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Guide to resolving disagreements about SEND provision

Guide to resolving disagreements about SEND provision

1. Resolve disagreements with education settings or other services

If you’re worried about child’s additional support for learning in their early years setting, school or college, talk to your child’s teacher, Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) or the head teacher.

If you’re concerned about the help that your child has at school and you think the setting is doing all it can, you can ask us for an EHC needs assessment.

You may also wish to contact the SEND Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS) for help at this stage. Supportive Parents are impartial professionals who can explain the processes and support you through it by:

  • listening to your concerns
  • helping you deal with issues
  • identifying other people who can support you
  • helping you decide what to do next
  • explaining the law and your rights

If you still don’t manage to reach an agreement, you can use a disagreement resolution service.

Making a complaint about a school or college

If you can’t reach agreement, you may be able to make a complaint to:
Bristol City Council about an educational setting maintained by us
the governing body of the setting, following their individual complaints policy

  • the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman
  • the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
  • the Department for Education/schools complaint unit
  • Ofsted about a school, academy or a sixth form college
  • the Education Funding Agency (EFA) about an an academy or a sixth form college
  • the Skills funding agency about a further education college
  • the Secretary of state about an independent school 

You don’t have to use a disagreement resolution service before using a complaints procedure.

You can find out more about the complaints procedures in the 0-25 SEND Code of Practice (11.2 and 11.67 to 11.111).

2. Disagreement resolution

If you’ve been unable to resolve issues through discussions with the relevant people who support your child, disagreement resolution services are available. 

Disagreement resolution is for parents of all children and young people with SEND, not just those being assessed or who have an EHC Plan. 

It’s a voluntary process that can only take place if all parties agree. 
In Bristol, we use Global Mediation to provide disagreement resolution services.

It helps resolve disagreements about:

  • how early years providers, schools and further education institutions are carrying out their duties for children and young people with SEND
  • how social care services are carrying out their duties for children and young people with SEND
  • health care services are carrying out their duties for children and young people with SEND
  • the special educational provision made for a child or young person by early years providers, schools or further education institutions
  • the social care provision made for a child or young person by early years providers, schools or further education institutions
  • the health care provision made for a child or young person by early years providers, schools or further education institutions
  • us or the local healthcare authority (BNSSG Clinical Commissioning Group) deciding not to undertake an EHC needs assessment
  • us or the local healthcare authority deciding not to issue an EHC plan
  • the special educational, health or social care support we or the CCG are providing in an EHC plan

3. Mediation

An independent mediator, separate from the council, tries to help parties to reach an agreement about a child or a young person who’s being assessed or has an EHC plan. 

You, or your child if they’re over 16, can use mediation if you plan to appeal to the First Tier Tribunal about a decision we’ve made about: 

  • not carrying out an EHC needs assessment or reassessment
  • not drawing up an EHC plan after we’ve done an EHC needs assessment 
  • the content of an EHC plan
  • not amending an EHC plan after an EHC plan annual review 
  • not agreeing to a full reassessment of needs after an EHC plan annual review
  • no longer maintaining (ceasing) an EHC plan

A mediator can’t:

  • take sides
  • tell anybody what to do
  • try to influence any agreement

The mediation provider for Bristol is Global Mediation. 

You can find out more about mediation in the 0-25 SEND Code of Practice (11.13 to 11.38).

4. Appeal to the SEND tribunal

What is the SEND Single route of redress national trial

You can make appeal to the SEND tribunal about particular decisions we make. The things you can appeal about are if we’ve: 

