EHCP declined, appeals and SEND tribunal

You can appeal the local authority’s decision on your child’s Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) after they assess your child if:

  • your child does not get an EHCP
  • you do not agree with all or part of the EHCP

Appeals can mean going to the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) tribunal. This is sometimes called the first-tier tribunal.

You can apply directly to your local authority to assess your child. You do not need a report from an educational psychologist or the support of either:

  • the school
  • special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO)

If your local authority is causing long delays, you can make a formal complaint to your local authority.

Write a diary with dates and times. Include:

  • emails or letters to the school
  • any replies from teachers, the SENCO or headteacher
  • your complaint to the school or local authority, and how they dealt with it
  • what happened in your meetings and what they were about
  • documents that people send you

You can use this to show:

  • how special educational needs (SEN) support is not working
  • how you have tried to work with the school to support your child

Wales has a different process to England

Wales has Individual Development Plans (IDP), reviewed at least once a year.

Individual Development Plan (SNAP Cymru)

If your child is refused an EHCP

Your local authority might decide that your child does not need an EHCP. They usually decline EHCPs when they think SEN support in school is enough to meet your child’s needs.

SEN support

The local authority must tell you about:

  • your right to appeal
  • the time limit
  • the need to consider mediation
  • and the availability of information, advice and support and disagreement resolution services

The local authority has 16 weeks to say if they are not giving your child an EHCP. The 16 weeks starts when you or the school asks for an assessment.

Your child should continue to get SEN support in school without an EHCP.

You can appeal to the SEND tribunal.

You do not agree with all or some of the new EHCP

The local authority should send you the new EHCP. This is also called a ‘draft EHC plan’.

The SEND Code of Practice says you have at least 15 calendar days to respond. 

If you need longer, ask the local authority for an extension.

Use this time to:

  • say if you disagree
  • ask for a meeting with the LA to talk about the plan
  • tell the local authority if you would like either a mainstream or specialist school in the EHCP

What to do when you receive your draft EHC plan (Independent Provider of Special Education Advice (known as IPSEA)

After 20 weeks, the local authority must send you the ‘final’ EHCP. If you do not agree with the ‘final’ EHCP, you can still appeal to the SEND tribunal.

SEND mediation certificate

To appeal to the SEND tribunal, you need a mediation certificate.

When sending out their decision, local authorities must advise parents of contact details for a mediation adviser.

Mediation is free and does not affect your right to appeal.

The certificate will say you:

  • have taken part in mediation with your local authority but cannot find a compromise
  • or know you have a right to mediation but do not want it

If you do not want mediation, you only have a duty to consider it.

Mediation could help you to:

  • understand why the local authority made their decisions
  • say why you disagree

Some people agree on a compromise without going to the SEND tribunal.

Mediation (IPSEA)

SEND tribunal

If you have a mediation certificate, you can appeal to the SEND tribunal. This is a legal process.

You will probably need legal support to prepare for the tribunal.

Before you appeal an education, health and care (EHC) plan decision (GOV.UK)

Preparing for the SEND tribunal

The tribunal is a legal process. You can use a solicitor or represent yourself. Some solicitors specialise in this part of the law.

Finding free or affordable legal help (Citizens Advice)

Where to get help with making an appeal (IPSEA)

Representing yourself in court or tribunal

Read the documents that come with your decision letter. These documents are called the ‘legal bundle’.

You will need to get evidence to support your appeal. This could be:

  • information from people working with your child, like the SENCO, teachers, occupational therapist or GP
  • reports from the final EHC plan or any EHCP annual reviews
  • a second opinion, or if you can afford it, private assessments and reports

Get the newest evidence you can. If older evidence is relevant, you can still submit it. How old evidence can be depends on what you are trying to prove. For example:

  • for reading progress you would need something recent
  • an older school report might be relevant if you are trying to show your child has had difficulties over a longer period

If you’re challenging a placement, like the chosen school, you might involve the SENCO from:

  • the school that you want your child to go to, so that they can meet your child’s needs
  • the school that your child is going to now, if they have said that they cannot meet your child’s needs

Book an IPSEA tribunal helpline appointment.

IPSEA template letters

After you appeal to the SEND tribunal you can still try mediation before your hearing.

Tribunal appeals (Contact, the charity for families of disabled children)

Appealing to the SEND tribunal (IPSEA)

You can appeal a tribunal decision on several grounds, such as a change in circumstance or if you believe that evidence was not considered.

You have 28 days to appeal. This can be extended depending on the circumstances.

Using the EHCP assessment report

You can use the EHCP assessment report to help you appeal.

You should get copies of all assessments and reports, including a report from the school. If you do not, ask the local authority for these. You can also ask the school for a copy of their report.

You can use the reports to:

  • talk to the school about the local authority’s decision and your child’s existing SEN support at school
  • show at mediation why you disagree with the local authority’s decision
  • decide whether to appeal the local authority’s decision at a tribunal

Some local authorities provide a summary of the report recommendations. But the school does not have to follow this.

