March 2023 – Tribunals
Who is the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs & Disability) Service?
The SEND Tribunal is part of the system of courts and tribunals which makes decisions in appeals and claims. They are part of the Health, Education and Social Care Chamber, which settles legal disputes and is structured around particular areas of law.
What does the SEND Tribunal Service do?
SEND Tribunal hears cases which involve:
- appeals against decisions of local authorities about children and young people with special educational needs,
- claims of disability discrimination by a school against a child
The staff at the SEND Tribunal who administer appeals are called ‘tribunal clerks’
SEND Tribunal handles appeals against decisions to refuse young people in custody:
- an EHC assessment
- an EHC plan after assessment
- a placement to a suitable school or other educational institution after their release.
And SEND Tribunal handles appeals against discrimination by schools or local authorities due to a child’s disability.
Who can make an appeal to the SEND Tribunal?
- A parent or someone with parental responsibility on behalf of a child under 16 years old
- A young person aged 16 and under 25 years old
- Alternative person making an appeal in the ‘best interests’ of a young person who does not have the Mental Capacity to bring an appeal themselves or someone appointed like a Legal Representative (e.g. a lawyer or solicitor acting on behalf of a party)
You can consider using the SEND Tribunal Service when:
- an EHCP is finalised for the first time for a child or young person
- an assessment is completed but the LA decides not to issue a plan
- a notice to maintain an EHCP without change, cease to maintain or to amend a plan is received. This happens following an annual review or reassessment
- the LA refuses to reassess after being requested to do so
The deadline to make an appeal to the SEND Tribunal is:
Two months from the date of the letter from the local authority giving their final written decision.
You will have an additional 30 days from the date of the Mediation certificate to make an appeal to SEND Tribunal.
The local authority (LA) should have told you in the decision letter that you may be able to get advice from the following:
- A local Information, Advice and Support Service (IASS), like SEND and You
- A voluntary organisation which helps people with special needs
- A parents’ or young person’s support group like Parent Carer Forums
- National Advice Organisations like CONTACT or IPSEA.
The local authority (LA) should tell you in the decision letter, as part of giving the rights of appeal to SEND Tribunal, the named officer who can work with you to try and sort out the issues you disagree with.
How much is an appeal at SEND Tribunal going to cost?
SEND Tribunal is FREE.
Although there are legal proceedings there are NO FEES involved.
Do I have to attend a mediation meeting?
You need to consider mediation when you have received one of the following decisions from the local authority:
- a refusal-to-assess decisison after an education health and care needs assessment request,
- a no changes decision or
- amendments have been made to an EHCP and you disagree about the content of plan. This could be section B, F and I of the EHCP.
Appeals to SEND Tribunal
You can make an application to appeal to SEND Tribunal against PLACEMENT only, the section I in the EHCP, without a medical certificate.
In placement appeals you cannot discuss other parts of the EHCP, for example section B about special educational needs.
Disability Discrimination Appeals
Disability discrimination claims must be made within 6 months of the discrimination happening or as soon as you become aware of discrimination.
Your child or young person do NOT need to have an Education Health and Care Plan.
Issues SEND Tribunal does NOT deal with are:
- How the local authority carried out an EHC assessment, or the time that it took
- How the local authority, school or college arranges the support set out in the EHCP
- The way the school or college is meeting a child’s or young person’s needs under SEN Support
- the outcomes in Section E of the EHCP plan
- any disputes about the wording of Sections A, J, K of the EHCP
- Admissions appeals
- Exclusion appeals unless it involves an allegation of disability discrimination.
How long does a SEND Tribunal appeal take?
From start to finish, it can take up to five months depending on the type of case.
Very complex cases may take longer but these are the exception.
Grounds for SEND Tribunal Appeals
The ‘grounds of appeal’ are the reasons you must give for the appeal, including the issues you want SEND Tribunal to make decisions on.
Explain why you disagree and what you would like SEND Tribunal to do.
Handy hints about your SEND Appeal Application
- Go through the checklist in the appeal form, and include everything you must have so your application can be accepted.
- Is the application form signed by ALL parties to the appeal? No signatures = no appeal.
- Do not send original documents to the SEND Tribunal service.
- Send single sided copies of documents.
- Someone else can send the application for you as long as your signature is on the form.
What are the timelines for a SEND Tribunal appeal?
Your application for a SEND Tribunal appeal will be registered within 10 working days once it’s sent.
SEND Tribunal will keep you informed. You will be notified when the appeal is registered and the date of the final hearing of the appeal.
What does the local authority do once my SEND appeal is registered?
The local authority must respond within 30 working days a copy of the appeal notice was sent.
You will get a copy of their response to SEND Tribunal and all documents they include.
If you do not hear anything you can contact the SEND Tribunal service to find out more.
Unopposed Appeals automatically end when these are about:
- A decision not to carry out an EHC Needs Assessment or reassessment
- Not to issue an EHCP
- Not to change the school named in an EHCP that is over one year old
- To no longer maintain an EHCP
Can I request changes about my appeal case?
You can ask the tribunal to make an order for documents to be provided or for other directions, if you and the other party are unable to agree at any time before the hearing.
If you want to ask the tribunal to make an order, you should complete the ‘Request for changes’ form and send a copy to the local authority and to the Tribunal.
Hearings can seem overwhelming
Become familiar with the proceedings by watching videos about the hearing.
Have a look at the videos on YouTube (type ‘special educational needs tribunal hearing’ in the search box)
Witnesses at Tribunal
You have to inform the SEND Tribunal of witnesses that you will bring and who they are on the attendance form, without which they could be prevented to attend the hearing.
Both parties will be given opportunity to ask questions to the LA’s witnesses, the LA directly and anything you feel is unclear or not mentioned.
Who sits on the hearing panel at my SEND Tribunal Appeal?
A tribunal panel consists of:
- a legally qualified tribunal judge, who will be at the chair, and depending on the type of appeal,
- up to two specialist members who have been appointed because of their knowledge and experience of children with special educational needs and/or disabilities.
The Tribunal Appeal Decision
The decision and the reasons for this will be sent to you and the local authority 10 working days after the hearing date.
The LA must carry it out once the decision is issued within fixed timescales.