What Happens at a SEND Tribunal?

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Special Education Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunals are designed to be as parent-friendly as possible.

For that reason, the Tribunal will be held at a venue within 2 hours of your home, to make it easier for you to attend.

For legal advice call our Education Solicitors and SEN Lawyers.

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The SEND Tribunal Hearing

If you want to bring someone to represent you at a SEND Tribunal hearing, such as an Education Solicitor / SEN Lawyer, or any witnesses, you’ll need to fill in an attendance form to confirm who’ll be accompanying you. And if necessary, you may also ask to have an interpreter at the hearing, who’ll translate proceedings for you, but they won’t represent you or provide legal advice.

The Local Authority will also complete an attendance form, naming their representative and witnesses who they want to attend the hearing. Each party can take up to 3 witnesses but in National Trial Appeals, this is extended to 5 witnesses per party.

Throughout the hearing itself, you can expect to be asked questions by the SEND Tribunal, the Local Authority’s representative and your Education Solicitor / SEN Lawyer, if you’ve chosen to have one. The Tribunal will consist of 2 or 3 on the Panel, including 1 Judge and an expert in SEND related matters.

You do not find out the decision at the hearing. Instead a written decision on your case should be sent to you within 10 working days of the hearing taking place.

Do I Need a Solicitor/Lawyer?

Parents aren’t expected to understand the finer points of the law, and are instead meant to use a SEND Tribunal as an opportunity to express their views, concerns and reasons for bringing an appeal.

So rather than ask parents to read up on the law before a hearing, a Judge will apply his or her legal knowledge to the information that’s been put forward. Nevertheless, many parents choose to have legal representation from an Education Solicitor / SEN Lawyer for a number of reasons. For example, some cases can be legally complex and parents may not feel comfortable pursuing the appeal without legal advice; to reduce the amount the parent is required to do as appeals can be quite time consuming; and to boost their chances of achieving their desired outcome.

How our Education Solicitors / SEN Lawyers Can Help You

An Objective View

The nature of what’s at stake – the education and future of their child – means a SEND Tribunal can be incredibly stressful for parents. This isn’t helped by the large bundles of evidence and information that parents are expected to gather and read, as well as occasionally hostile encounters with their opposition. So, it can be hugely beneficial to have an objective Solicitor/Lawyer providing advice and assistance to fight your corner.


Parents may not have gone through the SEND Tribunal process before and therefore don’t always know what evidence they need to gather and what arguments to raise at the hearing. This can make it very hard for parents without a Solicitor/Lawyer to prepare, as they may not know what points will be relevant. By contrast, Solicitors/Lawyers can advise on the evidence that is required and pick out the strongest arguments and apply the law to them, which may increase the prospects of success at a hearing.

Level the Playing Field

When an SEND Tribunal appeal is quite complex or the potential cost of the placement/ provision to the Local Authority is high, Local Authorities sometimes instruct a Solicitor or a Barrister to represent them. This can lead parents to feel that this gives the Local Authority a huge advantage from the beginning of the hearing. In circumstances where a parent without a Solicitor/Lawyer finds themselves arguing against a Local Authority Solicitor/ Barrister, the Judge may aim to balance out the proceedings by trying to help the parent understand the proceedings, so they do not feel disadvantaged. However, there is only so much the Judge can do, as they must remain impartial.

Reduce the Burden

Tribunal appeals are time consuming, so parents will often get legal representation to have the weight of the process lifted off their shoulders. An Education Solicitor / SEN Lawyer can carry out all of the preparation of the case before the hearing, as well as speak on behalf of the parents at the hearing itself, thereby taking much of the pressure off parents.

Even if you choose to represent yourself in the hearing, our Education Solicitors can guide you on how to prepare and assist you in making structured arguments to put to the Tribunal. We can also advise on the prospects of success based on the evidence available.

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