If the report is not accessible to you, ask the local authority for an alternative format. For example:

Problems with the assessment report

Write to the professional and the local authority to ask them to review the reports if they:

  • are unclear
  • do not include needs, provision or outcomes
  • have a mistake

Paragraph 9.51 of the SEND code of practice says advice must be:

“…clear, accessible and specific…[with] advice about outcomes relevant for the child or young person’s age and phase of education and strategies for their achievement”

It also says:

“They may comment on the amount of provision they consider a child or young person requires and local authorities should not have blanket policies which prevent them from doing so.”

You can ask for more detail

If the report says your child should get some support, you can ask who will be supporting your child. Paragraph 9.69 of the SEND code of practice says:

“[EHCP] Provision must be detailed and specific and should normally be quantified, for example, in terms of the type, hours and frequency of support and level of expertise.”

For example, the report says that your child should have movement breaks every 1.5 hours.

You write to ask who will be leading the movement breaks. The occupational therapist (OT) says that they must be with a named person. This detail is added to the EHCP.

Asking for the full school record

You should ask for your child’s full school record if you think something’s missing from the assessment report. Do this in writing. Try to be polite, particularly if the school is not being helpful.

If the school will not give you the full school record, ask in a Freedom of Information request. The school must give you the full record after you do this.

Freedom of Information requests (

Second opinions

You might need to get a second opinion if you do not agree with either the:

  • professional writing the report
  • local authority

You may need to pay for a private assessment from another professional. You might need to go to mediation if the second opinion is different from the recommendations made by the local authority.

If the school says they will not assess your child

You can apply directly to your local authority for an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment. You do not need a report from an educational psychologist or the support of your child's school to do this.

If you ask your school to apply for a EHC plan, they have a duty to request this from the local authority.

Applying for an EHCP

School SEN support without an EHCP

Your child’s support might change after their assessment even if they do not get an EHCP. Finding out about this could help if you are:

  • not going to appeal
  • or waiting while you appeal

Speak to the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) or school. Ask if the school:

  • agrees with the local authority’s decision and can include the EHC assessment report recommendations in your child’s SEN support
  • thinks you can appeal the decision (you can still do this without school support)

Go through the reports with the SENCO to:

  • talk about your child’s needs and the recommended provision
  • check what the school can and cannot provide in relation to the EHC assessment is asking for

Every state school has an SEN budget. It’s up to them how they spend it. It can help to ask how much of that SEN provision is shared by other pupils. You could also check the school’s SEN offer on their website for more information about what they can provide.

Extra support in school (Contact, the charity)

SEN support

Talk to the SENCO about your child’s existing SEN support. This is sometimes called an Individual Education Plan (IEP).

Look at the targets. Ask the SENCO what they can add or change. For example, referral to a specialist teacher or support with:

  • handwriting
  • reading
  • behaviour

Targets do not always have to be academic. For example, they can relate to independence or communication.

The EHC assessment reports may help you to ask the school to give your child the recommended support.

How your nursery, school or college should help (IPSEA)

You could try the updated SEN support for around 6 months and check how your child progresses. Ask the SENCO for monthly reviews or updates about progress against targets.

If your child is not meeting their targets with this support, talk to the SENCO about reapplying for an EHC plan.

Talking to teachers about your child's progress

If the SENCO is not helpful, speak to the headteacher. If the school still will not help, follow the school’s complaints procedure. This is usually on the school website.

If the school is not using the recommendations in your child’s SEN support

You can:

  • contact your local independent parent support service for advice
  • talk to the headteacher about your concerns and ask how they can support your child better
  • follow the school’s formal complaints procedure (if the problem is with the school). You can usually find this on the school’s website.

If the school’s complaints procedure fails:

Getting support without an EHCP

You will still be able to get SEN Support for your child without an EHCP.

SEN Support

Local authorities and the Local Offer

Find the Local Offer on your local authority’s website. It will list the services they have for disabled children and young people. It should include play schemes, respite care and short breaks.

Your local authority should also have an independent advice service for parents. They have different names, for example:

  • parent partnership

  • advice and support service

Contact your local authority to find your Local Offer (GOV.UK)

Groups for parents

You can:

You could find out if there is a:

  • charity specific to your child’s needs

  • local online group or page for parents of children with special educational needs

  • parent or carer forum run by your local authority

Social services

If your child receives Disability Living Allowance, ask social services to refer your child for short breaks. For example:

  • soft play sessions

  • trips to the cinema

  • play schemes

If your child has complex needs or you need respite care, ask social services if they offer a care package. If you have a named social worker, you should also talk to them. A social worker would assess you.

Managing stress

The tribunal process can be stressful and difficult. Everything will be about your child and their condition or needs.

It’s important to have support. This might be friends, family or even a neighbour.

If you can, try to take some time for yourself to do something you enjoy or relaxes you and your child.

Managing your stress as a parent of a disabled child

Last reviewed by Scope on: 23/08/2023

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