- Special Educational Needs (SEND) Tribunals
- Parts B, E & F state the needs, outcomes and provision for Communication & Interaction (Speech & language therapy input)
Many parents find themselves having to take their Local Education Authority to a Tribunal in cases where they have not been able to agree on the needs and requirements of Speech & language input for the child (usually more than just one issue).
If a pupil does not make steady progress in school and staff feel that more specific help from outside agencies is required, they will then try to get the child formally assessed by outside agencies in order to obtain an Education, Health & Care Plan (ECHP). Depending on the difficulties that the child has, the following agencies may be involved – Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Psychology and SLT. A Paediatrician is also usually involved in assessing any medical requirements.
Once all the information has been collated the Statement is drawn up to detail the type of difficulty the child is experiencing with the needs outlined and how the needs can be met within the school environment. The parents are sent a draft version of the EHCP and are asked to either accept it or make amendments. If the needs state that Speech & language therapy is required, the EHCP should also determine how the needs will be met (by a SLT) in F – Provision, not in Part C – Health as some LEA’s try to do. The reason that SLT input needs to be in section F is because the LEA then have a legal obligation to provide the SLT. One of the main reasons that parents have to take the LEA to Tribunal is that in cases where the local NHS SLT department have not had the resources to provide 1:1 therapy, the child has been left without any input at all. It is always advisable to insist the level of Speech and Language Therapy provision is quantified and detailed, giving timings and frequency, and the qualifications of the personnel involved.
The parents then have to prove why their child needs the 1:1 input (or whatever input has been specified) to the Tribunal panel, often against an LEA representative that tries to prove that the child is in a setting where specific SLT is not required because the provision meets their requirements some other way.
Full details of the EHCP procedure can be found in the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice, available from the Department for Education and Skills.
This description has been put together from my own experiences with the EHCP procedure (formerly Statements) and Tribunals and should not be quoted anywhere as it is personal thoughts and ideas rather than any official stance. It’s been written to give parents some idea of what is involved in both processes should they be considering either route.
There are many rules and timescales which apply throughout both processes and so govern when a parent can appeal against the decision by the LEA. Advice on these can be obtained from IPSEA and other organisations specialising in Education (NAS, etc)
Finally, I would just like to point out that the SENDIST Tribunal panels are made up of groups of people from varying backgrounds (teachers, SLT’s, legal representatives) who are impartial. They read evidence from both the LEA and the parents and endeavour to reach a decision based on the needs of the child and the most effective way of meeting those needs.