  • refused to carry out an EHC needs assessment that you’ve asked for
  • carried out an EHC needs assessment, but then decided that your child doesn’t require an EHC plan to meet their special educational needs
  • agreed to make an EHC plan, but you want to dispute the content that describes your child’s special educational needs or the provision (sections A, B, E and F) 
  • agreed to make an EHC plan, but you want to dispute the named education placement (section I)
  • agreed to make an EHC plan, but you want to dispute the content that describes your child’s health needs and provision (sections C and G)
  • agreed to make an EHC plan, but you want to dispute the content that describes your child’s social care needs and provision (sections D, H1 and H2)
  • agreed to make an EHC plan, but you want to dispute the personal budget (section J)
  • reassessed your child’s educational, health and care needs
  • refused to carry out an EHC needs reassessment
  • changed what’s in your child’s EHC plan
  • decided not to change (amend) what’s in your child’s EHC plan
  • ended (ceased) your child’s EHC plan

You can make an appeal if your child is under compulsory school age (16), or your child can make it directly if they’re aged between 16 and 25. If your child is over 16, but doesn’t have the capacity to appeal, you may do so on their behalf.

SEND Tribunal has powers to recommend that health or social care needs or provision are specified or amended in EHC plans and send a copy of the recommendation to health commissioners as well as the council.

This trial will apply to appeals lodged, decisions made or EHC plans issued or amended after 3 April 2018. 

To date, you’ve only been able to appeal the educational aspects of EHC plans.  The trial gives you extended rights to request recommendations about the health and social care needs and provision specified in EHC plans, in addition to the educational aspects, when making a SEND appeal.  

This gives you the opportunity to raise all your concerns about an EHC plan in one place.

It’s only possible for the Tribunal to consider the health and/or social care aspects of the EHC plan where you’re already making an appeal in relation to the education aspects of the EHC plan and the education aspect must remain live throughout the appeal.

How to make an appeal

What you must do before you can register an appeal

Before you register an appeal with the tribunal, you must contact a mediation adviser within two months of the council decision you wish to appeal. You must consider if mediation might be a way to resolve your disagreement with us.

You don’t have to contact a mediation adviser if you want to:

  • appeal about the name or type of school or other institution named in the EHC plan
  • appeal about the plan not naming a school or institution
  • make a disability discrimination claim

You can go to mediation about the health and social care elements of an EHC plan, but this isn’t compulsory. 

You can request recommendations about health and social care issues without having to get mediation advice or attend mediation about those issues, provided there is also an education issue about which you’re appealing.

We can offer you a free, independent disagreement resolution service, provided by Global Mediation. To find out more about the service, discuss or request mediation advice and meditation please contact Global Mediation on 0800 064 4488 or sen@globalmediation.co.uk  


What happens once you’ve contacted the mediation adviser

Once you’ve contacted a mediation adviser or taken part in mediation, you can then decide if it’s a suitable way to resolve your disagreement.

If you’re still unhappy and wish to progress to an appeal with the tribunal, the mediator will issue a certificate within three working days of you informing them of your decision.  

You can then send this certificate to the service to register an appeal to show that you’ve been offered mediation and decided this hasn’t resolved your concerns. You must do this within two months of getting the certificate or the original decision letter from us, whichever is later.  
If mediation resolves the educational issues, you won’t be able to appeal to the Tribunal on any health or social care aspects of the EHC plan.  However, mediation is quicker and a less formal way to resolve disagreements, so may be a more suitable choice than an appeal.  

Mediation doesn’t affect your right to make an educational appeal and some aspects of the disagreement can go to appeal even when other aspects are resolved.

Register an appeal 

The council will give you information about how to contact the Tribunal Service on all notification and decision letters. 

You’ll need to fill out the appropriate form for your appeal:

  • EHC appeal form - child of or under statutory school age
  • EHC appeal form - young person over statutory school age
  • Disability discrimination claim by a parent
  • Disability discrimination claim after permanent exclusion - parent
  • Disability discrimination claim after permanent exclusion - young person

Forms, guidance leaflets and further information about the tribunal service on the GOV.UK website.

IPSEA explains more about the SEND tribunal and how to register an appeal about an EHC needs assessment or EHC plan.

Register your appeal by contacting:

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal
HM Courts and Tribunals Service
Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal
1st Floor, Darlington Magistrates’ Court,
Parkgate, Darlington, DL1 1RU

Telephone: 01325 289 350

Email: sendistqueries@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk