Parents of children with special educational needs (SEN) can access a wide range of SEN legal advice through SEN Advocates. However, when dealing with your LEA (Local Education Authority) and your own team of experts, you may find it helpful to have done your own reading and research. Getting your own perspective on SEN legal issues can help you to make informed decisions about your child’s welfare.
SEN Code of Practice
As a parent of a child with special educational needs it is imperative that you download and read the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice. The Code of Practice outlines the rules that your LEA must follow. If your LEA is not offering the SEN provision your child needs, the Code of Practice is your first port of call.
The Code of Practice is a lenghty document but don’t let that put you off! The Special Educational Needs Code of Practice is very useful for parents of children requiring SEN provision. It is important to remember that the tribunal must comply with the Code of Practice, and must have regard to it. This is a key point: if you know the contents of the SEN Code of Practice, you’re much better equipped to advocate for your child. Remember: you are your child’s greatest advocate!
There are currenlty two versions of the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice. For a copy of the version relating to the Education Act 1996 please download it from here, SEN CoP.
If your child does not have a statement under the Education Act of 1996, but under the new Children & Families Act 2014 then you will need to download it from here, SEN CoP.
The Education Act 1996 & The Children & Families Act 2014.
There are now two pieces of legislation in place for Special Educational Needs provision. Your case will either be governed by the Education Act 1996, or the Children and Families Act 2014. If you have a statement made under The Education Act 1996 and that statement has not transferred to an EHC Plan then the Education Act 1996 will still apply. If you have a statement made under the Children and Families Act 2014 then that will be the legislation that governs your appeal. If you decide to go to tribunal you will need to understand the relevant act, or have a representative that does. Please note, there is a transition phase for statements to move from the old 1996 style of statements to the new Education Health Care Plans, or EHC Plans.
SEN Case Law
Many parents ask about the law, but some often go further and ask about case law. Much case law has developed since the implementation of the Education Act 1996 covering wide areas from “specificity and quantification within statements” to the “right to mainstream schooling” to the “relative costs of a placement” and “transport”. Whilst case law can make for very interesting reading our advice to parents is to remain focused on your childs needs. Tribunals are conducted on an inquisitorial basis. The panel will want to know about your child, the difficulties your child faces, and what the needs are before deciding on provision. Whilst case law might be important, it is much more important to be clear on what your childs difficulties are and how to meet those difficulties.
Want to know more about SEN case law? The SEN Noddy Guide is the definitive guide to special educational needs case law. It’s author, David Wolfe QC Matrix Chambers, is a leading barrister in SEN law. Thanks to his victories in higher courts and the resultant case law, the lives of our children are that bit better. For example, the right for our children to be part-home, part-school educated, which makes it easier for children with special educational needs to integrate into a mainstream setting. You can read the full details of this important case here.
You may find that you are unable to agree a statement of special educational needs for your child with your LEA. In such cases, you may reluctantly decide to appeal the statement. This means going to tribunal. At tribunal, a judge and panel will decide what special educational needs provision your child is entitled to. This can be a very stressful process, and a costly one, so a tribunal should be your last resort. For more information about tribunals, have a look at the Ministry of Justice’s YouTube channel which includes a 6 chapter YouTube series on the SEN tribunal.
SEN Legal Aid
Could you be entitled to legal aid? Go here to complete a legal aid form to see if you qualify. If you do not qualify for legal aid, but have limited financial resources, specialist education solicitors may offer you reduced rates for your case. If you would like a list of firms providing reduced fees then please do get in touch.
Don’t qualify for legal aid? Cannot afford self-funding your special educational needs tribunal? You might try contacting IPSEA (Independent Parental Special Education Advice). IPSEA offers free and independent legally based information, advice and support to help get the right education for children and young people with all kinds of special educational needs and disabilities.
We can personally recommend this charity. In our experience, IPSEA is a really great resource for parents who need help. We trained with IPSEA and we currently provide help to parents for tribunal hearings via IPSEA. IPSEA is one of the few charities that offers a tribunal service free of cost to those parents who qualify for assistance. We urge you to get in touch with IPSEA and visit their very informative website.
Our mission is to help you get the special educational needs provision your child is entitled to. We offer services that can help you achieve this, and we are happy to recommend other professionals whom we trust.
- Fiona Slomovic, The Advocacy & Mediation Consultants Ltd. We have spoken with Fiona several times and in all honesty, we think she is great.
- Nigel Pugh, Education Advocacy Ltd.
SEN Legal Evidence & Experts
At tribunal, you will need to provide evidence that your view of your child’s specialist educational needs is correct and the LEA’s is not. You may need to submit independent expert reports as your evidence. These reports can be crucial, as it is often the experts’ opinions that are most persuasive to the judge and panel. The judge and panel will almost certinaly question your experts, and those experts from the LEA in order to determine why there is a difference between what you want for your child, and what your LEA is proposing. Great experts are key to your tribunal success, and knowing which experts to use is vital.
We hope very much that our parents’ guide to SEN legal resources has been helpful to you. If you believe we could be of service in your case, please do contact us.