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First Tier Tribunal (SEN and Disability)

The Tribunal (part of the First-tier Tribunal [Health, Education and Social Care Chamber]) hears appeals against decisions made by Local Authorities in relation to children’s Education, Health and Care (EHC) assessments and plans. It also hears disability discrimination claims against schools.

Who can appeal?

Parents (in relation to children from 0 to the end of compulsory schooling) and young people (over compulsory school age until they reach age 25) can appeal to the Tribunal about EHC assessments and EHC plans, following contact with a mediation adviser. Young people can register an appeal in their name but can also have their parents’ help and support if needed.

What parents and young people can appeal about?

Parents and young people can appeal to the Tribunal about:

  • A decision by a Local Authority not to carry out an EHC assessment (or re-assessment).
  • A decision by a Local Authority that it is not necessary to issue an EHC plan following an assessment.
  • The description of a child or young person’s SEN as specified in an EHC plan, the special educational provision specified, the school specified in the plan or that no school or other institution is specified.
  • An amendment to the EHC plan.
  • A decision by a Local Authority not to amend an EHC plan.
  • A decision by a Local Authority to cease to maintain an EHC plan.

Parents and young people unhappy with decisions about the health and social care elements of an EHC plan can complain through the health and social care complaints procedures, but cannot appeal to the Tribunal.

Conditions of appeal

Parents can only appeal once the plan is finalised and must do so within two months of the Local Authority decision (or Mediation, whichever is the later date). When the parent or young person is appealing about a decision to cease to maintain the EHC plan, the Local Authority has to maintain the plan until the Tribunal’s decision is made.

Tribunal powers

The Tribunal has prescribed powers under the Children and Families Act 2014 to dismiss appeals, order the Local Authority to carry out an assessment, or to make and maintain an EHC plan, or to maintain a plan with amendments. The Tribunal can also order the Local Authority to reconsider or correct a weakness in the plan, for example, where necessary information is missing.

Disability discrimination claims

The parents of disabled children and disabled young people in school have the right to make disability discrimination claims to the Tribunal if they believe that their child or the young person themselves have been discriminated against by schools. Claims must be made within six months of the alleged instance of discrimination. The parents of disabled children, on behalf of their children, and disabled young people in school can make a claim against any school about alleged discrimination in the matters of exclusions, the provision of education and associated services and the making of reasonable adjustments, including the provision of auxiliary aids and services. Claims about admissions to state-funded schools are made to local admissions panels.