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S.E.N. Complaints, Appeals and Claims


Timetable from sending an appeal or claim to getting the tribunal's decision The timetable below shows the number of working days an action takes. Working days do not include Saturdays, Sundays, Bank Holidays, any day in August or any day between Christmas and the New Year.

You make an SEN appeal or disability discrimination claim and we decide whether the tribunal can deal with the appeal If we cannot deal with the appeal or claim, we aim to tell you in writing within 10 working days. If we can deal with the appeal or claim, we register it and send the LEA or responsible body a copy within 10 working days, and tell you at the same time.

You and the other side then have 30 working days in which to send us case statements and any other evidence.

We send you a copy of the other side's evidence within 10 working days after that deadline.

We confirm the date and location of the hearing at least 10 working days beforehand.

We send you and the other side a written decision within 15 working days after the hearing. The whole process is likely to take three to four months. Delays can occur, however - for example, if we have to postpone a hearing for any reason.

Meeting your Needs

We aim to provide you with the best possible service.

This is our commitment to you:

When you submit an appeal or claim, we will

make a quick decision on whether we can deal with it;
write to you within 10 working days of your appeal being received and let you know what action we will take.

If you write to us or request information, we will

answer any questions you ask as fully as possible;
if you need a written response, give it to you within 10 working days.

If you phone us, we will

aim to answer your call within 20 seconds. If we can't, you can leave a message on our answer phone and we will get back to you within one working day;
answer the questions you ask impartially and professionally;
tell you who you are speaking to.

Do you have any special requirements?

If you need any particular arrangements for your hearing such as needing an interpreter or signer, please tell us as soon as possible, and we will arrange for one to attend. If you are sending us an appeal or claim in another language we will also translate the documents that you have written yourself.

Please let us know if any of your parties are who attending the hearing have a disability, which may affect arrangements, for example, a need for wheelchair access.

We will do our best to meet all your access needs. There will be no charge.

Our Powers

SEN appeals

Sometimes, the matter we have to make a decision about in SEN appeals is quite limited, and we cannot consider other matters. The following examples show what we can and cannot do.

Should your child be assessed?

If the local education authority (LEA) has refused to arrange an assessment for your child, we have to decide if it's necessary for them to do so. It's likely to be necessary if:

the school could not normally give all the educational help your child is likely to need unless it receives extra money from the LEA;
the school has given your child all the help that could be expected but he or she has not made enough progress;
there is a particular reason why the LEA should monitor your child's progress; or a full assessment is the only way we can consider what your child needs.

Should your child have a statement?

If the LEA has refused to make a statement, we can order it to do so if it's necessary. This will be the case if:

a school's resources couldn't provide the educational help your child is likely to need; or
there's a particular reason why the LEA should monitor your child's progress.

However, we cannot tell the LEA what should go into any statement.

What should your child's statement say?

If the LEA has made a statement for your child, we can order changes to:

Part 2 (needs - what makes your child need help)
Part 3 (provision - the help which should be given) and;
Part 4 (placement - where your child should go to school).

We need to know what changes you'd like to see in the statement and why. Has your child already shown that what you are suggesting will be helpful? Have you had expert advice recommending the changes?

Disability discrimination appeals

If we decide that there has been disability discrimination, we can order any action we consider reasonable to put right the effect of that discrimination, short of paying financial compensation.

Examples might include:

Training for school staff
Drawing up new guidance for staff
Additional tuition, to make up for lost learning
A written apology
Trips or other opportunites to make up for activities that your child may have missed.

SEN Case Statements

If we accept your SEN appeal, we will send a copy to the LEA. We will also tell you when your hearing is likely to be and ask you for dates when you cannot come to a hearing. You and the LEA will then have six weeks to prepare a case statement explaining your views and the facts.

Case Statements

We will send you guidance on how to prepare a case statement. These are the main points. Every child is unique so the facts of every appeal to the tribunal are different. For that reason, the information parents who appeal need to give us will be different too. But in almost every case, there's general information we need to know. Of course, if we've already received it, either from you with the notice of appeal or from the local education authority (LEA), you don't have to tell us again.

