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S.E.N. Complaints, Appeals and Claims
There are new ways of dealing with disputes with schools and Local Education
Authorities (LEAs.) Some of these changes came into force in 2002 with the
Special Educational Needs and Disability Act.
Complaints about special education
You may have a complaint about the way your child's school is meeting their
special educational needs. In the first instance it would be best to discuss this with
your child's teacher. You might then wish to discuss your concerns with the
school's Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) or the Headteacher.
If you do not feel that your concerns are being dealt with you might consider
contacting the Special Needs Governor or writing to the Chair of Governors. All
schools are required by law to have a complaints procedure and may want to use
this and have your complaint heard formally by the school Governors.
If your complaint is with the LEA and the way that they are arranging support to the
school for your child's special educational needs, you should make your concerns
known to the Special Education Needs Department of the LEA. If this does not
work you may want to use the LEA complaints procedure.
Mediation or disagreement resolution services
All Local Education Authorities now have to provide a disagreement resolution
(mediation) service to help you and the school or education authority reach an
acceptable agreement. This service is independent of the Education Department
and you can find out about this through the Education Department or through your
Using the mediation service does not affect your right to make a complaint, or an
appeal or a claim of disability discrimination.
Appeals about admissions or exclusions
Schools are now not allowed to discriminate against disabled pupils in any aspect
of school life including admissions and exclusions. LEA appeal panels consider
claims of discrimination about admissions and permanent exclusion from LEA
maintained schools. School Governing Bodies deal with temporary (fixed term)
If the school is an independent or non-maintained (not for profit) school then
appeals about discrimination in admissions or permanent exclusions are heard by
the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.
Appeals about special educational needs
If you have not been able to sort your disagreement with the LEA about your child's
special educational needs you may be able to appeal to the Special Educational
Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST).
You can appeal to SENDIST if:-
the LEA refuses to carry out a formal assessment of your child
the LEA refuses to issue a Statement of your child's special educational needs
you disagree with the description of your child's needs in the Statement or the
help that the Statement says they will have
you disagree with the school named in the Statement
the LEA fails to name a school in the Statement
the LEA refuses to change the name of the school named in the Statement
the LEA refuses to re-assess your child
the LEA decides to cancel your child's Statement
the LEA decides not to change the Statement after re-assessing your child
There is a two month time limit for making an appeal to SENDIST which starts
when your LEA gives you its final written decision. Even if you decide to appeal to
SENDIST you should continue to try to sort out your disagreement with the LEA.
You can withdraw your appeal at any time.
If you decide to make an appeal to SENDIST most people would seek advice at
this stage from a specialist voluntary organisation, for example ACE (Helpline on
0808-8005793) or IPSEA (Helpline on 0800-0184016.) There is also a very helpful
booklet 'Special Educational Needs: How to Appeal' available free from SENDIST
on 01325-392555 or www.sendist.gov.uk. This takes you through the stages of an
appeal and explains what happens at the hearing. A video is also available free
from 01325-392555 to help prepare you for a Tribunal hearing.
For a Time Scale and More Details about What Happens at Hearings for SENDIST - CLICK HERE
Claims about disability discrimination
Parents can make a claim of unlawful discrimination by a school against their child
through the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST. This
Tribunal can order any remedy except financial compensation. Parents must make
a claim to the Tribunal within 6 months of the alleged discrimination. You can
withdraw you claim at any time.
This Tribunal also hears claims of discrimination against disabled pupils in
admissions and permanent exclusions for independent or non-maintained schools.
For LEA maintained schools claims about admissions or permanent exclusions are
heard by the LEA appeals panels. There is a very helpful booklet 'Disability
Discrimination in Schools: How to Make a Claim' available free on 020-7925-5750
I was looking on the SENDIST site and also on there you can check out the appeals tribunal decissions to a number of cases brought against various LEAs. These may be worth checking out as there are a number which deal with ADHD and EBD where the tribunal has made the order for the LEA to carry out, amend or re-assess a number of children for a Statement of Special Educational Need. These are therefore helpful when dealing with the LEA as they can be used to back up your case. www.sendist.gov.uk
The Disability Rights Commission runs an independent conciliation service to
promote settlement of claims without going to the Tribunal. Both you and the
Governing Body (or proprietors of an independent school) have to agree that the
conciliation service is to be used. Using this service is voluntary and what you say
in conciliation meetings cannot be used at the Tribunal unless you agree.
You can contact the Disability Rights Commission on 08457-622-633 or through
their website www.drc-gb.org
Agreeing to use either mediation or conciliation does not affect your right to take
your claim of discrimination to the Tribunal. If you use the conciliation service this
means that you have 8 months from the date of the decision to take your claim the
You can appeal to the High Court against the decision of SENDIST but only on
points of law and not on the decision itself. The school or LEA can also appeal
against the SENDIST decision to the High Court.
© adders.org 2004
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