Challenging decisions, appeals and tribunals

This page tells you how to appeal against a decision if you’re not happy with some aspect of your child’s education, health and care needs assessment or their education, health and care plan.

For England, it covers dealing with your local authority contact directly, the local authority complaints procedure, disagreement resolution, mediation and the First-tier Tribunal for Special Educational Needs and Disability.

It also explains how and when to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal, as well as what you can and cannot appeal about.

You’ll also find links to information about appealing education, health and care needs decisions in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and links to government and other resources, for parents, carers and healthcare professionals. 

On this page:

Challenging local authority decisions

Your local authority is responsible for carrying out an educational, health and care needs assessment to see if your child should get an education, health and care (EHC) plan.

When they are doing this, they should clearly explain their decisions to you at every stage of the process. 

They should also provide you with copies of all evidence they’ve used to make decisions. 

If you’re not happy with their decisions, you can challenge them. 

What reasons are there for challenging local authority decisions?

You can challenge a decision if: 

  • The evidence is not factually correct or does not fairly describe your child’s needs.
  • The local authority has overlooked evidence or not taken evidence seriously enough. 
  • There was no evidence from specialist teachers, such as a multi-sensory impairment teacher, a teacher of the deaf or a teacher of students with visual impairments.
  • The local authority says that they can meet your child’s needs using existing resources, but these are not clearly described in the Local Offer or the school’s published SEND information.
  • The local authority did not fully include you and your child in the decision-making process. 

How can I challenge my local authority’s decision?

If you want to challenge your local authority’s decision about your child’s education, health and care (EHC) plan, you can appeal to an independent body called the First-tier Tribunal for Special Educational Needs and Disability.

However, before you decide to go to First-tier Tribunal, you have other options and for most types of appeal, you must contact the mediation service first.

Your other options are:

Deal directly with your local authority contact

Speak or write to your named contact at the local authority. This is most effective when final decisions have not yet been made. 

Local authority complaints procedure

All local authorities must have a formal complaints procedure online. Complaints to the local authority will be investigated by a local authority officer. 

Disagreement resolution service

This is an informal way to help resolve disagreements with your local authority. 

The local authority’s SEND information, advice and support service should include information about disagreement resolution services.

Mediation service

Mediation is an informal disagreement settlement process run by a trained third party. Here’s how it works:

  • Your local authority will give you contact details of a local mediation service in their decision letter about your child’s EHC plan. 
  • For most types of appeal to the First-tier Tribunal for Special Educational Needs and Disability, you must contact a mediation service before you can send in your form to the tribunal. 
  • However, you don’t have to contact the mediation service if you’re only appealing the name of the school, college or other education setting in Part I of your child’s EHC plan.
  • You can also ask for mediation about the health and/or social care parts of your child’s EHC plan.
  • When you contact the mediation service, the mediation adviser will explain the mediation process and answer your questions. 
  • They will ask you if you want to use mediation or not.
  • If you don’t want to use mediation, the adviser must send you a certificate within three working days. You must send this certificate, with your appeal form, to the First-tier Tribunal for Special Educational Needs and Disability.
  • If you do want to use mediation, this will be arranged within 30 days. 
  • You can still appeal to the First-tier Tribunal for Special Educational Needs and Disability if you’re not happy with the outcome – in which case you have another month to send in your appeal. 

First-tier Tribunal for Special Educational Needs and Disability

What appeals can I make to the First-tier Tribunal for Special Educational Needs and Disability?

You can make an appeal to the First-tier Tribunal against the following: 

  • A decision not to carry out an education, health and care needs assessment or reassessment.
  • A decision not to issue an EHC plan.
  • The description of your child’s SEND. 
  • A decision not to amend an EHC plan following a review or reassessment. 
  • A decision to stop maintaining an EHC plan. 
  • The local authority’s description of its special educational provision.
  • The fact that no school or institution has been named in the EHC plan.
  • The type of school or institution named in the EHC plan isn’t suitable.
  • The specific school or institution that has been named in the EHC plan. 

What appeals can I not make to the First-tier Tribunal for Special Educational Needs and Disability?

You cannot appeal about:

  • How the school or college is supporting your child without an EHC plan.
  • The way the school or local authority provides the help set out in your child’s EHC plan.
  • Failure to meet the timescales or deadlines for the education, health and care needs assessment process or annual review of an EHC plan.
  • Transport to school or college, except where there is also an issue about the named school.
  • The local authority’s failure to do what the First-tier Tribunal has ordered them to do.
  • Health and/or social care decisions in an EHC plan. 

First-tier Tribunal recommendations about health and/or social care needs

You can’t appeal to the First-tier Tribunal about health and/or social care decisions in an EHC plan

Instead, you must use your local authority’s complaints procedure or the mediation service.

The First-tier Tribunal can, however, recommend that health and/or social care needs and provision are included or amended in an EHC plan in the case of all appeals except appeals against refusal to carry out an education, health and care needs assessment.

These recommendations are not legally binding.

However, if health or social care commissioners decide not to follow the First-tier Tribunal’s recommendations, they must give detailed reasons for their decision to the local authority and the parents or young person making the appeal.  

How do I make an appeal to the First-tier Tribunal for Special Educational Needs and Disability?

To make an appeal to the First-tier Tribunal:

  • You must make an appeal to the First-tier Tribunal within two months of your local authority sending you their decision letter about your child’s education, health and care needs assessment and EHC plan. 
  • For most appeals, you will first need to contact your local mediation service and submit a certificate from your local mediation service before you can make an appeal to the First-tier Tribunal.
  • You have one month from the issue of the mediation certificate to make your appeal to the First-tier Tribunal.
  • You need to complete the First-tier Tribunal appeal form and send it together with other documents to the HM Courts and Tribunals Service.

Challenging decisions, appeals and tribunals in other parts of the UK

Follow the links below to find out about challenging decisions, appeals and tribunals in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales:

This content was last reviewed in April 2022. We’ll review it again next year.