What happens at Tribunal Hearings?
If you are in England, appealing the decision of the LA in relation to a child or young person’s EHC needs assessments and EHCPs, this will be heard by Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal – SENDIST.
It will also hear disability discrimination claims against schools and local authorities when the latter is responsible for the school.
The Tribunal seeks to help make the processes as easy and user-friendly as possible and avoids hearings that are overly legalistic or technical. The Tribunal is supportive of parents, on behalf of a child, or young person being able to submit an appeal themselves, and should not need to engage a legal representation.
A tribunal will consider the law, not local policy or what something might cost. Those that sit on Tribunal panels are experts in SEN. The success rates for parents and carers are very high and we would always advise that you choose to appeal as it is a formal process that the LA must respond to.
The Tribunal provides a number of helpful resources to understand more about what happens during an appeal, and during a hearing itself. Hearings have been conducted mostly online since the pandemic.
What to expect
It can be nerve-wracking but remember that the Tribunal panel is very used to families representing themselves. An online hearing will appear much like a business meeting or online call that you might have attended rather than a court room drama that you might see on television. The judge will lead the hearing.
A few practical do’s and don’ts to help you prepare for the hearing
- Review the notification of the hearing that you will receive from the tribunal. It gives important information about the dial in details and timings.
- Make sure any witnesses you are relying on have known about the hearing date and are available. Make sure they have the notification of hearing details and the Tribunal Bundle.
- Ensure you are in a quiet room, where you can focus and are not likely to be disturbed.
- Prepare ahead. All parties will be referring to the Tribunal Bundle if there are any questions and discussions on evidence submitted. You should have received a printed copy from the LA. Make sure it’s in front of you.
- Mark the pages where your key evidence is located. It saves time searching for it if you can name the bundle page number and go to it immediately, if needed.
- Try not to interrupt. You will be given an opportunity to provide information and ask questions.
- Know what arguments are outstanding as you may well be asked by the judge at the beginning. Be able to support your arguments with the evidence you have. It will help to have those written down.
8. Don’t leave setting up until the last minute. It will make it very stressful for you and it can always take longer than you think to connect.
9. Panic if you have a little problem with technology. The Tribunal is used to that. Test your connection before hand.
10. Be late, either to an online hearing or to a face-to-face hearing. If there is a situation that means you will be late, contact the number on the notification of hearing and speak to the tribunal clerk.
11. Expect the judge’s decision on the day. There is typically a lot for a panel to consider and you should receive a decision within 10 working days.
Take a look at our tools and guidance below on preparing for a hearing, and the process for appealing to SENDIST.