Make a SEN appeal

The assessment of your child’s needs will hopefully run smoothly, leading to the child or young person’s local authority providing an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). The EHCP is a legal document that outlines their special educational needs and the extra SEN support they require. However, there may be several obstacles to ensuring that your child’s special educational needs are fully met.


Why would I need to make a SEN appeal?

When securing an Education, Health and Care Plan that meets your child’s needs, some parents may not agree with one or more of the local authority’s decisions. You can appeal such decisions if:

  • The local authority refuses to carry out an EHC needs assessment.
  • The local authority carries out an EHC needs assessment but does not issue a EHCP.
  • The local authority decides not to change the EHCP after carrying out an EHC reassessment.
  • The local authority decides to stop maintaining an EHCP.
  • The local authority decides not to amend or maintain the EHCP following an Annual Review.
  • You do not agree with the contents of the EHCP – this may be the description of your child’s special educational needs, the educational support and/or the school/type named.


How to make a SEN appeal FAQs

Are there time limits on making an appeal against local authorities?

If you are considering an appeal against a local authority’s decision, you will have either two months from the date on their decision letter, or one month from the date of a mediation certificate to lodge an appeal with the independent Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST). We advise not missing the deadline, as there would be no guarantee your appeal would be accepted late by the SENDIST.


How long does a SEN appeal process last?

The whole process of an appeal can take up to approximately 8 months. Appeals concerning a transition to a new school key stage should be allocated shorter appeal lengths.

We have vast experience in helping families get through the appeals process as quickly and stress-free as possible. As special educational needs solicitors, we can help prepare evidence, instruct experts, liaise with local authorities, draft Tribunal documents, and represent you at hearings, giving your case the best chance of obtaining the desired outcome.


What happens during the SEN appeal process?

Before you can start an appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST), you will have to at least consider mediation. This will involve speaking with a mediator, who will explain how mediation works. Whether you choose to try mediation, or not, you will be issued a medication certificate.

Once you have submitted your appeal to SENDIST, a timetable for your appeal will be issued. These are called ‘Case Management Directions’ which set out the timetable for the rest of the appeal.

Once you have sent in your appeal, the local authority will make its initial response. You and the local authority will then be given until a set date (normally 16 weeks from the date on which your appeal is started) by which to present all your evidence and legal arguments. The SENDIST (or the local authority) will then make bundles to include all the paperwork, and you will attend a final hearing.

There are complex rules about how a SENDIST appeal must be conducted, both during the period before and during the final hearing. For more information, please see our factsheet on the Appeals Process.


Why should I make a SEN appeal?

If you are not happy with the decision made by your local authority, we recommend getting in touch with our Special Educational Needs experts to discuss starting an appeal. We offer a free initial discussion to assess the strength of your case and possible outcomes, outline the appeals process and answer any questions you may have.


Do I need a SEN solicitor to make a SEN appeal?

You can make the appeal yourself, however there are complex rules about how a SENDIST appeal must be conducted, both during the period before and during the final hearing. We recommend you get advice from a legal representative who is experienced in Special Educational Needs and appeals.

Our SEN experts can guide and support you as much or as little as you require. They can help you gather evidence, and form legal arguments, and represent you during a hearing if required.


What happens when the SENDIST tribunal receives my SEN appeal?

Once registered, the local authority must respond within 30 working days of receiving the appeal and send you and SENDIST a copy of their response and any documentation. In their response, they should outline whether they accept or oppose the appeal and, if the latter, their reason.


What happens if the local authority opposes my SEN appeal?

This means your appeal to the SENDIST will continue, with the last stage being a final hearing if needed. The next step is you and the local authority must submit further evidence by a set deadline. This is evidence to support your case. If you are not happy with the local authority’s reasoning/evidence, then it might be an option to ask for SENDIST to step-in.

However, we recommend you seek specialist SEN legal advice to confirm your options.


What happens if the local authority accepts my SEN appeal?

If the local authority accepts the appeal, the appeal would be asked to be concluded, either directly from the local authority to the SENDIST (if provided by the local authority’s response deadline), or through a Consent Order prepared by you and the local authority that the SENDIST would need to approve.


I am so happy at the outcome, I don't think we would have had such a comprehensive service from any other law firm, and you took the worry away...I do not regret a single second of the whole process, apart from the bit before you got involved. 

James' mother, Boyes Turner client

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