The Tribunal is a court, and like all courts it makes its decisions based on evidence. You need to back up what you are saying about your child with evidence.
In relation to the appeal process, there are strict deadlines regarding the submission of evidence. For further information see 'How to appeal a Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Decision'.
There are different types of evidence which you can use to support your appeal.
Written evidence is usually in the form of reports. These can be school reports, and reports by other professionals. Alternatively, records of meetings attended with the school or Local Authority can also be useful.
You may need evidence from other professionals to back up your appeal. These can include speech and language therapists, psychologists etc.
If you approach an independent expert make sure they have time to assess your child and write their report in time for it to be included as part of the EHC assessment.
If your Local Authority is in the process of making an EHC plan, get the expert’s report to them so they have time to include it in their assessment. This is because the Local Authority must take the report into account. If not, they may have to explain to the Tribunal why they have ignored the recommendations of the report.
The evidence provided for an EHC plan which the Local Authority gathered as part of the EHC assessment has to be listed under Section K of the EHC plan. Parents must be given copies of everything listed in this section.
Try to obtain an NHS report first, perhaps via your doctor. If this cannot be done in good time, then the Tribunal realises that parents will want to get their own therapy report(s), especially where there is likely to be a deadline.
If there has already been an assessment by a professional such as an Educational Psychologist or Speech and Language therapist then standardised tests must not be repeated too soon. Each test has its own protocol regarding re-test times; often this is six months.
Using the Local Authority’s experts
If you can’t afford an independent assessment (and you can’t get Legal Aid) then try another approach.
When the Local Authority has obtained an expert report in order to make an EHC assessment then the Local Authority must seek 'advice and information' on:
If the Local Authority did not ask for this information when requesting the advice and information from the professional as part of the statutory assessment, and if you think that the professional wishes to support your case, it could be worth writing to remind the professional of Regulation 6 and asking them if they could either amend their original report or provide an updated report to include the missing information.
(This is covered by Regulation 6 of SEND Regulations 2014. The requirements are contained in the first paragraph of Regulation 6.)
This type of evidence is provided 'in person'.
The parent’s evidence
The Tribunal panel will want to hear your own views at the hearing of your appeal. The Judge is likely to set out the areas that the panel wishes to explore at the start of the hearing. Note these down as these are the questions that you are likely to be asked about.
Make a note of the key points you wish to raise. It may help if you create your own index for the bundle of evidence which you will receive before your hearing. Note the page numbers where your key evidence is written so that you can draw the Tribunal panel's attention directly to this.
The school’s evidence
If your school is supporting your appeal, try to get the SENCo or Headteacher to come to the Tribunal to support your case. The Tribunal wants to hear from and will listen to a professional who knows your child well.
The child’s evidence
Your child can also attend the hearing. The Local Authority should have found out your child's views as part of the EHC assessment process.
Attending the Tribunal can be too stressful for some children, but many children do attend to provide their own views to the Tribunal panel. In this case, the Tribunal panel usually arranges to speak to the child at the beginning of the hearing.
The Tribunal may ask the parents and Local Authority representative to attend a short meeting where the Tribunal asks the child to answer a variety of questions. This will be informal and may include questions about hobbies and other interests.
Remember to take someone to the hearing who can look after your child for the rest of the hearing or, ideally, take them home.
You may need to call expert professionals to give evidence in person to back up their written report. The Tribunal panel will expect them to be able to answer questions about their report, including the reasons for their recommendations.
The Tribunal panel always prefers to hear from professionals who know your child or young person well, for example the SENCo or Headteacher of the primary school. It will always depend on the issues relating to your appeal. It may, for example, be helpful to ask the Speech and Language therapist who has been providing therapy for your child.
A video recording of your child can be very powerful evidence.
Keep it short – no more than 10 minutes.
The idea is to show the Tribunal the reality of the difficulties your child faces, especially if they are not adequately described in your child's EHC plan.
For example, if your child has a speech and language disorder then making a short film can make the Tribunal panel aware of the difficulties your child encounters in everyday situations.
Video evidence is particularly valuable if you child is unable to attend the hearing.
The video doesn’t need to be high quality – using a phone is fine, as long as the picture and sound is clear.
We understand the Tribunal is keen to help young people submit videos which show their views. Please ring the Tribunal Helpline (01325 289 350) to obtain the latest guidance on which video formats can be accepted as evidence.