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Parental Rights – SEND Law

When a child has SEND, families very quickly need to acquire all kinds of specialist knowledge. In addition to understanding the young person’s condition and individual difficulties, they need to navigate their way through the health service and education system. However, there are a lot of legalities connected to securing the best support for children with special needs and it can be confusing and stressful trying to work out what your rights are.

SEND law is a very complex area and often, the best plan is for families to seek specialist advice for their own situation. However, there are some basic guidelines which we have listed below.

EHCP Rights

An EHCP (education and health care plan) is a document which details exactly what kind of extra support a young person will need in school or at home. Not everyone with special needs will qualify for one. Once an EHCP has been drawn up and agreed, the local authority is legally required to meet these requirements.

  • All families have the right to request that their local authority carry out an EHCP assessment on their child.
  • Other people – such as doctors, teachers or family friends – may also make this request.
  • If the young person is aged 16 to 25, they may make the request themselves.
  • Families have to be consulted as part of the process of putting together the EHCP if it is granted. Once parents receive the final document, they have fifteen days to comment on this and request changes.
  • Parents have the right to challenge the local authority if they refuse to carry out the assessment and also if they complete an assessment but refuse to grant an EHCP.

EHCP – the Annual Review

  • An EHCP must be reviewed at a meeting every year to see if the young person’s needs have changed. This has to take place within twelve months of the previous one.
  • The wishes and opinions of the family must be considered as part of every review.
  • Parents must be given at least two weeks’ notice of the annual review meeting.

Choosing a School

  • Parents have the right to request a particular school or educational setting on the EHCP.
  • If a child has special needs but no EHCP, they may still express a preference for a certain placement.
  • The local authority may refuse the placement for the following reasons – if the setting is unsuitable for the child’s age, needs or abilities, if the child’s attendance at that placement would interfere with the education of other pupils, or if attendance at the school would not be the most efficient use of resources.
  • Young people with EHCPs or their parents have the right to request an independent school or college but will need to prove that the provision offered by the local authority cannot meet the child’s needs.

Children Without an EHCP

A child with special needs but no EHCP is still entitled to support at school. The SENCO must identify and document the student’s particular challenges and put appropriate support in place to ensure the child makes progress. The school should meet with the parents at least three times a year to discuss these plans.

Taking Your Concerns to Tribunal

A SEND tribunal is a legal hearing where parents may challenge any decisions about a young person with special needs that have been made by the local authority.

  • It is free for families to make a claim at a tribunal. They may also be entitled to Legal Aid to help with the costs of preparing the case.
  • Parents may take the following issues to tribunal – appealing a decision to refuse to conduct an EHCP assessment, appealing a refusal to issue an EHC plan, appealing against the school named in the plan, appealing the contents of the plan or bringing claims of disability discrimination against a school or educational setting.
  • The local authority must abide by the ruling of the tribunal.

Further Information

National charity IPSEA – Independent Provider of Special Education Advice – offers free online information, training and tribunal support for parents and professionals. They also offer online courses for parents in SEND law for a small fee.

The UK Government provide SEND tribunal forms

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