Home Help for families Information & advice Education & learning EHC plans & assessments (England only) Tribunal appeals
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The information on this page is for families in England only. I live in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.
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, 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.
For some appeals, you may have to consider mediation first – see below.
You can appeal if:
In this situation the tribunal can order the local authority to carry out an EHC needs assessment.
In this situation, the tribunal can order the local authority to issue an EHC plan.
The tribunal can order the local authority to change these sections of the EHC plan.
The tribunal can order the local authority to carry out an EHC assessment of your child’s SEN.
In this situation, the tribunal can order the local authority to amend the plan with changes to parts B, F and I.
In this situation, the tribunal can order the local authority to maintain the plan, with changes to B, F and I if necessary.
As part of a 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. In July 2021, the government announced that these extended powers will continue after the extended national trial ends on 31 August 2021.
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.
You cannot appeal about:
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:
Seek advice from our helpline if you’re considering making an 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.
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].
Read our information about education in Wales.
Find out about the system of support for children with special educational needs in Northern Ireland on the NI Education Authority website or Senac (special educational needs advice centre).
In Scotland, the system of support for children with additional support needs is called additional support for learning. You can read more about it on the Enquire website.
How early years education settings in England support children with special educational needs (SEN).
Read about the extra support provided in mainstream schools for children with special educational needs in England.
Read about education after 16 years for young people with special educational needs (SEN).