The Special Educational Needs Tribunal for Wales (SENTW) is a legal forum which hears certain disputes that parents and/or children and young people have with their Local Authority (LA). 

Here, we give information about the decisions you can appeal against and the appeal process. We also talk about children and teenagers making their own appeal. 

Please note this doesn’t cover disability discrimination claims, which are also heard by SENTW

What decisions can I appeal?

An appeal to the tribunal can be made by a parent/carer of a child with special educational needs (SEN).  Children and young people with SEN who disagree with a decision made about their education are also able to appeal. 

You can appeal against the local authority if they:
  • Will not carry out a statutory assessment of a child or young person’s SEN (as long as no assessment has taken place in the previous six months).
  • Refuse to issue a statement of SEN, following a statutory assessment. 
  • Refuse to reassess a child or young person’s SEN.
  • Decides to cancel a child or young person’s statement. 
  • Refuse to change the name of the school in the statement, if the statement is a least one year old and a previous request has not been made in the previous 12 months (this is limited to the type of school that is already named in the statement and information in part 2 or 3 of the statement can’t be changed).
  • Decide not amend the statement after a child or young person’s SEN have been reassessed. 
An appeal can also be made if the statement has been made and the parent/carer, child/young person disagrees with one or more of the following:
  • Part 2, which describes a child or young person’s SEN.
  • Part 3, which sets out the SEN provision that the LA thinks should be put in place. 
  • Part 4, either that the LA has not named a school placement in this section or that you disagree with it. 

What decisions can’t I appeal?

You can’t appeal to the tribunal if you:
  • Have a complaint about the school named in the statement, or provision detailed is not being given.  
  • The LA decide not to maintain a statement following an annual review
  • The length of time the LA took to carry out the assessment or the way they did it. 
  • How the LA or school is delivering the help set out in a statement. 
  • The way the school is meeting a child or young persons’ needs at school action or school action plus. 
  • Part 5 and 6, the description of your child’s non-educational needs and how the LA plan to meet them. 

If you have a complaint about the school named in the statement then contact Estyn and the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales respectively. 

You can also speak with the LA’s independent Disagreement Resolution Service (DRS).

How the Tribunal operates

Your appeal will be heard by a panel of three people, a legally qualified chairperson and up to two other members who will each have some knowledge and expertise in SEN.  

The tribunal panel will look at evidence from the person appealing and the LA before making a lawful decision on the best way for the dispute to be resolved.

The tribunal is independent from local and national government and should be accessible to parents and children without legal representation.

Appeals to the tribunal

How to appeal 

You need to complete the SEN Appeal Application form and follow guidance provided by SENTW in their How to make an appeal – A guide for parents. This explains:
  • Making an appeal, including time limits and deadlines.
  • What information or documents you need to submit.
  • The procedure once they have your appeal. 
  • Case statements.  
  • The appeal hearing. 
  • The Tribunal’s decision and timescales

Deadline for appealing

Your appeal has to be lodged within two months from the date you received the decision letter. If you have missed the deadline contact SENTW for advice. 

Case statements

A case statement is an opportunity for the person who submitted the appeal to expand on their reasons for appeal and provide the tribunal with further or new evidence in support. 

It is important that, when a parent is appealing, their child’s views are also recorded in the case statement. Similarly, an appeal made by a child/young person or their case friend must state the views of their parent or carer. 

The LA’s case statement must contain details of why they are opposing your appeal and evidence they have in support. They provide a summary of facts, what steps they have taken to resolve the disagreement and what your child thinks about the issues.  

Further information on the tribunal process including witnesses and the hearing itself can be found in SENTW’s guide for parents.

Arrangements for appeals by children and young people with SEN

Children and young people in Wales can make their own appeal if they disagree with a decision about their education. Alternatively, they can appoint a ‘case friend’ to make the appeal for them and accompany them to tribunal. To do this they must complete the Tell us if you have a case friend form. 

The case friend has to complete a declaration of suitability form and submit it to the tribunal. If the case friend is not a close family member, then an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check needs to be obtained and sent to the tribunal showing that there is nothing that disqualifies that person from working with children and young people.  

What to do if you don’t agree with tribunal’s decision

You can’t challenge the decision on the grounds that you disagree with it. However, you can ask the panel to review the decision if you feel there was a technical problem with the decision and how it was made. 

An appeal to the Administrative Appeals Chamber of the Upper Tribunal can be made, but you must apply to the tribunal for permission to appeal before doing so.  

You have 28 days from the date the decision was issued to ask for a review or permission to appeal to the Upper Tribunal.

Overturning a tribunal decision is rare and difficult, we advise that you seek legal advice from a solicitor specialising in education law if you decide to do this. 

 

What to do if the LA has not implemented the tribunal’s decision

The tribunal’s decision is legally binding and the LA must follow it. If they don’t, you should contact the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales and make a formal complaint or you contact our Education Rights Service general advice or tribunal support lines on 0808 800 4102. 

Further help from our charity

The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service has a Tribunal Support Line that can help you consider your options if you have a right of appeal and can offer ongoing support.

Useful contacts

SNAP Cymru can provide support and advice to families with a child with SEN. 
Tel: 0845 120 3730

The Special Educational Needs Tribunal for Wales (SENTW)
Tel: 01597 829800

Civil Legal Advice (CLA) 
Tel: 0345 345 4 345 

Douglas Silas Solicitors
Tel: 020 8349 7700

Simpson Miller
Tel: 0808 129 3320

You can also visit our Autism Services Directory to search for other solicitors who specialise in education law. 

Last reviewed: 10 November 2016.