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Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal

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The Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (or SENDIST) considers parents’ appeals against the decisions of Education and Library Boards about children’s special educational needs, where the parents cannot reach agreement with the Board. It also deals with claims of disability discrimination in relation to children at school.

A Brief Guide for Parents

What is the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal?

The Tribunal deals with appeal cases in certain situations where a parent is in disagreement with their Education and Library Board. The parent will be of the view that the Board is not dealing with their child’s special educational needs appropriately. The Tribunal is an independent body, which has no connection with any of the boards.

When can I appeal?

The Legislation, which set up the Tribunal, only allows us to accept appeals on a specific range of matters, and at specific times during the statutory assessment process.

You can appeal:

  • if you or the school have asked the board to assess formally your child’s special educational needs and it has decided not to, or it carries out the assessment but then decides not to make a statement on your child
  • If the board does not make a statement, or amends an existing statement, you can appeal against the educational contents of the statement.
  • You can also appeal if the board decides that your child should no longer have a statement or decides not to amend a statement after carrying out a re-assessment of your child’s needs.
  • In certain circumstances you could also appeal if the board decides not to re-assess your child, or turns down your request to have your child placed in a different school.

You cannot appeal:

  • If the board decides not to send your child to an independent school, unless there is a new, or newly amended statement issued.
  • Against the manner in which a formal assessment is carried out, or the length of time taken to complete an assessment.
  • Against the way the board is arranging the help set out in your child’s statement or the level of funding being provided.
  • Against the way a school is meeting a child’s needs.
  • An appeal does not arise because the board decides not to amend your child’s statement following an annual review.
  • The Tribunal only has powers over specifically educational parts (2, 3 and 4) of a statement. You cannot, therefore appeal against parts 5 and 6 of the statement – for example, on arrangements for home to school transport.

Your education and library board must tell you when you have a right of appeal. If you have any doubts as to whether or not you have, or might in the near future have, a right of appeal in your particular circumstances, please feel free to contact the Tribunal for clarification.

Is there a time limit for appealing?

Yes, you must appeal within two months of receiving from the board the decision you are unhappy with.

If I appeal can I keep talking to the board?

Yes. We would encourage you to keep in contact with the board and be open to discussing the points on which you disagree. Frequently, parents and boards are able to reach an agreed way forward after an appeal has been lodged but before an appeal hearing takes place. It is then a simple procedure for:

  • Parent to withdraw their appeal; or
  • A formal order to be made by the Tribunal, reflecting the agreement reached between the parents and the board.

How is a Tribunal panel made up?

Each case is heard by a panel of three people. The chairman will be a lawyer and the other two members will have experience of special educational needs and/or public administration. All Tribunal members are strictly required to be impartial and to decide the case on the basis of the law and the documents before them, as well as taking into consideration any oral evidence given at the appeal hearing.

How do I appeal?

If you want to appeal against a decision against a decision that the Education and Library Board has made about your child you will need to provide us with certain information and documents. The easiest way to do this is to ask for a copy of our ‘How to Appeal’ booklet, which sets out in more detail information about the appeal process and also contains a form that can be completed with all of the relevant information. It also contains a checklist of the documents you will need to send to us so that we can register your appeal. You can request a copy of this booklet from the Tribunal. Contact details are below.

Further information

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal

3rd Floor
Bedford House
16 – 22 Bedford Street
Belfast BT2 7FD

Tel: 028 9072 4887
Fax: 028 9072 4826

Email: tribunalsunit@courtsni.gov.uk


You can view information on location, transport, facilities and services available at our Tribunals Hearing Centre (in Bedford House) in this PDF leaflet.

For further information visit the Education Support for Northern Ireland website at: http://www.education-support.org.uk

Autism: a guide for criminal justice professionals is a booklet produced by the National Autistic Society and supported by the Department of Justice. The guide provides background information on autism spectrum conditions and aims to assist all professionals working within the criminal justice system who may come into contact with someone who has autism, including police officers, solicitors, barristers, public prosecutors, the judiciary and the courts.

Important notice about postage

To help you prepare your case

Preparing The ELB Case

Attendance Form Guidance – Parent

Attendance Form – Parent

Attendance Form Guidance – Board

Attendance Form – Board

Guidance on coming to the Tribunal

Information about schools

Scheduling your hearing

Useful Links

Children’s Law Centre - www.childrenslawcentre.org

Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People - www.niccy.org

Bar Library - www.barlibrary.com/

Equality Commission for Northern Ireland - www.equalityni.org

Law Society for Northern Ireland - www.lawsoc-ni.org

Special Educational Needs Advice Centre - www.senac.co.uk