Education Law Solicitors

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SEND in England


“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) governs disagreements concerning parents and local authorities.

If you want to go forward with an appeal, there are very strict time limits so it is important that an appeal must be made within 2 months of the date of the original decision.

What is SENDIST?

SENDIST hears and decides parents’ appeals against decisions made by local authorities in regards to a child’s special educational needs, in addition to considering disability discrimination claims. SENDIST is an independent Tribunal, governed by various codes of practice.

What can SENDIST deal with?

SENDIST deals with all of the following types of appeals:

  • The content of an EHCP
  • Refusal to make an EHC needs assessment
  • The school named in an EHCP
  • The amendments / deletions made to an EHCP following an Annual Review
  • Refusal to make an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP)
  • The support detailed in the 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.
  • Decision to cease to maintain an EHCP

It is not possible to appeal on how 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 through an appeal form. It is important to make sure you submit the correct form, and fully set out your case with references to any relevant legal assessments. Any evidence you have to support your case should also be sent.
  • In a lot of cases, it may be necessary to also secure a mediation certificate before you can start an appeal. Check with the Tribunal, or seek specialist legal advice on whether you will require a mediation certificate for your particular case.
  • An appeal will be processed once the Tribunal receives the appeal form. A timetable will then be implemented, with current hearings using a standard 12 week process 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
  • You will also be required to send in any other relevant information to the Tribunal, such as Ofsted reports, and placement offers from your preferred school.
  • Your timetable will be sent out in a letter. Ensure you read it carefully and take note of all the appropriate times and dates. You must comply with each and every deadline.

It is important to remember that no final decisions will be made on the final day of the Tribunal Hearing. Normally, it will take around 10 days before you receive your written decision.

What happens during a Tribunal appeal?

It is important to be as specific as possible when putting in place grounds for an appeal. Once your case has been put forward, the local authority will respond, which you will receive along with a request for you to file any other evidence approximately a month before the Final Hearing takes place (although a specific date will be provided to you). In certain circumstances, such as urgent secondary school transfer appeals, a Tribunal will adjust its deadlines.

Late evidence will not be permitted unless authorisation is specifically granted by the Tribunal after an application has been made. If you or your solicitors decide that expert evidence will be an essential part of your case and you wish to have any experts give evidence at the hearing, they can attend as an expert witness.

A limited number of witnesses can be called. Currently the limit is 3 witnesses for SEN appeals, and 5 for disability discrimination appeals. If you wanted more witnesses, you would have to put in a special application.

Appeals to SENDIST can be difficult and complex, therefore it is highly recommended to get specialised legal advice about an appeal. If you have any concerns or questions regarding your SENDIST appeal, our specialist education team would be happy to help.