process. The timetable is normally as follows:
Week 5 – The local authority must send its response to your appeal
Week 9 – All further evidence must be submitted
Week 12 – The final hearing takes place
The Tribunal will also require you to send in other information, such as Ofsted reports and offers of placement form your preferred school, if you appeal is about Section I of the EHCP.
Your appeal timetable will be set out in a letter the Tribunal will send it. It is very important that you read that letter carefully and make a note of all the relevant dates. You must comply with every deadline.
It is important to bear in mind that no decisions are given on the day of the Final Tribunal Hearing. It can take up to ten days to receive the written decision.
What happens during a Tribunal appeal?
It is very important to be specific when lodging grounds for appeal. Once the case is presented, the Local Authority will respond. You will receive a copy of this response, following which you will need to file all additional evidence approximately one month before the Final Hearing. An actual deadline date will be provided.
Late evidence will never be allowed unless permission is granted by the Tribunal, and this would need to be applied for. If it is decided by you or your solicitors that expert evidence will be a necessary part of your case and you wish to have experts give evidence at the Final Hearing, then they can attend as an expert witness.
Witnesses can be called, although the Tribunal will usually limit the number allowed. Currently the limit is three witnesses for special educational needs appeals, and five for disability discrimination appeals. If you wanted to bring more witnesses, then you would need to make a special application.
Sometimes a Tribunal will alter its deadlines in order to accommodate certain appeals, such as urgent secondary school transfer appeals for example.
Appeals to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) can be difficult. It can be useful to take specialist legal advice about a SENDIST appeal. If you have any questions or concerns, or would like help with a SENDIST appeal, our specialist education solicitors are here to help.