What we need to know

You should tell us:

what you want for your child, and why; and
what you disagree with in the local education authority's proposals, and why.

Here are some of the things you may want to tell us.

Special educational needs
What special educational needs does your child have?
What has already been done to help, and what progress has your child made?

What does your child find most difficult at school?
What help is your child receiving at the moment - for example, from specialist teachers or assistants?
Does your child have an individual education plan and what does the school say about progress? Copies of reports can help us.


How does any medical condition your child has affect his or her education?
Therapy (Speech and language therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and so on)
If your child has been receiving therapy, please let us have copies of any professional reports or assessments.
What changes do you want, and how do you expect the therapy to help?
What have therapists said about what will be needed in future?

Changing schools

If you want your child to go to a new school, tell us why.
How will it meet your child's needs? Send us a copy of the school's prospectus.
If your child would live at the school, is there an educational reason for that?
If the school is an independent (private) school, how much will it cost?
How long would it take to get to and from school and what would it cost?.
Education at home If you wish your child to be educated at home, tell us how this would work and the costs involved.

The decisions you want The Tribunal can only make decisions on certain matters. Click here for an explanation of what we can decide.

If you want changes to your child's statement, please tell us what changes you'd like to see and why. Please read the guidance we send you for more detail. At the hearing, you and any witness you bring will have a chance to explain the facts and give your views to the tribunal members face to face.

The Hearing

The hearing is the meeting at which a tribunal panel listens to what you and the other side have to say and reaches a decision.

How much notice will I have of my hearing?

When we write to tell you that your appeal has been accepted, we ask you, and the other side, to tell us when you would not be available for a hearing. We will then fix a date. We will write to you again at least 10 working days before the hearing, to confirm the date, time, place and who is coming from the other side.

Where will my hearing be held?

The Tribunal aims to hold hearings at venues that are reasonably easy to get to. We hold some at the Tribunal's headquarters in London, others in neutral venues around England and Wales.

What time will the hearing start?

Your hearing will normally last no more than half a day, and we will schedule it for a morning or afternoon. We will do our best to make sure that the hearing starts on time.

Who will be at the hearing?

The following people will be there:

You your representative, if you have one;
your child if he or she comes
your witnesses, if you have any
anyone else you want to be there, up to two, who will not be taking part in the hearing.
the other side's representative;
the other side's witnesses, if there are any;
the tribunal clerk - who will show you where to go and give any help you may need;
any interpreters or signers who are there to support one or more of the above.
Occasionally there may be someone else there to watch how the tribunal is run, or as part of their training for tribunal work.

What should I do if I need an interpreter or signer?

If you need an interpreter or signer, please tell us as soon as possible, and we will arrange for one to be at the hearing.

Who will hear my case?

A tribunal panel is made up of three people. The Chairman of the panel is legally qualified. The other two members will have knowledge and experience of special educational needs (for SEN appeals) and disabled children (for disability claims).

Do I have to go to the hearing?

Use the attendance form to let us know if you do not intend to come to the hearing. But the tribunal will normally find it helpful to hear anything you have to say, and may want to ask you questions if something in the documents you have sent is not clear. You may want to ask questions yourself. You will probably find it useful to make notes about the points you want to make, and bring them with you on the day.

Can I have a representative at the hearing?

You can send someone to the hearing to represent you, whether or not you go. Please give their name and address on the attendance form we send you.

Can my representative be a lawyer?

You can bring a solicitor or barrister to represent you, but you will not get legal aid for this.

Can both parents go to the hearing?

Any parent of the child can go to the hearing.

Can my child go to the hearing?

Your child may go to the hearing to give his or her views. However, the Chairman may not allow your child to stay for the whole hearing. You should therefore arrange for a friend or relative to come along and look after your child while you are in the hearing.

Can I bring anyone else to support my case?

You can have up to two witnesses at an SEN hearing and up to five at a disability discrimination hearing, although this many should be unusual. We will only allow extra witnesses if there are special circumstances.

