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Appealing a SEND Tribunal

Appealing a SEND Tribunal

Appealing a SEND Tribunal

The First-Tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) is often known as the SEND Tribunal.

This tribunal handles appeals related to special educational needs and disabilities. If an individual disagrees with a decision made by a local authority regarding the special educational provision for a child or young person, they have the right to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal.

This blog will explain what a SEND appeal is and how to make one.

What is a SEND appeal?

The First-tier Tribunal hears and decides parents’ appeals against the decisions made by local authorities concerning a child’s special educational needs.

The First-tier Tribunal specifically handles cases related to:

  • Appealing decisions made by local authorities concerning children with special educational needs.
  • Claims of disability discrimination in schools.

The appeal involves presenting evidence, outlining the grounds of disagreement, and participating in a hearing where an independent panel considers the case.

The SEND Tribunal aims to provide a fair and impartial forum to resolve disputes and ensure that children with special educational needs receive appropriate support and provision.

Who can appeal to the SEND Tribunal?

You have the right to appeal to the Tribunal if you disagree with a decision made by your Local Authority. This includes where the authority has:

  • Declined to conduct an Education Health and Care (EHC) assessment or reassessment.
  • Rejected the issuance of an EHC Plan following an assessment or reassessment.
  • Declined to modify the wording in the sections related to education in an existing EHC Plan, specifically Section B (description of special educational needs), Section F (special educational provision), and Section I (educational placement).
  • Determined that you or your child no longer requires an EHC Plan.

What is the SEND appeal process?

An appeal to the SEND Tribunal must be submitted within two months of receiving the local authority’s final decision letter. You must specify the appealed decision and provide the date of the local authority letter announcing the decision.

The grounds of appeal, or reasons, must be outlined, going beyond a simple statement like ‘I disagree.’ The reasons should explain your disagreement and what actions you would like the SEND Tribunal to take. If supporting information or evidence exists, it should be included with the appeal.

Upon receiving your appeal, the SEND Tribunal will respond within 10 working days. The registration letter will include important dates, the deadline for the local authority’s response, a timeframe for additional evidence submission and notification of the hearing date. The actual hearing time and venue will be provided at least 10 working days before the scheduled hearing, usually held within 2 hours of your postcode.

Can I bring witnesses to a SEND Tribunal hearing?

Yes, you can bring witnesses to a SEND Tribunal hearing. Each party involved in the appeal, including the appellant (usually a parent or guardian) and the local authority, has the right to present witnesses.

Typically, witnesses are professionals familiar with the child’s needs, such as Educational Psychologists, Speech and Language Therapists and Occupational Therapists.

While you can have up to three witnesses, it’s crucial to carefully consider who can provide valuable insights into your child’s situation. Informing your witnesses of the hearing date as soon as possible is advisable.

If you believe you need more than three witnesses, you can request additional ones, though the Tribunal will decide at its discretion whether to grant such requests.

What happens during a SEND Tribunal hearing?

At the start of the hearing, the Tribunal Judge will provide an introduction, outline the procedures for the session, and present a list of the issues to be addressed. Each party will be requested to introduce themselves.

The tribunal panel will then discuss the appeal, addressing each issue individually. You will be invited to express your perspective and present evidence on each matter. If there are additional relevant issues you wish to raise that haven’t been previously discussed, you’ll have the opportunity to do so before the hearing concludes.

Once all issues have been covered, the Tribunal Judge may invite you to provide brief closing comments summarising your appeal. While not mandatory, it offers a chance to recap your position in light of any changes arising from the evidence presented during the hearing.

How long does the SEND appeal process typically take?

The entire appeal process can take up to five months, depending on the nature of the case. Typically, there is a single hearing requiring your attendance at the tribunal. Hearings generally commence at either 10 am or 2 pm. In more complex cases, an adjournment might be necessary for the SEND Tribunal to thoroughly consider all the required evidence on another day.

How much does it cost to make a SEND appeal?

You will not be charged for the services provided by the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunal. Unlike some legal processes, there are no fees associated with submitting an appeal to the First-tier Tribunal.

This is designed to ensure that individuals, often parents or guardians of children with special educational needs, have access to a fair and impartial appeals process without financial barriers.

While the appeal process itself is cost-free, individuals may have the option to claim any out-of-pocket expenses they incur in attending the tribunal hearing, such as travel costs.

This financial assistance ensures that the appeal process is accessible to all, regardless of financial constraints.

Although you will not be charged for the service provided by the SEND Tribunal, a solicitor will charge for the work they undertake, in preparing a case to be heard by the SEND Tribunal.

Our lawyers are dedicated education law specialists. We only act on behalf of children and young people. We do not act on behalf of schools or colleges. Email us at educationteam@ibblaw.co.uk  or call Rachael on 01895 207230 to arrange an initial fixed fee consultation.

What outcomes can I expect from a SEND Tribunal?

You should receive the decision and reasons by post within 10 working days of the hearing. The decision is sent to the nominated contact and the local authority.

Once the SEND Tribunal’s decision is issued, the local authority must carry out the order within a fixed time frame. Actions that the local authority may have to carry out include:

  • To start the assessment or reassessment process.
  • To make an EHC Plan.
  • To amend an EHC Plan.
  • To amend the school/college/institution.
  • To continue an EHC Plan.
  • To cease (no longer maintain) an EHC Plan.

What if I disagree with the outcome of a SEND Tribunal decision?

If you disagree with the outcome of a SEND Tribunal decision, you have the option to take further legal action.

You may consider applying for permission to appeal to the Upper Tribunal, which is a higher level of the tribunal system. However, this process is typically limited to cases where there is an error of law.

It’s crucial to act promptly, as there are strict time limits for submitting an application to the Upper Tribunal.

Seeking legal advice is highly recommended to assess the viability of an appeal and navigate the complex procedures involved.

Alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, can also be explored to find a resolution without resorting to further legal proceedings.

Get in touch with our Education Solicitors specialising in SEND Tribunals

The information given here is intended for general information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice. Further information is available.

For specific guidance relevant to your situation and to arrange an initial fixed fee education law consultation, please contact our education law senior administrator, Rachael, on 01895 207230 or email educationteam@ibblaw.co.uk