Under the Children and Families Act 2014, Local Authorities have a duty to consider requests for assessing the education, health and care needs of a child or young person, and where necessary issue an Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP). This is relevant where expected progress is not being made despite attempts by the school to identify, assess and meet the needs of the child/young person.
The Local Authority has a legal obligation to carry out the assessment in cases where it may be necessary for special educational provision to be made for the child/young person. They will expect to see evidence of any steps that have been taken to meet the special educational needs of the child/young person.
One key piece of evidence is a report from an Educational Psychologist who would ideally undertake an assessment in the place where the child/young person is studying. This enables them to speak with the Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator and teachers, as well as observing the child during class.
After considering the request with an EHCP assessment, if the Local Authority decides not to proceed it must provide reasons as to why not. There is a right to appeal the decision in the First-Tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability, or SENDIST). Similarly, if the Local Authority decides to proceed but, at the end of the process, then decides not to issue an EHCP there is also a right of appeal to SENDIST.
What is the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal?
SENDIST is where a Panel considers appeals against Local Authority decisions concerning the special educational needs of a child or young person when assessing their educational, health and care needs, or reassessing their special educational needs, or to maintain the EHCP. The same body also has the jurisdiction to deal with claims of disability discrimination made against schools.
The Panel usually consists of a Tribunal Judge and an expert panel member with experience of special educational needs. Currently, the appeal against a local authority’s refusal to carry out an EHCP can be addressed by paper submissions alone, i.e. without the need for a formal appeal hearing where parties attend to deliver their evidence.
Preparing for your appeal or reassessment
To properly prepare for your reassessment you will need to provide as much evidence as possible concerning why you feel a reassessment is necessary and why your child should be issued with an EHCP. You need to explain what you think your child requires to satisfy his or her needs, and to provide the relevant evidence to support your view. Properly gathering and presenting your evidence is of the utmost importance.
Education law specialists like Match Solicitors can help you with this preparation, which would include advising on which special educational needs expert(s) to turn to for evidence to give your case the best possible chance of success.
Anita Chopra is a director at education law specialists Match Solicitors and is a regular media commentator on legal issues arising in education. She has a “huge breadth of experience across all kinds of education” and “has a great instinct for cases.”