The additional support needs tribunal is a way for parents to resolve certain disagreements with their child's school or local authority. Here, you can find out more about what the tribunal can help you with and how you can appeal to them.

The tribunal hears and decides the outcome of appeals made by parents or young people on matters related to:

There are other ways for you to resolve disagreements. Our Education Rights Service will be able to offer advice, or you can speak to your child's school or local authority.

What is the tribunal?

The tribunal is a panel of three people who make decisions on certain educational matters when there is a disagreement between a parent and their child's school or local authority. 

The tribunal looks at the information that parents and the authority provide and decides how the disagreement might be settled.

The tribunal is impartial and independent from local and national government.

When can an appeal to the tribunal be made?

If you have any concerns about your child's educational needs, discuss them with his or her school, and if necessary, the local authority. If your concerns can't be addressed this way, you may be able to appeal to tribunal.

The tribunal can look at the following possible grounds for disagreement between you and your child's school or local authority:

  • whether or not your child needs a co-ordinated support plan (CSP)
  • your child has a CSP but you are not happy with what it says
  • your child has a CSP but the support outlined in the plan is not being provided
  • you have asked for a CSP for your child and the authority has taken too long to reply or decide whether your child needs a CSP
  • the authority takes too long to prepare your child's CSP
  • the authority takes too long to review your child's CSP
  • you have asked for your child's CSP to be reviewed before the annual review date and the authority has turned down your request
  • your child is due to leave school and the authority has not made the necessary arrangements
  • you made a placing request for a special school and this has been refused
  • you made a placing request for a mainstream school and: your child has a CSP; a CSP is being prepared for your child; the authority is determining whether your child needs a CSP; you have already sent them an appeal about a refusal to prepare a CSP for your child. 

Making an appeal

How to make an appeal

You must complete the appeal form that the tribunal provides and send it back to them by post, fax or email. This is also called 'making a reference'.

The reference will ask you for:

  • your name and address
  • your child's name and address
  • details of your disagreement and the local authority concerned
  • your views on the issue
  • a copy of any letter(s) you received from the authority that led to the disagreement, such as a letter telling you a CSP would not be prepared for your child or that your placing request had been turned down
  • copies of any other documents or information that will help to put your views across.

Deadline for appeals

You have two months to fill in and send your reference to the tribunal. This starts from the date you received the letter from your education authority that led to the disagreement.

If you are appealing about the time it has taken for a CSP to be prepared or reviewed, you have two months from the date the CSP should have been prepared or reviewed. 

If you are not happy with the content of your child's CSP and want to appeal about it, you have two months from the date you received the final CSP.

You may have more time during the holiday period but it is important you do not miss your deadline. You can contact the tribunal directly for more details on deadlines. If you have missed your deadline you can also contact the tribunal for advice.

There are also important deadlines involved once the appeal process has begun. 

When the tribunal receives your appeal, they should accept it unless:

  • it is not something the tribunal can make a decision on 
  • you haven't provided enough information (however, you will have ten working days to supply more information). 

Once your appeal has been accepted, the tribunal will register it and send a copy to the local authority. A case officer will talk to you and the authority about your appeal and the hearing. They can answer any questions you have.

You then enter the 'case statement period', which is a chance for you to prepare a written statement of your case and possibly provide more evidence or information to back up your views. Your statement may also include your child's views.

If you are appealing about the time the authority has taken to prepare your child's CSP you have 15 working days to send in your case statement. For all other types of appeals you have 20 working days.

Our Education Rights Service can offer further advice on preparing your case statement.

About the panel and appeals processes

Will the local authority be able to present their views?

The local authority will also prepare a written statement of their case for the tribunal within a set amount of time, which will include their views on:

  • the disagreement
  • the content of your reference
  • your child's views on the issues you raised in the reference
  • how they think the disagreement could be settled.

At the end of the case statement period, the tribunal will send a copy of your case statement to the authority and you will receive a copy of theirs.

Who will the tribunal panel be?

The tribunal is usually made up of a convener and two members. The convener is legally qualified and chairs the hearing. The members must have knowledge and experience of additional support needs and may help the convener come to a decision about your disagreement. On certain occasions, the convener alone may decide an appeal.

Will there be an appeal hearing?

Not always. There may be appeals that the convener or tribunal can make a decision on without holding a full hearing, for example if your local authority has taken too long to prepare your child's CSP. The tribunal will let you know if you need to attend a hearing or not.

