Local Authorities are only required to provide support which is suitable and appropriate to meet a child’s needs. Therefore, it is inevitable that there will be cases where there is a disagreement between parents, the young person and the Local Authority about how a child/young person’s needs are best met.

When there is a dispute over a child’s educational provisions and it cannot be resolved through open mediation, parents and the young person (16+) have the right to appeal the decision. It is addressed by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST). This is a specialist and independent board which sits within the HM Court Service.

Although the SENDIST process is more informal than an ordinary court and is inquisitorial in nature, it has become more legalistic. Whether you choose to be legally represented or not depends on the complexity of the issues under scrutiny and your confidence to present the case before the Tribunal.

Parents and carers can seek support from a range of people including "advocates", "charities" or "lay representatives", however, they should be careful about appointing non-regulated representatives. If you needed to have an important operation, would you have it performed by an unregulated doctor?

What To Expect From A SEN Tribunal

The Tribunal process can be gruelling for parents and the process can take up to 20 weeks from lodging the appeal. On lodging an appeal, the Tribunal will fix a hearing date and issue case directions for the disclosure of evidence by both parties.

Appeals will be heard across the country in local venues and depending on the type of appeal many hearings will last one day. More complex cases can be two or even three days in length and it is important that this is discussed with your representatives at the commencement of the appeal to avoid the risk of an adjournment.

All Tribunal hearings are managed by a specialist Judge who is legally qualified and depending on the type of appeal, they will be assisted by two specialist panel members. They have experience in SEN and are there to assist the Judge in reaching a decision.

It is important to bear in mind that the Tribunal is a legal proceeding and when bringing appeals you will need to ensure that you have the evidence to support your arguments.

How We Can Help

We have the experience of dealing with a range of complex issues, including:

  • Requesting an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Needs Assessment.
  • Providing advice on the contents of EHC Plans and what type of support needs to be included.
  • Advice where the Local Authority refuses to issue an EHC Plan and instead issues non-binding "feedback".
  • Refusal to amend an EHC Plan following an annual review.
  • Appeals against the contents of the EHC Plan, which will include the description of the child’s SEN, the provision provided to meet the needs and the educational setting identified.
  • Entitlement to a personal budget and what this means in practice
  • Challenging the non-provision or delivery of health and social care advice.
  • Cessation of the EHC Plan.
  • Refusing to change the name of the educational setting named in the EHC Plan
  • The capacity of a young person to make decisions about their education.
  • Requests for home educational provision and home programmes combined with part time school attendance.
  •  Assisting complaints against the Local Government Ombudsman where there has been a failure to make SEN provisions

What we will do for you

Where we are instructed to represent you we will manage the process for you so you don’t have to worry about the day-to-day management of the appeal. We will prepare all evidence for you and instruct experts to act on your behalf in providing independent advice about your child’s needs and the support they require.