Appealing against assessment of child’s special educational needs

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What can I do if I am not happy with the outcome of the assessment?

If you disagree with your local authority's decisions on:

  • not proceeding with an EHC needs assessment
  • not producing an EHC plan, or
  • the special educational support that is included in the EHC plan

you have the right to challenge it. You should first raise this with the local authority and try to reach agreement. If you can't reach agreement, they should advise you on their procedures for challenging decisions. A young person aged 16 or over can also make a challenge on their own behalf.

Your local Information, Advice and Support (IAS) Service can help you to challenge the decision/s that you disagree with.

What is the Information, Advice and Support (IAS) Service?

This is a statutory service which has a duty to provide information and advice and support to the parents/carers of children who have (or may have) special educational needs or a disability. It is a free, impartial and confidential service. The IAS Service can signpost to other local or national sources of advice, information and support.

Local authorities have a legal duty to arrange the Parent Partnership Service(i). They can provide the service directly themselves, buy in from another provider (e.g. from the voluntary sector), or use a mix of the two. The service is there to help parents and carers.

If you think the child you are raising has special needs or you disagree with any aspect of the process of getting support from the school or the local authority, you should ask for details of the local Parent Partnership Service.


Mediation with the local authority is a voluntary process for parents and young people who are in disagreement with the local authority about the EHC plan. However you have to contact a mediator before going to a SEND Tribunal, even if you don't then proceed to mediation. Your local authority has to make an independent mediation service available to you, if you disagree with the local authority decision not to carry out an EHC needs assessment of the child, or not to draw up an EHC plan for the child once they have done an assessment.

Where your local authority has drawn up an EHC plan for your child, mediation must be available if you disagree with the parts of the plan which describe a child's special educational needs or the special educational provision set out in the plan.
Your local authority mustprovide you with access to an independent mediation adviser whom you will need to contact for information about mediation if you are thinking about appealing to the SEND Tribunal. Details about the arrangements for mediation will be set out in your local authority's publicly available Local Offer.

The mediation session will be run by an independent mediator who should have accredited training. It should be at a place and time that is convenient for you, and you will be told when and where the meeting will be at least 5 days before it happens. You can bring a friend, adviser or advocate to assist you. When the mediation has finished the mediation adviser must issue a certificate within 3 working days. You will need this certificate to register an appeal to the SEND Tribunal.

If, once you have contacted a mediation adviser, you decide that you do not want to go to mediation, the adviser will issue you with a certificate within 3 working days. You can also go to mediation with your local authority or your local Clinical Commissioning Group about the social care and health parts of an EHC plan, if you tell your local authority that you are unhappy with these parts of the plan.

The SEND Tribunal

During the transitional period to the new SEND system, there are two different systems for appeal in place. Appeals about the Statements of children who were assessed under the old 'statementing' system will be dealt with under the rules that existed before the new system was introduced. Appeals concerning children who were assessed under the new EHC plan system will be dealt with under new rules. The two appeal systems do have the same underlying philosophy and functions.

It could be worth checking if you are eligible for legal aid, which can fund legal advice and assistance in preparing an appeal to the Tribunal, but not representation at the Tribunal. This would be subject to a means and merit test.

You have to appeal within two months of receiving the decision which you are disputing, or within one month of mediation, whichever is the longer (however, the Tribunal does have discretion to accept an appeal which has been sent outside of the time limit). The Tribunal will register the appeal within ten working days, and send a copy to the parents, carers or young person, and to the local authority. The local authority then has 32 working days to send a response to the Tribunal, and also to send a copy to the parents, carers or young person. Once the appeal has been registered, it can take 20 weeks for the hearing to take place – you will be notified at least 10 working days beforehand of the location of the hearing.

The SEND Tribunal is chaired by a judge, with two lay members. However, the aim is to ensure that the process of appealing is as user-friendly as possible, and to avoid hearings that are overly legalistic or technical.

After the hearing, you and the local authority will receive the Tribunal's decision and reasons within ten working days. The Tribunal's findings will include specified timescales, from immediately to five weeks, for the local authority to implement any decisions.

Further information

Independent Parental Special Education Advice (IPSEA)
Coram Children's Legal Centre Special Educational Needs
ACE Education Special Educational Needs
The Information, Advice and Support Services Network (IASS Network)
SEND: Guide for parents and carers
SEND code of practice 0 to 25 years: Statutory guidance (2014)
Special Education Needs: Code of Practice (2001)

(i) s332A, Education Act 1996