You can also bring two other people with you for support, but they will not be able to take part in the hearing. You will need to tell us who they are on your attendance form.

Who should be witnesses?

Decide who to bring as witnesses in two stages. First, decide what points you want to emphasise. Then, choose the witness(es) who can best support those points. They should know your child personally and be able to give facts and opinions about the matters on which you and the other side disagree.

What if a witness refuses to go to the hearing?

If someone you have asked to be a witness is unhappy about going, you can write to the President of the Tribunal explaining why you feel it is essential. If he agrees, he will send you a witness summons for you to give to the person, requiring them to attend.

What happens when I get to the hearing?

When you get to the hearing, the clerk will show you into a waiting area. When the panel is ready, the clerk will take you into the Tribunal room. In most cases everyone taking part in the hearing will sit around the table. The Chairman will explain the procedure to you before the hearing begins.

Do watch the video we send you to give you an idea of what to expect.

What will happen during the hearing?

The members of the tribunal will want to find out the following from you and the other side:

What do you think are the relevant facts?
What conclusions do you think the tribunal should come to?
What do you think should now be done for your child?

The tribunal Chairman will try to make the procedure as straightforward as possible so everyone can give their point of view. The tribunal members will ask questions without using legal or educational jargon. If their questions are not clear, you can ask them to explain what they mean before you answer. The chairman will suggest that they deal with different parts of the case, one at a time. You will not have to make a statement about the whole of the case. This will give everyone the chance to look at the points as they come up.

The chairman will give you the chance to add anything you feel is important but have not mentioned. If you make a list beforehand of the points you would like the tribunal to consider, you can then tick them off as they are discussed. At the end of the hearing, you can bring up any which were left out.

At the end of the hearing, the chairman will tell you that you will receive the tribunal's decision by post.

How long will the hearing last?

The hearing will normally last half a day but there is usually a short break. If you need other breaks, you can tell the Chairman. There may be rare cases when the hearing lasts longer than this.

Very occasionally, the tribunal members need more evidence. In this is the case, the Chairman will explain what the tribunal needs, and will ask you to come back another day. This will give you or the other side time to produce this.

The Decision

How will the tribunal come to a decision?

The tribunal panel makes its decision by considering all the evidence. This includes the documents which you and the other side send us before the hearing, and also what was said at the hearing. Whatever the tribunal decides, you and the LEA must accept their decision.

When will I know the tribunal's decision?

We aim to post the decision and the reasons for it to you and to the other side within 10 working days of the hearing. Some cases need a little more time before we can send out the decision. We will not tell you the tribunal's decision over the phone.

Can I appeal against the tribunal's decision?

The tribunal's decision is final as far as the facts of the case are concerned. Both you and the other side can appeal to the High Court against the tribunal's decision, but only if you think it got the law wrong. You cannot appeal against the decision simply because you are unhappy about it. If you need advice about appealing, you should talk to a solicitor. You only have 28 calendar days from the date the decision was issued to appeal to the High Court.

You and the other side can ask us to review the decision if you think there is a technical problem with the decision or the way it was made. We will not review the decision simply because you are not happy with it. We must receive you request within 10 working days of the date we issued the decision. A review does not replace an appeal to High Court.

What if the LEA doesn't carry out the Tribunal's decision?

The tribunal's decision is binding and there will be a deadline for carrying it out. If the LEA (in SEN appeals) or the responsible body (in disability claims) does not do this within the time limit, you can write to the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (for England cases) at the Department for Education and Skills, Sanctuary Buildings, Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3BT, or for Welsh cases, the National Assembly for Wales, Education Department, Crown Buildings, Cathays Park, Cardiff, CF1 3NQ.

Will I have to pay any costs if I lose the appeal?

You and the other side will not normally have to pay the other's costs. In very rare circumstances, if the tribunal thinks that either party has acted unreasonably, or deliberately wasted the tribunal's time, the other side may have to pay your costs, or you may have pay theirs. 2004

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