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

This information is about what you can do if your child has special educational needs (SEN) or a disability and you are unhappy about the help they are getting.

The SEND Code of Practice says:

Decisions about provision for children and young people with SEN or disabilities should be made jointly by providers, parents, and children and young people themselves, taking a person-centred approach, with the views of children, young people and parents taken into account when those decisions are made. (11.1)

First steps

If you are not happy about the help that your child has at school the first step is to talk to their teacher, or to the Special Educational Needs Coordinator or the head teacher.

If your child has an education, health and care plan you can also contact the Assessment and Education Provision Team.

What next?

If you still have a problem you might be able to:

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

Seeking help

It might be helpful to ask a friend or relative to attend a meeting with you.

Making a complaint

All schools and colleges and Cornwall Council 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 speaking to the right people
  • put your complaint in writing, using the word ‘complaint’
  • be clear about all the issues you want resolved
  • state what you want to happen
  • give a reasonable time by which you would like a response.

You can find out more about complaints procedures in the SEND Code of Practice sections 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.

The SEND Code of Practice says:

Decisions about provision for children and young people with SEN should be made as soon as possible. In most cases this will be achieved by early years providers, schools, colleges, local authorities and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) working closely together and agreeing what should be provided with parents and young people. (11.3)

Sometimes it can be difficult to reach agreement.

The SEND Code of Practice says:

Local authorities must make disagreement resolution services available to parents and young people. Use of the disagreement resolution services is voluntary and has to be with the agreement of all parties. The service, while commissioned by it, must be independent of the local authority – no-one who is directly employed by a local authority can provide disagreement resolution services. (11.6)

Global Mediation is an independent service that will provide a trained mediator to facilitate a discussion. The purpose is to look for a way forward that all the parties accept. The service is free and confidential – and you can chose whether to use it.

The disagreement resolution service is there to help resolve three kinds of disagreement between parents or young people and the organisations that are responsible for making provision for children and young people with special educational needs. These are about:

  • how early years providers, schools and further education institutions carry out their duties for children and young people with SEN. For local authorities this includes keeping education and care provision under review, assessing needs and drawing up Education, Health and Care plans. For governing bodies and proprietors of schools it includes using their ‘best endeavours’ to meet children and young people’s SEN
  • 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 EHC plans
  • health or social care provision when this part of an EHC needs assessment, while EHC plans are being drawn up, reviewed or when children or young people are being reassessed.

Disagreement resolution services can also be used:

  • during EHC needs assessments
  • while EHC plans are drawn up
  • while waiting for Tribunal appeals
  • at review
  • during reassessments.

Cornwall SENDIASS or Global Mediation 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 sections 11.6 to 11.10.

Mediation

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

The SEND Code of Practice says:

Mediation can take place following decisions by a local authority not to carry out an EHC needs assessment, not to draw up an EHC plan, after they receive a final EHC plan or amended plan, following a decision not to amend an EHC plan or a decision to cease to maintain an EHC plan. (11.13)

If you wish to register an appeal with the First Tier Tribunal (SEN and Disability) you first have to consider mediation. This is called mediation advice. Once you have had the mediation advice you can decide whether you want to go to mediation.

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 choose mediation the local authority (or Clinical Commissioning Group) must take part. The meeting will be arranged within 30 days.

An independent mediator runs the meeting. When the meeting has finished the mediator issues you with a certificate within 3 working days. You need this certificate to register an appeal to the First Tier Tribunal.

Mediators must be trained and accredited and are independent of the local authority and Clinical Commissioning Group.

If you decide not to go to mediation the mediation adviser will issue you with a certificate within 3 working days. You will need this certificate to register an appeal to the First Tier Tribunal.

You can find out more about mediation in the SEND Code of Practice.

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

Usually you can follow more than one route. For example you can still make a complaint if you have already tried disagreement resolution. Cornwall SENDIASS can explain your rights and the different procedures.

Appeals

The SEND Code of Practice 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 (11.45).

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

You can also appeal against a school exclusion. You can find out more about school exclusion appeals at Ace Education

Where can I get more information, advice or support?

You can find out more about making a complaint about provision at your child’s school on its website or by asking about its complaints procedure.

The Local Offer published by the local authority, includes information about the arrangements for resolving disagreements and for mediation, and details about making complaints. It also tells you about your right to appeal to the Tribunal.

Chapter 11 of the SEND Code of Practice includes a lot more information about complaints procedures, disagreement resolution, mediation advice and mediation.

National organisations that can also provide information and advice on SEND include:

Children’s Legal Centre

Contact a Family

IPSEA