What will happen at the hearing?

Hearings usually take place at least ten working days after the end of the case statement period. The tribunal will speak to you and the authority to set a date that suits everyone. They will also ask you to fill out an attendance form, giving details of people you will be bringing to the hearing with you. This can be:

  • someone to support you, such as a friend, relative, befriender or professional although they are not allowed to take part in the hearing
  • a representative or advocate who will conduct the hearing on your behalf if you don't feel able to do this
  • two witnesses to give evidence to support your case.

At the hearing you will be given the chance to put your views across, call witnesses, ask the authority's witnesses questions and address the tribunal panel.

Most hearings last a full day, although some can go on for several days, depending on the nature and complexity of the appeal. The hearing should take place at a venue within a reasonable distance of your home. 

About tribunal decisions

How will the tribunal reach a decision?

The tribunal will look at the information you and the authority have provided - such as your reference form, case statement and, if there was a hearing, the information presented there.

Once the tribunal reaches a decision they will write to you and the authority with details of their decision. You should receive the decision within ten working days of the hearing. If the tribunal reaches a decision on the day of the hearing they may tell you and the authority what it is.    

If your local authority refused to prepare a CSP for your child the tribunal can either agree with their decision or overturn it and tell the authority to prepare a CSP.

If your disagreement was about the content of your child's CSP, the tribunal can agree with what it says or they can disagree and tell the authority to change it.

If you appealed against an authority's decision to turn down your placing request, the tribunal can agree with the refusal or they can overturn it and tell the authority to place your child in your preferred choice of school.

The tribunal may tell the authority to carry out their decision within a certain period of time. This depends on what you were appealing about.

What happens if I disagree with the tribunal's decision?

You can't keep appealing about the same issue. If you appealed about the content of your child's CSP, you can't appeal again until the CSP has been reviewed.  

If you appealed against an authority's decision to turn down your placing request, you are unable to do so again for 12 months unless your child's CSP has been changed or reviewed.

It may be possible to ask the tribunal to review their decision in certain circumstances. You will have one month from the date of the tribunal's decision to make an application in writing asking for a review. If you are not able to ask for a review or you disagree with the decision reached after a review, you can make a further appeal to the Court of Session. However, the grounds for appealing to the Court are very limited and you will need legal advice and support.  

You have 42 days from the date of the tribunal's decision to appeal to the Court of Session. The education authority can also make a further appeal if they disagree with the tribunal's decision.

What happens if the authority doesn't follow the tribunal's decision?

The tribunal's decision is legally binding and the local authority must follow it. If they don't, you can contact the tribunal directly and ask them to investigate. If the tribunal decides the authority isn't following their decision, they can make a complaint to the Scottish Ministers.

How long does the tribunal process take?

The process can take several months. Here’s a summary of the timescales involved. 

The down-pointing arrows - down button - indicate the next parts of the process.

 If a disagreement arises    If it is a matter the tribunal can deal with, you have two months to fill in a reference form and return it to them.
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Making a reference   If the tribunal need more information after receiving your reference they will give you 10 working days to send this.
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Registration   If the tribunal can deal with the reference, they will register it and send a copy to the education authority. If a hearing is necessary, they may give you a provisional date and venue.
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Case statement period   You and education authority will have set timescales to compile a case statement and provide any more evidence. This will depend on what you are appealing.
     down button
Setting a date   If you have to attend a hearing, it will usually take place at least 10 working days after the end of the case statement period. The tribunal will confirm the date at least 10 working days before giving details of the time, place and other arrangements.
     down button
Hearing   Most hearings last a full day whi;le others can go on for several days. This will depend on the nature and content of your appeal.
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Decision    A decision may sometimes be given verbally at the end of the hearing. The tribunal in any case should write to you with their decision within 10 working days
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Further appeal   If you or the authority is not happy with the tribunal's decision, you will have one month to ask the tribunal to review their decision and 42 days to appeal to the Court of Session. If the authority does not follow the tribunal's decision, you should make the tribunal aware of this.

Further help from our charity

The National Autistic Society's Education Rights Service can provide information, support and advice on educational provision and entitlements for children and young people on the autism spectrum. 

Useful reading

Supporting children's learning: code of practice. Scottish Government (2010).

Autism toolbox. A resource for Scottish schools. Scottish Government.

Last reviewed: 19 May 2016.