Disputes

Disagreeing with the LEA

What happens if I disagree with the LEA?

You are a partner with your child's school and the LEA. They will keep you fully informed at all stages of your child's education. Your knowledge of your child, together with the school's and LEA's knowledge of a wide range of children with special educational needs, should result in proper help being given to your child quickly and effectively.

If, at any stage, you are not happy with a decision, talk to your child's school or to the Named Officer who has dealt with your child's case. They will be happy to discuss your worries. In most cases, the problem will be put right quickly.

Voluntary organisations, parents' groups and your Named Person can help you put your views to the LEA and can give you advice about what the LEA say. It is very important that you discuss your views openly with the LEA and try to reach agreement with them wherever possible. You may feel disappointed by the LEA's decision, but disagreement is not always in your child's best interests.

But if you cannot agree with the LEA and you believe that a different decision is needed, you have a right to appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal.

You can appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal if-.

  the LEA refuse to make a statutory assessment of your child,
   after you have asked them to; or
  the LEA refuse to make a statement for your child after an assessment; or
  you disagree with part 2, part 3, or part 4 of your child's statement,
   when that statement is first made or if it is changed later;
or
  your child already has a statement and the LEA refuse to assess your child
   again or change the name of the school in that statement; or
  the LEA decide to stop maintaining your child's statement.

What is the Special Educational Needs Tribunal?

The Special Educational Needs Tribunal is an independent body that hears parents' appeals against LEA decisions on statutory assessments and statements. It will hear appeals against decisions made by LEAs on or after 1 September 1994.

The Tribunal is based in London but, outside the South East, appeals will be heard locally. That Tribunal will be made up of three people. One of these will be the Chairman, who will be a lawyer. The other two will between them have experience of special educational needs and local government.

You can go to the Tribunal, and voluntary organisations, parents' groups or your Named Person can help you prepare your case and go with you. You can also ask up to two professionals who know your child to speak on your behalf at the Tribunal.

The Tribunal will look at the evidence and will make a final decision. In reaching this decision, the Tribunal may consider how the LEA's actions compare to the guidance set out in the Code of Practice. Just because an LEA have not followed the Code will not always mean that their decision was wrong. But the Tribunal will expect the LEA to explain why they have not followed the Code's guidance when that is relevant to the decision they have made.

How long do I have to appeal?

It is important that the appeal procedure does not delay any special educational help your child needs. For this reason, you have to apply to the Tribunal no later than two months after the LEA make their decision. Only in exceptional cases will it be possible to get that time limit extended.

You can find out more about the Tribunal in a special booklet. You can get the booklet from your LEA.

What if the Tribunal cannot deal with my complaint?

You may be able to make a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman if your complaint is about something which the Tribunal cannot deal with. Some examples might be complaints about the LEA's failure to:

  - keep within time limits;
  - make sure that the help your child needs, as set out in the statement, is provided.

You can find out more about the Local Government Ombudsman in a special booklet. You can get the booklet from your LEA, or from the Ombudsman (the address is given in the list at the end of this booklet).

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