Please note that all appeals are currently virtual.
Preparing for court
It is helpful if parents prepare an ‘Opening/Closing statement’ which can be read out at the hearing. This statement gives the details of what you believe to be the issues and (vitally) a description of your child and what you want for him or her. If you are appealing the named school, make sure you speak about your chosen school and what it provides and specialises in.
You may wish to take a large photo of your child so the Tribunal Panel are aware of who they are taking about and it helps everyone remember that there is a child or young person at the heart of what is being decided.
You may wish to take list of questions that you want to ask. Use the information below to help draw this list together.
The Tribunal Panel comprises a Tribunal Judge and one or two experts in the field of SEN. Although the proceedings are formal, the Judge will not be wearing a gown or wig. The Judge will usually give parents the opportunity at the beginning or the end of the hearing to read out their statement. If you read out a statement at the beginning, you may wish to say something else in summary at the end (perhaps in response to what has been raised in the hearing).
The Judge does not expect parents to make their case and then argue points. The Judge will want parents to be familiar with what they are seeking, e.g. parents should know if their chosen school’s Ofsted is outstanding. The Judge will determine how the hearing will be held. Parents and the LA take their lead from them.
At the Hearing
- Remember to open Google Chrome and then copy the link of the hearing into the search bar. (If you are using Apple products then remember to open Safari first).
- Remember everyone is nervous – you can ask for a break at any time. This maybe to pull your ideas / thoughts together or just time for a break.
- The hearing is designed to be parent friendly, you are not expected to be legally trained in order to represent your child, just the reasons and evidence as to why you are appealing.
- If your hearing is taking place on the phone remember to say your name before speaking.
- Be ready to challenge the LA following their closing statement. You could add this to your closing statement.
- Parents go last!
At the start of the hearing the Judge may ask for views on the disputed points and the hearing mostly takes the form of a formal conversation, with the Judge directing. It is important that no one interrupts when someone else is speaking.
Keep notes throughout the hearing of anything you wish to raise in response to something that is said by someone else.
Both parties can put questions to each other and to any witnesses.
At the hearing the parents can tell the Judge if they feel they’ve been pressurised by the LA at any time leading up to the hearing. Parents can say if they believe the LA has blocked or stalled or been in any way uncollaborative.
A well-prepared Working Document should enable the Tribunal hearing to focus on real areas of dispute. Witness evidence will be confined to those areas not agreed on the Working Document. It is worth remembering that if sensible amendments are proposed (and referenced with evidence), then the Tribunal will be more willing to adopt them.
The Judge will usually give both parties an opportunity to briefly state their position at the end of the hearing.
If you need a break during the hearing you are able to ask for this and explain why. It maybe you need time to talk or you maybe emotional and need some time.
Below is a video link of a SEND Mock Tribunal, this differs slightly as currently all appeals are being held virtually but gives an idea of what you can expect.
After the Hearing
You will receive the Tribunal decision (and reasons for the decision) by post ten working days after the hearing. The LA must carry out any Tribunal orders within a specific time after the Tribunal decision is issued. The requirements would be as follows:
- Start an EHC needs assessment/reassessment within four weeks,
- Make an EHC plan within five weeks,
- Make changes to an EHCP within five weeks,
- Change the school named in line with the parents’ wishes within two weeks,
- Continue an EHCP immediately,
- Cease an EHCP immediately.