11: Can I appeal a decision made by the Education Authority?

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In particular situations, some matters are appealable. For example, if you do not agree with a decision made about the special education provision your child has been offered by the Education Authority (EA) you can lodge an appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST).

What is the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal?

The SENDIST is an independent panel which considers parental appeals against the decisions of the Education Authority about a child’s special educational needs. The SENDIST will also consider parental disability discrimination appeals against schools and/or the Education Authority.

The Tribunal only has powers over the educational parts of a Statement of Special Educational Needs (e.g. parts 2,3 & 4).  You cannot therefore, appeal against parts 5 and 6 of the Statement, for example, on arrangements for home to school transport.

In what situations can I appeal to the SENDIST?

  • If the EA refuses a request made by you, or your child’s school, to carry out a Statutory Assessment or re-assessment of your child’s needs (providing a Statutory Assessment has not been carried out in the last six months)
  • If the EA has carried out a Statutory Assessment but decides not to issue a Statement. Sometimes parents are issued a Note in Lieu of a Statement, but this is still a refusal to issue a Statement.
  • If following a re-assessment of your child’s needs the EA decide not to change the Statement
  • If you disagree with a change to the Statement, such as the description of your child’s needs in Part 2 or the provision detailed in Part 3 or perhaps no school has been named in Part 4
  • If the EA decides that a Statement is no longer needed for your child
  • If the EA turns down your request to change the school named in your child’s Statement. This applies if you have asked for a grant-aided school and your child’s Statement has been maintained by the EA for at least a year.

For further information about SENDIST visit  Department of Justice or email tribunalsunit@courtsni.gov.uk

Getting help from SENAC with your appeal

SENAC’s Tribunal Support and Representative Service offers independent advice, support and representation on SEN Appeals for families and those with parental responsibility.

SENAC’s Tribunal Representative will advise on the strengths and weaknesses of your appeal, explain the process for appeal and support you to put forward the best case possible to SENDIST. We cannot guarantee, predict or advise if your appeal will be successful as that decision is made by the SENDIST Panel.

How do I contact SENAC’s Tribunal service?

If you are considering contacting us about an appeal please read the Terms of Engagement 

Our Tribunal Representative can be contacted by emailing Jennifer.mcnally@senac.co.uk

SENAC can offer help with:

  • General advice on SENDIST and its procedures.
  • Help with completion of the Notice of Appeal form and Case Statement
  • Assisting and setting out reasons for appeal
  • Obtaining further evidence as required
  • Assessing evidence to be submitted in support of your appeal
  • Negotiating with the Education Authority
  • Representing and advocating for your child or young person’s case at SENDIST

NOTE: SENAC provides advice and representation in Special Education Appeals against the Education Authority. In the event you wish to take a disability discrimination claim to SENDIST, SENAC can direct you to the appropriate services

Sending documentation and evidence:

To help us advise you fully it is important that our Tribunal Representative has access to all the relevant papers relating to your child’s educational needs.

If you have a deadline for lodging a notice of appeal all relevant papers should be sent as soon as possible and no later than 7 working days before the deadline. This is to allow the Tribunal Representative sufficient time to consider the documentation and the evidence and to draft the necessary paperwork for SENDIST. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee support and advice if the necessary documentation is not provided by you in advance of a deadline.

Dispute Avoidance and Resolution Service (DARS)

Parents also have the option to try to resolve issues through DARS. This service provides an independent, confidential informal forum to help resolve disagreements between parents/guardians and either schools or the Education Authority. Whilst the service will facilitate the possible resolution of disagreements, they do not have the authority to impose outcomes.

For further information about this service visit www.globalmediation.co.uk/DARS

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Advice line 028 9079 5779

For advice about your child’s education please contact our Adviceline to speak to one of our advisers.

During the Covid-19 pandemic the Adviceline will continue to operate its usual hours from 10am to 1pm Monday Tuesday and Wednesday.

For the foreseeable future, all calls to SENAC will go through this number so for all other enquiries please also ring us on 028 9079 5779 Monday to Friday from 10am -1pm

Contact us

Graham House,
Knockbracken Healthcare Park,
Saintfield Road, Belfast BT8 8BH.

Office Enquiries: 028 9070 5654
Email: info@senac.co.uk

Limited Company No. NI48698
Charity No. NIC101355

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