What if I do not agree with decisions about SEN provision?

Find out what you can do if you are not happy about the help your child is getting with their special educational needs (SEN) or a disability.

First steps

If you are not happy about the help your child has at school, the first step is to talk to your child’s teacher, the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) or the head-teacher.

If your child has an Education, Health and Care Plan you can also contact the SEN section at the council.

The Parents Advice Service (PAC) can help you too by:

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

The Parents Advice Centre can help you prepare for and attend a meeting. If you still have concerns they can help you decide what to do next. 

What next?

If you have not been able to sort out the problem you may be able to:

  • seek  help to put your concerns forward
  • make a complaint
  • ask for independent disagreement resolution or mediation
  • appeal against a decision

The PAC can give you more information about each of these and help you decide what to do.

Seeking help

It may be helpful to ask a friend or relative to attend a meeting with you. The PAC and Family Information Service (FIS) can give you impartial information and advice about possible ways forward and offer you independent support.

Making a complaint

All schools and colleges in Tower Hamlets have a complaints procedure. They will send you a form if you ask for it. You will usually need to:

  • have tried to resolve your complaint by talking to the right people
  • put your complaint in writing, using the word ‘complaint’
  • state what you want to happen
  • give a reasonable timescale by which you would like a response.

If you are not happy with the outcome of making a complaint or feel that it has not been dealt with properly PAC can give you information on what to do next.

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

Disagreement resolution

Most disagreements can be sorted out by talking with the school, college, local authority or Clinical Commissioning Group.

Read the SEND Code of Practice (11.3) for more information.

Sometimes it can be difficult to reach agreement. PAC will be able to help you find a way forward by providing impartial information, advice and support. You can read more on this in the SEND Code of Practice (11.6).

The disagreement resolution service is there to help resolve disagreements about:

  • how early years providers, schools and further education institutions are carrying out their duties for children and young people with SEN. These include duties on the local authority to keep their education and care provision under review, the duties to assess needs and draw up Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) and the duty on governing bodies and proprietors to use their best endeavours to meet children and young people’s needs
  • the special educational provision made for a child or young person by early years providers, schools or further education institutions. This includes children and young people receiving SEN support and those with EHCPs
  • special educational, health or social care provision during EHC needs assessments, while EHCPs are being drawn up, reviewed or when children or young people are being reassessed. Disagreement resolution services can also be used to resolve disagreements while waiting for tribunal appeals.

The PAC can help you decide if independent disagreement resolution is the right way forward. You can find out more about disagreement resolution services in the SEND Code of Practice  (11.6 to 11.10).

Mediation

Mediation is a type of disagreement resolution. The service is free and confidential.

If you wish to register an appeal with the First Tier Tribunal (SEN and disability) you have to consider mediation first. This is called mediation advice. Once you have had the mediation advice you can then decide whether to go to mediation or not.

You do not need to seek mediation advice first if the appeal is only about the name of the school, or college named on the plan, the type of provision specified in the plan or the fact that no school or other institution is named. If you decide to go to mediation the local authority (or Clinical Commissioning Group) must take part. The meeting will be arranged within 30 days.

Mediators must be trained and accredited and are independent of the local authority and Clinical Commissioning Group. PAC can help you decide if mediation is the right way forward.

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

Do I have to choose between making a complaint, using disagreement resolution and mediation?

In most circumstances you can follow more than one route. For example you can still make a complaint if you have already tried disagreement resolution. The PAC can inform you of your rights and explain the different procedures.

Appeals

The SEND Code of Practice (11.45) says that parents and young people can appeal to the Tribunal about:

  • a decision by a local authority not to carry out an EHC needs assessment or re-assessment
  • a decision by a local authority that it is not necessary to issue an EHC plan following an assessment
  • the description of a child or young person’s SEN specified in an EHC plan, the special educational provision specified, the school or other institution or type of school or other institution (such as a mainstream school/college) specified in the plan or that no school or other institution is specified
  • an amendment to these elements of the EHC plan
  • a decision by a local authority not to amend an EHC plan following a review or re-assessment
  • a decision by a local authority to cease to maintain an EHC plan 

You can find out more about appeals to the Tribunal in the SEND Code of Practice (11.39 to 11.55). 

It is also possible to appeal against an exclusion from school. If your son or daughter has SEN, you can find out more about school exclusion appeals and seek impartial advice from the PAC.

Where can I get more information, advice or support?

Three national organisations that can also provide information and advice on SEND are: