Record SEND tribunals rise AGAIN, as nearly all parents win appeals

Just two per cent of refusals by councils to provide SEND support were upheld in tribunal decisions last year

Just two per cent of refusals by councils to provide SEND support were upheld in tribunal decisions last year

14 Dec 2023, 13:00

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The number of parents launching SEND tribunals has risen by nearly a quarter in a year

The number of parents launching tribunal appeals over local authority refusals to provide SEND support for their child has risen by nearly a quarter in a year to another record high.

And 98.3 per cent of parents won appeals that made it to a hearing – the highest since records started in 2011-12.

Data published by the Ministry of Justice today shows 13,658 appeals were registered in the 2022-23 academic year.

This is a rise of 23.5 per cent from 2021-22, when registered appeals topped 10,000 for the first time, at 11,052.

Parents can appeal against local authority refusals to assess a child’s needs or to issue an education, health and care plan (EHCP).

Schools Week revealed earlier this year that parents of vulnerable children were being forced to wait nearly a year to challenge decisions on SEND support, due to a growing backlog of cases.

Education secretary Gillian Keegan claimed in October that parents were using the system to get their children into “very expensive independent schools”, which drove up costs and created a “tale of two outcomes”.

Most tribunals rule in parents’ favour

Of the 7,968 appeals that went to a hearing this year, just 136 upheld decisions made by councils – 1.7 per cent.

This is a fall of 1.9 percentage points from the previous year, when 3.6 per cent of decisions were upheld at tribunal.

It is also the lowest proportion of council refusals to be upheld at tribunal since 2011-12 – the earliest data available – when a quarter (25.6 per cent) were upheld.

The proportion of appeals that resulted in an outcome being decided also grew by 7.7 percentage points in a year, from 50.6 per cent of registered appeals last year to 58.3 per cent this year.

Today’s stats show that 27.9 per cent of appeals launched were against a refusal to secure an assessment for a plan, while 8.5 per cent were against refusals to make a plan.

Under half (45.3 per cent) of all appeals registered were for children with autism, while 14.1 per cent were related to behaviour, emotional and social difficulty (BESD).

And 27 per cent related to a moderate learning difficulty (MLD), a rise of more than double since last year.

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