the parts of SENDIST Tribunal preperation

The Parts of SENDIST Tribunal Case Preparation: Explained

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Preparing a SEND Tribunal Case: A Comprehensive Guide

Source: GOV.UK (Published on 15/09/2023)

In the UK, the process of preparing a SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) Tribunal case involves a series of meticulous steps that local authorities must undertake to ensure a fair and just hearing. This blog post offers a detailed summary of the guidance provided by the UK government on this matter.

Local Authority’s Response

Local authorities are required to furnish a comprehensive response within 6 weeks of an appeal being lodged. This response should encapsulate detailed and up-to-date information about the child including:

  • Current educational attainments and end of Key Stage results
  • Behavioural patterns at school and home
  • Recent assessments by school or external agencies
  • Details of the current educational or non-educational provision
  • Travel arrangements to and from school
  • A historical account of the child’s progress over time
  • Details of successful and less effective arrangements for the child
  • Relevant local policies and how they align with national policies
  • Proposed school placement details including prospectus and Ofsted report

Witnesses

Witnesses play a critical role in Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunals (SENDIST), providing crucial insights that can influence the outcome. When preparing for a tribunal, local authorities are responsible for informing the tribunal panel about the witnesses they plan to bring. Ideally, this list should comprise individuals who possess a deep understanding of the child’s needs, as well as those who are familiar with the educational environment and provisions of the proposed school.

Expanding upon this, the selection of witnesses should be a careful and considered process. Witnesses could include professionals who have worked closely with the child, such as teachers, special educational needs coordinators (SENCOs), educational psychologists, and therapists. Their firsthand experiences and assessments can offer valuable perspectives on the child’s needs and how the proposed school is suited (or not suited) to meet those needs.

Furthermore, it’s beneficial for the local authority to include witnesses who can speak to the capability and resources of the proposed school to provide the necessary support. This might involve staff from the school itself, who can detail the school’s approach to special educational needs, the interventions they have in place, and how they plan to support the child’s development.

The testimony of these witnesses should aim to provide a comprehensive view of the child’s educational and developmental context, enabling the tribunal to make an informed decision. It’s also important for witnesses to be prepared to answer questions from the tribunal panel and potentially from the family’s representatives, ensuring a clear and complete understanding of the situation is achieved.

Moreover, the local authority should ensure that the witnesses they choose are not only knowledgeable but also capable of communicating effectively in a tribunal setting. This involves being able to explain technical terms or educational practices in a way that is accessible to all parties involved, including the child’s family.

By selecting the right witnesses, local authorities can contribute significantly to the tribunal’s ability to make a decision that best supports the child’s educational and developmental needs. This approach underscores the importance of a collaborative and child-centred process in resolving disputes over special educational needs provision.

Document Bundle

The compilation of the document bundle is a foundational aspect of preparing for a Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST). This bundle acts as the comprehensive source of information for the tribunal, encompassing all relevant documents and evidence. Its preparation requires meticulous attention to detail to ensure fairness and clarity in presentation. Below is an expanded explanation of the contents and organization of the document bundle:

Appeal Documents

This section is the cornerstone of the bundle, initiating with the notice of appeal form that outlines the grounds of the appeal. It should also contain the local authority’s response to the appeal, highlighting their stance and any counterarguments. The decision letter, which often triggers the appeal, is crucial as it provides context to the tribunal about the dispute’s origins. Additional documents may include any preliminary correspondences between the parties, interim decisions, or directions from the tribunal. Ensuring these documents are in chronological order helps to narrate the history of the appeal logically.

EHC Plan

The Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan is pivotal, as it outlines the assessed needs of the child or young person and the support they require. This section should include the final version of the EHC Plan along with all appendices, especially those referenced in section K, which details the educational provision needed. If amendments or previous versions of the EHC Plan are relevant to the appeal, these should also be included to illustrate the evolution of the plan or to highlight discrepancies.

Parents’ Evidence

Parents or guardians are often in possession of a wealth of evidence that supports their case. This might encompass communication records with the local authority or educational institution, such as emails or letters, which can reveal the nature of discussions and any agreements or discrepancies. Witness statements from professionals who have worked closely with the child or young person can provide independent assessments of their needs and the suitability of proposed provisions. Additionally, reports from educational psychologists, therapists, or other specialists offer detailed insights into the child’s needs and recommended support mechanisms.

Local Authority’s Evidence

The local authority’s evidence is essential for providing context to their decisions regarding the EHC Plan and proposed provisions. This may include internal policies that guide their approach to SEN support, written records of assessments or meetings, and reports from schools detailing the child’s progress or experiences within their setting. This evidence aims to justify the local authority’s stance and demonstrate the adequacy of proposed or current provisions.

Organisation and Submission

The entire bundle should be meticulously organized in date order within each section, creating a chronological flow that facilitates understanding of the case’s evolution. Every page should be numbered consecutively, including blank pages, to ensure easy navigation and reference during the tribunal proceedings. When submitting the bundle to the tribunal, it’s crucial to adhere to the specific guidelines regarding electronic submission, particularly the attachment size limit, to avoid technical issues that could delay review.

By carefully preparing the document bundle in a neutral, organized, and comprehensive manner, all parties contribute to a more efficient and effective tribunal process. This preparation ensures that the tribunal has all the necessary information to make a well-informed decision, ultimately serving the best interests of the child or young person at the heart of the appeal.

