Special Educational Needs & Disability (SEND) Tribunal - Top Tips

Special Educational Needs & Disability (SEND) Tribunal - Top Tips

With the academic year shortly starting back from September, albeit it is likely that this will look different as a result of Covid-19, this time of year also signals the start of a new year of appeal hearings for the SEND Tribunal. 

The SEND Tribunal hears appeals about a range of issues:

  • A local authority (LA) not carrying out an Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment;
  • A LA not issuing an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP);
  • The special educational needs, provision and placement in the EHCP;
  • A LA not carrying out a re-assessment for a child/YP who has an EHCP;
  • A LA not amending the EHCP following a review or reassessment;
  • A LA’s decision to cease to maintain an EHCP.

Whilst Covid-19 has also altered the way appeals run, the SEND Tribunal has adapted to this well. The key difference is that remote hearings are common place, rather than parents, their representative, witnesses and the LA representative and witnesses travelling to a hearing venue potentially up to two hours away from the parents’ home. The SEND Tribunal has predicted that remote hearings will remain until at least the end of September. 

If you have an appeal already lodged with the SEND Tribunal, or you are preparing to do so, here are some top tips:

  1. Prepare your evidence early – once an appeal is lodged, the deadline for further evidence is set for approximately eight weeks after registration. So, aim to be going into an appeal with either your evidence already available or expert assessments lined up.
  2. School placement  - if you are challenging the school placement that is named, or not, in Section I of a final EHCP, then you need to have all the relevant information about your parental preference, including:
    • Confirmation of an offer of a place and costs;
    • Evidence as to the needs of your child’s potential peers and how your child would fit in this class;
    • Staff breakdown as relevant;
    • Confirmation of any specialist provision;
    • Details of any extended or waking day curriculum, if you are seeking a residential placement.
    Again, aim to gather this information as soon as possible so you can negotiate with the LA to try and resolve the outstanding issues.
  3. Copy in the LA – don’t forget that everything you send to the Tribunal during an appeal must also be sent to the LA representative. The LA must also make sure you, or your representative, are copied into all of their correspondence to the Tribunal. 
  4. Request for Change – if you need to submit a Request for Change to the Tribunal during an appeal you must always seek the LA’s views first, and vice versa. Request for Changes are used to change the grounds of an appeal, submit late evidence, and change a witnesses, as well as anything else that you need to bring to the Tribunal’s attention that is not addressed by any appeal deadline or Tribunal Order.
  5. Hearings – currently being held remotely does remove the pressure of travelling to a hearing venue. However, remote hearings still take up to a full day, so child care will still need to be factored in. Remember also that unlike a hearing in person, where you, your representative and witnesses can use a separate private room to discus the hearing, this is not possible for remote hearings. Email or phone calls will need to be used instead to stay in contact with your representative and witnesses during the day. Also, it may be suitable for your child to meet the panel during a remote hearing, which can help remind the panel and LA about the child at the centre of the appeal.
  6. Seek legal advice if you need it – the Boyes Turner Education Team is experienced in supporting parents during appeals to the SEND Tribunal. Even if you have already lodged an appeal yourself but are not sure what to do next, or how to deal with a potentially difficult LA, then we can help. Appeals are tiring and time consuming, so it is important to address all points and provide all the necessary evidence to have the best chance at getting the outcome you want for your child. Once the SEND Tribunal has issued its decision there are limited grounds to challenge this, so preparation for any appeal is key!

The Boyes Turner Education Team is working remotely during this time and fully able to continue to deal with new enquiries. We can help at whatever stage you are with your EHCP appeal to the SEND Tribunal, including representation, and can be contacted on 0118 952 7219 or via senexpertsolicitors@boyesturner.com

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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