SEND Tribunals 

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What is the SEND Tribunal?

SEND Tribunal is the commonly used term for the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability). It is an independent national tribunal, hearing appeals by parents and young people against Local Authority (LA) decisions about special educational and disability.

Who can appeal?

To be able to appeal, you must be a parent or a young person over the age of 16. In education law ‘parent’ means you are either a birth parent, have acquired parental responsibility or have care of the child (e.g. a foster parent or grandparent with whom the child lives).

If the decision concerns a child, the parent has the right of appeal. If the decision concerns a young person (16-25), then it is the young person who has the right of appeal. They may ask a parent or other person to help them.

There are no fees for parents or young people to pay to the Tribunal.

Considering Mediation

Mediation is a disagreement resolution process, where parties meet to discuss the matters under dispute with the help of a trained and independent mediator. The mediation may also be attended by other relevant parties, such as representatives from the child or young person’s school or college. It is free of charge.

Mediation meetings are arranged at a neutral venue and parties are expected to comply with any agreement reached through mediation. Mediation meetings are confidential and without prejudice to the Tribunal process. If the dispute is not resolved and an appeal to the Tribunal follows, the Tribunal will disregard any offers or comments made during mediation.

Mediation is not compulsory. However, in most instances, before bringing an appeal to the SEND Tribunal, you must first consider mediation. In practice, this means contacting the mediation service for mediation advice.  If you have never had a proper discussion with the LA about why they have reached their decision, mediation may help.

If you decide not to proceed with mediation, the mediation service will provide you with a Mediation Certificate to prove that you have considered it. The exception is if you are only appealing about Section I of an EHC Plan - the school or other educational placement named, or where no school or other educational placement is named.

In RBWM, mediation is provided by Global Mediation https://www.globalmediation.co.uk/service/special-educational-needs-disability/

 

When can you appeal?

You must register your appeal with the SEND Tribunal within 2 months from the date of your decision letter from the Local Authority or 1 month from the date you obtain a mediation certificate, whichever is the later.

What can you appeal?

You can bring an appeal to the SEND Tribunal if the Local Authority:

  • refuses to carry out an EHC needs assessment or re-assessment of needs;

  • has carried out an EHC needs assessment but refuses to issue an EHC Plan;

  • decides not to amend an EHC Plan after an Annual Review;

  • decides that the EHC plan is no longer necessary and notifies you of its decision to ‘cease to maintain’ the EHC Plan.

 

There are also rights of appeal about the contents of an EHC plan when first issued or reviewed/amended in a final form, specifically against:

  • Section B: detailing the child or young person’s special educational needs;

  • Section F: setting out the special educational provision to be made to meet the needs;

  • Section I: the named school or other setting in the EHC Plan (and/or the type of school or setting), or if no school or other setting is named.

What sections can’t you appeal?

Some sections of an EHC Plan which are completely outside of the SEND Tribunal’s scope:

  • Section A – the views, wishes and aspirations of the child, parents or the young person;

  • Section E – the outcomes to be sought; and

  • Section J – dealing with direct payments.

You cannot appeal about these sections of the EHC Plan.

What about the Health and Care sections?

There is no legal right of appeal about the health and social care matters within an EHC Plan. However, since April 2018, the SEND Tribunal has been running a trial whereby its powers are extended beyond disputes in relation to education, to include health and social care issues as well. This is referred to as the “National Trial”. It is currently set to run until August 2021.

If you are already making an appeal in relation to the educational aspects of the EHC Plan, the  National Trial - Single Route of Redress (EHC Plan appeals)  gives you the right also to request recommendations about the health and social care needs and provision specified in the EHC Plan (Sections C, D, G, H1 & H2). This gives you long the opportunity to raise all your concerns about an EHC Plan in one place.

There must be an educational component to the appeal for health and social care matters to be considered under the SEND Tribunal National Trial. If your concerns about the child or young person’s EHC plan are only around health and/or social care, you still have the option of mediation.

National Trial FAQs | (IPSEA) Independent Provider of Special Education Advice

 

What the SEND Tribunal does

The SEND Tribunal is governed by the law and makes decisions based on the evidence put before it. It has to follow the interpretation of the law by higher courts in judgments about previous SEN disputes. This is referred to as Case Law.

The SEND Tribunal looks at the evidence put before it and decides whether the LA decision has followed the law and the SEND Code of Practice. It will look in detail at the decision made by the LA and make its Order based on what is right for the child or young person at the time of the hearing. 

The SEND Tribunal produces a free booklet, How to Appeal, and other guidance forms which can all be accessed on their website. The SEND Tribunal has also produced a set of videos which explain more about what appealing to the SEND Tribunal is like – these are available on YouTube or you can request a DVD from the SEND Tribunal.

The SEND Tribunal has the power to order LAs to carry out EHC Needs Assessments, issue EHC Plans, and amend existing EHC Plans. LAs must comply with orders made by the SEND Tribunal.

​If the SEND Tribunal makes a recommendation about health or social care elements of an EHC Plan, this is non-binding. However, there is an expectation that Tribunal recommendations will be followed.

The SEND Tribunal also hears claims of disability discrimination against schools. Different timescales apply to disability discrimination appeals and you do not need to seek mediation advice if it is a disability discrimination claim. Disability discrimination | (IPSEA) Independent Provider of Special Education Advice

Video guide to SEND tribunal

HM Courts and Tribunals have complied a 6 part video guide to SEND Tribunals which can be viewed HERE

Still image of videos on SEND tribunals