Tribunal appeals

Information for families in England

On this page we explain when you can appeal a local authority decision. This is a different process to making a complaint to the local authority, so it is important to be aware of the appropriate course of action for the situation you're in.

See elsewhere on our site for information about school transport complaints, disability discrimination complaints, exclusion complaints or bullying complaints.

What is a Tribunal appeal?

If you disagree with a decision made by the local authority relating to your child's special educational needs, you can appeal to an independent body called the First Tier Tribunal for Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND).

Appealing a local authority decision is a different course of action to making a complaint to the local authority. You can only appeal in certain situations.

For some appeals, you may have to consider mediation first - see below.

What decisions can I appeal about?

You can appeal if:

  • The local authority has refused to carry out an EHC needs assessment for your child.

In this situation the tribunal can order the local authority to carry out an EHC needs assessment.

  • The local authority has refused to issue an EHC plan after an EHC needs assessment.

In this situation, the tribunal can order the local authority to issue an EHC plan.

  • You have received a final EHC Plan and you are not happy with:
    • The description of your child's special educational needs in part B.
    • The description of the special educational provision in part F.
    • The education setting named in part I or if there is no setting named.                                    

The tribunal can order the local authority to change these sections of the EHC plan.

  • The local authority has refused your request to carry out a reassessment of your child's SEN.

The tribunal can order the local authority to carry out an EHC assessment of your child's SEN.

  • The local authority has refused to amend the EHC plan after an annual review or a re-assessment.

In this situation, the tribunal can order the local authority to amend the plan with changes to parts B, F and I.

  • The local authority has decided to cease to maintain (end) your child's EHC Plan.

In this situation, the tribunal can order the local authority to maintain the plan, with changes to B, F and I if necessary. 

Can the tribunal look at other parts of the EHC plan?

As part of a two-year national trial that began in April 2018, the tribunal powers have been extended to cover the health and social care sections of the EHC plan as well.

For all appeals except to refusals to carry out an EHC assessment, the tribunal can recommend that health and/or social care needs and provision are included or amended in an EHC plan. These recommendations are non-binding, but health or social care commissioners will have to respond in detail to the local authority and parents or young person setting out the steps they are going to take, or giving reasons why they have decided not to follow the tribunal recommendations.

When the results of the two-year trial have been evaluated, a decision will be made as to whether the new process should continue.

What decisions can't I appeal about?

You cannot appeal about:

  • How the school or college is supporting your child without an EHC Plan.
  • The way the school or local authority are giving the help in your child's EHC Plan, including decisions about personal budgets. See complaining to the local authority.
  • Failure to meet the timescales or deadlines for the EHC process or annual review of an EHC plan.
  • Transport to school or college (except where there is also an issue about the school named) - see school transport complaints.
  • The local authority's failure to do what the tribunal ordered them to do.

When can I appeal?

You have the right of appeal when your local authority sends you its decision in writing. It must tell you how to appeal and must include the following information:

  • That you have the right to appeal within two months of the decision.
  • The contact details of a mediation service.
  • That using mediation does not prejudice your appeal.

Mediation before appeal

Mediation is a way of resolving problems with the help of an independent person who is trained to help each side express their views and reach an agreement. In some cases, mediation can avoid the need for a tribunal appeal. Mediation is free and it is voluntary. 

For most types of SEND tribunal appeal, you must contact a mediation service before you can send in your form to the tribunal. Your local authority will give you contact details of a local mediation service in their decision letter. You must contact the mediation service within two months.

When you contact the service the mediation adviser will tell you what mediation is and answer your questions. They will ask you if you want to use mediation or not.

If you don't want to use mediation, the adviser must send you a certificate within three working days. You must send this certificate with your appeal form to the tribunal.

If you decide you want to use mediation, this will be arranged within 30 days. You can still appeal to tribunal if you are not happy with the outcome, and in this case you have another month to send in your appeal. 

You do not have to contact the mediation service if you are only appealing the name of the school, college or other education setting in part I of an EHC plan.

You can also ask for mediation about the health and /or social care parts of an EHC plan.

Further information

See the government's SEND Tribunal webpage for further guidance and forms and the SEND Code of Practice: 0 to 25 years in England. [PDF].

Seek advice from our helpline if you're considering making an appeal.

Information for families in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales

If you live in Wales, read our information about the statementing process.

We also support Northern Ireland and Scotland. Give our helpline a call on 0808 808 3555 and we can provide information or signpost you to alternative sources of advice in those nations where appropriate. Find out our local office details in the In your area section.

Call our helpline

Any questions about support at school? How to get an EHC plan? What kind of school is best for my child? Call our freephone helpline on 0808 808 3555 and talk to one of our education advisers.

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