  • Appeal Documents: Including the notice of appeal form, local authority response, and decision letter, among other documents.
  • EHC Plan: Incorporating all appendices listed in section K of the plan, if applicable.
  • Parents’ Evidence: Comprising letters, emails, witness statements, and reports, among others.
  • Local Authority’s Evidence: Enveloping policies, written records, and school reports, to name a few.

Each section should be organized in date order, and every page, including blank ones, should be numbered. The bundle can be emailed to the tribunal, adhering to the specified attachment size limit.

Working Document

The concept of a “working document” is central to the preparation for a Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) hearing. This document, evolving from the initial document bundle, serves as a dynamic tool for collaboration and negotiation between the parties involved. Its purpose is to clarify the points of agreement and contention, streamline the issues for the tribunal, and, ideally, reduce the scope of the dispute. Below, we delve deeper into the process surrounding the working document.

Preparation and Content

The working document begins its life as a draft that incorporates the key elements of the case, including sections of the Education, Health, and Care (EHC) Plan under appeal, the specific areas of disagreement, and any proposed amendments or resolutions. This document should highlight the changes suggested by each party and any areas of consensus that have been reached during the preparation phase. It might also contain annotations or comments that explain or provide context for the proposed changes, ensuring that the tribunal understands the rationale behind each party’s position.

Collaboration is Key

Prior to finalising the working document, all parties need to engage in discussions to negotiate and, where possible, resolve disagreements. This collaborative effort not only aids in refining the document but also encourages a more cooperative approach to resolving the issues at hand. Communication between the parties during this phase is crucial, as it allows for clarifications, adjustments, and potentially the resolution of disputes without the need for tribunal intervention.

Finalisation and Submission

Once the parties have discussed and negotiated the contents to the fullest extent possible, the working document must be finalized. This involves ensuring that the document accurately reflects the current standings – which points remain contested and which have been resolved or agreed upon. The finalized version of the working document should then be emailed to the tribunal and all other parties involved at least 10 working days before the hearing. This timeline allows the tribunal members sufficient time to review the document thoroughly, understanding the nuances of the case and the positions of both sides.

Amendments and Updates

In the dynamic environment of tribunal preparation, new information or changes in circumstances may necessitate revisions to the working document. Should this occur, an updated version of the document must be promptly shared with the tribunal and all parties. This ensures that the hearing proceeds based on the most current and accurate information, facilitating a fair and informed decision-making process.

The working document is more than just a compilation of case materials; it is a living record of the dialogue between the parties and their efforts towards resolution. By meticulously preparing and continually updating this document, all involved can contribute to a more focused and efficient tribunal hearing, ultimately benefiting the child or young person at the centre of the proceedings.

Post-Hearing Documents

The Post-Hearing Documents section is a critical component of the case management process, especially in scenarios where an Upper Tribunal has mandated a rehearing. This section ensures that all parties, including the tribunal itself, have access to the most current and relevant documents that have emerged after the original hearing, thereby influencing the direction and outcome of the rehearing. Below, we further elaborate on the nature and importance of these documents.

Nature of Post-Hearing Documents

Post-hearing documents encompass a wide range of materials that may have been produced or surfaced following the conclusion of the initial tribunal hearing. These can include:

  • New Evidence: This might consist of additional reports from educational psychologists, medical professionals, or other specialists who provide further insights into the child’s needs. New evidence can also include updated assessments or progress reports that were not available at the time of the original hearing.
  • Legal Documents: Any new legal documents that have been generated as a result of the Upper Tribunal appeal, including the order for a rehearing, statements of reasons for the appeal decision, and any other legal correspondence pertinent to the case.
  • Correspondence: Communication between the parties involved, including letters, emails, and notes from meetings that have occurred since the initial hearing, can provide context and clarify the current positions of the parties.
  • Updates to the EHC Plan: If the Education, Health and Care Plan has been amended or updated in light of the appeal or due to the passage of time, these changes must be documented and included.
  • Submissions and Statements: Written submissions or statements prepared for the rehearing that outline each party’s arguments, responses to new evidence, or changes in their stance since the original hearing.

Importance of Inclusion

The inclusion of post-hearing documents for a rehearing is pivotal for several reasons:

  • Accuracy and Relevance: Ensuring that all recent and relevant documents are included guarantees that the tribunal has access to the most current information. This is crucial for making informed decisions that accurately reflect the child or young person’s present circumstances.
  • Fairness and Transparency: Providing all parties with access to these documents supports a fair hearing process. It ensures that no party is disadvantaged by a lack of knowledge about new evidence or changes in the case’s dynamics.
  • Efficiency: Having a comprehensive set of post-hearing documents can significantly streamline the rehearing process. It enables the tribunal and all parties to focus on the issues at hand without the need for extensive background explanations or clarifications.
  • Organization and Submission
  • For effective use, post-hearing documents should be meticulously organized, clearly labelled, and indexed to allow easy navigation. Each document should be dated, and the relevance of each to the rehearing outlined. This organized submission not only aids in the preparation of the parties but also assists the tribunal in understanding the evolution of the case since the initial hearing.

In conclusion, the Post-Hearing Documents section is a cornerstone of the rehearing process, ensuring that all proceedings are conducted with the utmost regard for the latest developments in the case. By meticulously compiling and organizing these documents, parties contribute to a more informed, efficient, and equitable tribunal process.

Striking Out an Appeal

Local authorities have the provision to request the tribunal to ‘strike out’ an appeal under specific circumstances, using Form SEND7. This initiates a hearing where both parties can present their arguments.

This blog post is a summary of the detailed guidance available on the GOV.UK website. For a comprehensive understanding and to access various linked resources for further information, refer to the full guidance on the official website.

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