The First-tier Tribunal (SEND Tribunal) is an independent national tribunal which hears appeals against local authority decisions about the special educational needs of children and young people. It also hears claims of disability discrimination against schools.
Parents and young people can appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunal.
You can appeal to the SEND Tribunal if you’re unhappy with a decision made in relation to an EHC needs assessment or an EHC plan. There are no fees for parents or young people to pay. 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.
You can appeal about:
- A decision by a local authority not to carry out an EHC needs assessment or re-assessment
- A decision by a local authority that it is not necessary to issue an EHC plan following an assessment
- The description of a child or young person’s SEN specified in an EHC plan, the special educational provision specified, the school or other institution or type of school or other institution (such as a mainstream school/college) specified in the plan or that no school or other institution is specified
- An amendment to these elements of the EHC plan
- A decision by a local authority not to amend an EHC plan following a review or re-assessment
- A decision by a local authority to cease to maintain an EHC plan
SENDIASS can explain the appeal process to you and provide impartial advice and support.
Appealing to the Tribunal
Before you can appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunal, you must have contacted a mediation adviser (unless your appeal is only about the school your local authority has named in your child’s plan or if they have not named a school in it). You will need a certificate from the mediation adviser to register an appeal with the SEND Tribunal. You have one month from receiving the certificate or two months from the original decision (whichever is the later date) to register an appeal with the Tribunal.
The SEND Tribunal is a legal body. It hears appeals against decisions made by local authorities about EHC needs assessments and EHC plans.
You can appeal to the Tribunal if the local authority decides:
- not to carry out an EHC needs assessment or re-assessment for your child
- not to draw up an EHC plan for your child, once they have done an assessment
- not to amend your child’s EHC plan after the annual review or re-assessment
- to cease to maintain your child’s EHC plan.
You can also appeal if you disagree with what your local authority includes in your child’s EHC plan such as:
- how they describe your child’s SEN
- what SEN provision is included for your child
- the school (or other educational establishment) your local authority says your child should attend, or if they do not include a school
- if they change any of these details without your agreement.
The SEND Tribunal also hears disability discrimination claims against schools (and against local authorities if the local authority is responsible for the school).
Parts of an EHCP that can be appealed
You can go to appeal about the information that’s contained in most parts of your child’s EHC plan:
- Section B: Your child or young person’s special educational needs (SEN)
- Section C: Your child or young person’s health needs that relate to their SEN
- Section D: Your child or young person’s social care needs that relate to their SEN
- Section F: Your child’s educational support (SEN provision)
- Section G: Any health support in relation to your child’s SEN
- Sections H1 and H2: Any social care support in relation to your child’s SEN
- Section I: The name and or type of educational placement (school, college etc)
You can’t appeal these parts of an EHC plan:
- Section A: Your child’s views or parent views
- Section E: Outcomes (targets)
- Section J: Personal Budget
Appealing the education parts of the EHC plan (Sections B and or F)
You can appeal the content of the parts of the plan that set out your child’s special education needs (Section B) and the support they will get (Section F). So, if you disagree with the needs that are listed in the plan, and or the support your child will get to meet those needs, you can appeal to the SEND tribunal.
To do that, you’ll need to complete an appeal form and send it to the SEND tribunal. You’ll be asked to give information about you and your child and your local authority. You’ll also be asked to say why you are appealing – so for example, why you think the local authority’s decision is wrong, or why what’s in the plan needs to change. Try to put in everything you need to say and support it with the evidence you have, such as reports and assessments. Match the points you’re making with the evidence you have whenever you can.
Don’t worry if you don’t have everything ready to send straight away; you can send more evidence after you’ve registered your appeal. The IPSEA website has lots more information about how to appeal.
Appealing the health and social care parts of the EHC plan (Sections C, D, G, H1 and H2)
Since 2018, it has been possible to include the health and or social care parts of an EHC plan in an appeal.
You can appeal about the health part of the plan, or the social care part, or both together. But, to appeal these parts of an EHC plan, you must also appeal the education part of the plan.
The tribunal can make “non-binding” recommendations about the health and social care support set out in an EHC plan. This means that legally, health and social care organisations don’t have to follow the Judge’s recommendations. But, even though they are non-binding, the local authority and health care commissioners are expected to follow them.
Appealing the school or other education setting named in the EHC plan (Section I)
You, or your child if they are over 16, have the right to ask for a particular school, college or other setting to be named in an EHC plan. If the local authority doesn’t agree, and they name a different setting, you can appeal that decision at the SEND Tribunal.
You can appeal just section I, the educational placement. You don’t have to consider Mediation and obtain a Mediation Certificate if your appeal is only about that section, but you can still take part in Mediation or Disagreement Resolution if you wish.
What Can I do if I disagree with the Tribunal's decision?
You or your representative can make an application for permission to appeal the decision made in the First-Tier Tribunal by making the following applications:
- Apply for permission to appeal if you think the decision made was wrong in law.
- Ask the SEND Tribunal to review the decision because there has been a change of relevant circumstances since the decision was made.
- Ask for the decision to be set aside in certain circumstances.
The three applications are explained in detail in the guidance sent with your decision by the SEND Tribunal. We advise parents to speak to a solicitor for further information about challenging a SEND Tribunal decision.
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