SEND Tribunal Appeal Delays in 2023 and 2024 - Why Parents Should Act Quickly

Posted on: 6 mins read
Last updated:
Sarah Woosey Profile Picture
Sarah Woosey

Interim Head of Education Law

Share Article:

Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunal appeals happen when you need to challenge a Local Authority’s decision over your child’s Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP). However, unfortunately we’re currently seeing serious delays in the Tribunal - many hearings are listed for almost a year in the future.

If your child’s school is unable to meet the special needs of your child, through SEN Support for example the school doesn’t have the right resources or specialist staff required, it should request an EHC Needs Assessment. Parents can also make such a request. Your local authority may refuse to assess your child’s needs or they could refuse to issue an EHCP following an assessment. If they do then you have a right to challenge this decision to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. If your child has an EHCP but it is not adequate, there still may be a need to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.

Usually, it takes around 2-3 weeks for the Tribunal to register an appeal. This used to be a maximum of 2 weeks. The appeal process was previously set at 20 weeks (this had already been extended over the years) and the decisions of the Tribunal are then normally issued within 10 working days of the hearing. However, our expert Education Law team have seen examples of this taking much longer and have seen some families wait for 2 months for a decision on their child’s EHCP to be issued. 

Some delays are can be vast and significant. At the moment, we’re currently working on cases with hearings listed nearly a year after they have been registered with the Tribunal. Some of these cases involve children or young people who are currently out of education, but all cases, by their very nature, concern children whose parents believe are not receiving adequate or suitable education right now. 

TrustpilotStarsWe're ratedExcellent

The Issues and What Can be Done to Fix Them

It is clear from this that the current system is broken. The SEND Tribunal, who deal with these appeals, have adapted to growing needs over the years, but it is still stretched, and children are suffering as a result of the delays. The further the appeal is delayed, the longer a child has to wait to receive the help and support that they need to access and fulfil their educational needs.

The Tribunal mainly continue to deal with hearings remotely which does help as it assists in allowing them to be more efficient. They’ve recruited and trained record numbers of judges in addition to adding to their expert panel members. Despite this, emails from administrative staff continue to be received late into evenings and across weekends, showing the extent to which resources are limited and stretched to their limits.

The real issue with these cases however is that Local Authorities continue to make bad decisions. The vast majority of the appeals that parents make are successful, showing that the majority of the time, Local Authorities simply aren’t making the right calls in the first place.  But Local Authorities are effectively the real winners in this situation, because the delays mean that they can save the costs of adequate provision for the child for the duration of the appeal. And as the Local Authority saves money, a child goes without the help and support that they require, causing their parents or carers undue and unnecessary levels of stress in working their way through the appeals process.

Given that the Tribunal does not involve any costs, there is absolutely no motivation for Local Authorities to settle the matter early. If Local Authorities settled early or made appropriate decisions in the first place, it would reduce the pressure on the Tribunal and, crucially, would mean that the child gets appropriate support sooner. However, that would mean that Local Authorities would have to put measures in place to meet the needs of that child sooner, ultimately adding to costs that they may not have the appropriate funds for.

Despite these issues, if you’re appealing, it’s important to know that you can make requests for appeals to expedited (i.e. dealt with more quickly). You’ll need to be confident that your child’s case is ready to be heard and you would need to justify why it is damaging for your child to wait. There is no guarantee that the Local Authority will grant your application to expedite the process, but it should not put you off requesting this.

Phase Transfer Cases

Appeals involving children at phase transfer stages (for example, those moving from primary school to secondary school) are given shorter timescales. In previous years, this has been reduced to roughly 12 weeks from the date of the appeal to the appeal hearing.

Parents have 2 months to appeal and then the appeal may take approximately 12 weeks from when it is registered until a decision is issued. We would therefore recommend that you lodge an EHCP appeal shortly after the EHCP has been amended, rather than towards the end of the 2 month period.

Dealing with phase transfer cases makes the Tribunal extremely busy. This means that orders take longer and longer to come through and hearings may not always happen before the summer or the new school term. The Tribunal have confirmed that they have capacity for 1500 phase transfer appeals, however we have yet to see how many appeals need to be made.

Here at Simpson Millar, our Education Lawyers are concerned that once the transition reviews (i.e. phase transfer appeals) come in, the delays for other cases will get even longer. We’re also concerned about how realistic it is for the Tribunal to deal with all of the transfer appeals before the start of the new term. If they do not manage it, then children will not necessarily have suitable placements to attend in September, and there could be delays in them starting secondary school. This cannot be acceptable to anyone let alone the children affected and their parents or carers.

How Our Expert Education Lawyers Can Help You

Our overall message is that you do find yourself needing to appeal to the SEND Tribunal, you cannot afford to delay taking action.

If you need assistance with your child’s education appeal, one of our Education Lawyers can help. We’re experts in Tribunal appeals and we’re often available on short notice to take action and get things moving forward for you.

Support for children who have special educational needs is not just a matter of legal rights but a fundamental necessity for their wellbeing, development and future success. The importance of providing tailored education that accommodates individual needs cannot be overstated and should consider the unique challenges and abilities of each child.

Unfortunately children who have special educational needs often face obstacles that go beyond their education, with some experiencing a significant impact on their emotional and social development. This can, in turn, lead to feelings of isolation or inadequacy – something that no child should ever feel.

We understand that families of children with special educational needs can often become overwhelmed in navigating the complexities of the education system here in the UK. It can be both frustrating and time consuming. Here at Simpson Millar, our team of expert Education Solicitors are here to help to guide parents and carers through the system. We can be contacted on 0808 258 9764 or alternatively you can request a call back from one of our friendly and helpful team members.


Simpson Millar Solicitors. (n.d.). What Happens at a SEND Tribunal? Retrieved from (Accessed December 11, 2023).

Simpson Millar Solicitors. (n.d.). What Happens at a SEND Tribunal? Retrieved from (Accessed December 11, 2023).

Simpson Millar Solicitors. (2020). Lack of Provision for Children with SEND Potential Disaster. Retrieved from (Accessed December 11, 2023).

Simpson Millar Solicitors. (2022). What to Expect at an Annual Review of a Phase Transfer. Retrieved from (Accessed December 11, 2023).

Simpson Millar Solicitors. (2022). Why the Phase Transfer Deadline Is So Important. Retrieved from (Accessed December 11, 2023).

UK. (n.d.). Children with special educational needs (SEN): extra help. Retrieved from (Accessed December 11, 2023).

Sarah Woosey Profile Picture

Sarah Woosey

Interim Head of Education Law

Areas of Expertise:
Education Law

Sarah re-joined Simpson Millar in 2018 having previously trained at the firm before spending a number of years working for a different national firm. She has a number of years’ experience in a range of Education Law and Social Care issues and has focused particularly on getting suitable education and/or services for children and young adults with a wide range of Special Educational Needs and/or disabilities.

Would you like to speak to our Education lawyers?

Fill in your details and one of the team will call you back

This data will only be used by Simpson Millar in accordance with our Privacy Policy for processing your query and for no other purpose