Special Educational Needs
Advice from the experts
Although the rules have changed in England, the procedure in Wales is very much the same as it has been for a number of years. The Education Measure of 2010 has however extended the rights of a child to be represented before the special needs – SEN tribunal. For those that qualify legal aid assistance could be available to speak to a solicitor although will not extend to actual representation before the tribunal. Legal aid can however help you prepare your evidence including in some help you obtain an education psychologist , speech therapist or perhaps an occupational therapist report. Speak to a specialist education law solicitor to see if you might qualify.
The SEN tribunal procedure is however relatively straight forward. Having the right evidence is the key. The SEN tribunal in Wales handles many hundreds of cases each year and it is a statistical fact, that having the right evidence and having the right advice is more likely to lead to success.
The Special Educational Needs Tribunal Regulations 2001 still govern the SEN Tribunal in Wales. Grounds of Appeal must be filed with the relevant paperwork as set out on the Appeal Form, a case statement is then later filed together with expert evidence and then the final hearing adds oral evidence. Late evidence can be filed at least 5 working days before the final hearing if it was not reasonably available before. The tribunal aims to make it’s written decision within 10 days of the hearing.
Once a SEN tribunal has reached a decision the local authority are obliged to follow it. This means that they should do as the tribunal direct. If they fail to do so it is possible to bring an injunction in the High Court to compel them. This procedure is commonly referred to as Judicial Review. Sinclairs Solicitors ( now Sinclairslaw ) have vast experience in dealing with judicial review claims. You can therefore have the peace of mind of knowing that your case will be handled by a specialist public law solicitor.
Should there be any problems with regard to the drafting of a Plan or the provision provided within the education element thereof, the next step for parents would be appealing to the First Tier Tribunal. This is an independent panel whose purpose is to adjudicate disputes between local authorities and parents.
The Tribunal does not merely review the provision set out in a Plan by a local authority but steps into the shoes of the decision-maker; it makes the decision again, based on the evidence that it has before it. The Special Educational Needs Tribunal is an expert panel. It has the power to choose between competing views with regard to a child’s needs and can formulate its own decision in light of the evidence before it. Appeals can be lodged in the following scenarios:
- A local authority has refused to carry out a Statutory Assessment.
- A local authority has refused to issue a Plan following completion of a Statutory Assessment.
- The parents or young person object to the contents of a Plan.
- The parents or young person object to the school named in a Plan.
- A local authority has decided to cease to maintain a Statement of SEN.
A local authority has refused to amend an existing Statement of SEN further to an annual review.
- A local authority has decided not to convert a Statement of SEN into an EHC Plan following a transition review.