Will these figures make councils think twice before forcing parents to the SEND Tribunal?

At the end of last week, the government published the detailed statistics from the Special Educational Needs & Disability Tribunal from September 2014-15, i.e the first year of the SEND reforms. Most related to existing appeals for SEN statements.

The most startling thing that jumps out is that of all the cases heard by the SEND Tribunal, the vast majority - 86% - are won by parents. The question is, with an 86% failure rate (and more when you include those appeals conceded before reaching Tribunal) has it never occurred to LA leaders that they're wasting a hell of a lot of our taxpayers money in opposing cases they are most likely to lose?

I've made an infographic of the latest stats (at the end of this post) and I hope LAs can print it and stick it up on their walls as a reminder that forcing parents to Tribunal is, apart from anything else, just plain bad economics.

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What did the Tribunal numbers show?

The figures for 2014/15 showed a drop in the total number of appeals to the SEND Tribunal. Why is this? Is it because the new EHCP system is so much better and parents are getting the right support for their children? Or is something else behind it?

There were only 60 decisions about EHCP appeals out of 788 total cases decided at the SEND Tribunal with the others relating to statements of SEN. Likewise, there were 166 EHCP cases withdrawn or conceded out of total 2530 cases withdrawn or conceded before the appeal reached a Tribunal hearing.

Of those that are conceded or withdrawn, many may have been dealt with by telephone hearings as Tribunal Judges seek to reach an early agreement before everyone ends up in the courtroom, which is a very stressful day for parents. In others, LAs will have had a re-think and given parents what they were asking for such as an assessment for their child.

There were a total of 229 appeals relating to EHCPs for the whole year, compared to 3089 cases relating to statements. You could only apply for a statement only up to 31st August 2014, so all those statement appeals date from the 2013-14 school year and will have been awaiting a date at Tribunal.

From Sept 1st 2014, parents could only apply for an Education, Health and Care Plan which would have taken a minimum of 14 weeks for a transfer and 20 for a new entry or a Post 16 transfer. As such, it's highly unlikely that any EHCP appeals were lodged in 2014, especially as the transfers are being done in stages.

We don't have the figures for the actual date that an individual appeal was lodged, but with so many transfers taking far longer than the timescales, it's also unlikley that many could have been lodged in the spring term either. This is especially because there is now a requirement to either go through mediation or get a [no] mediation certificate before an appeal can be placed before the Tribunal.

Therefore, I believe these delays to EHCPs being finalised are, in fact, the main reason for the big fall in SEND Tribunal appeals.  If indeed there is an early trend developing for parents to not need to appeal to the Tribunal, it won't really be apparent until next year's figures.

These figures ended in August. We'd like to know the situation for the whole of 2015. Take our quick poll below, then feel free to save or share the infographic about the most recent figures.

You can download the infographic by clicking the image to open it in full size and then "save as" and/or downloading the PDF from the link below the infographic. And please do try to make a comment in the blog comments with your thoughts.

[poll id="10"]

SEND Tribunal Figures 2015(1)
Copyright Special Needs Jungle. Free for non-commerical sharing & reuse with credit

Download the PDF here. The text is copyable.

Don't forget to add your comments below!

Tania Tirraoro
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Julie Turner

Having received a Proposed Statement in August 2014, it then took the LA until August 2015 to issue a Finalised Statement (54 weeks). I am now taking them to Tribunal about the contents.
I love reading these facts and figures about tribunals, it is so important for parents to see, when they feel the whole education system is stacked against them.

Tania Tirraoro

Good luck with your Tribunal. Would they not mediate properly?

Fiona Davies

It’s incredible how many people are in the same position as me, I’m having big problems with school while awaiting transfer from Statement to EHCP. My boy is to remain on role of current school who can’t cope with him.

Tania Tirraoro

Sorry to hear about this, have you spoken to your local IASS or IPSEA?

Downs Side Up

Very useful infographic Tania. Something we have yet to face.

Tania Tirraoro

Well you know where to come when you do!

Heather Clarke

It’s not just the Taxpayer that loses money. We had to remortgage and borrow for legal fees. We had to have a barrister as did the LA. We won, so I see it as an investment in our child’s future but we shouldn’t have to spend £24,000 on assessments and legal fees!!! I expect the LA spent just as much. Now I’m stuck with working all the hours to pay back the money. Who can afford this, not me!!! The infographic doesn’t surprise me. We transferred to EHCP from statement which was straight forward as they knew I would go… Read more »

Deb Paris

Interesting figures. I am in the process of taking my LEA to tribunal as my son is at a school which is not right for him, by their own admission. The LEA, despite admitting that they have no suitable provision, refuse to agree to my request to move him to a school for ASD children in the neighbouring County with has a place waiting for him as they consider it an inappropriate use of public funds. I have been to mediation and the mediator told the LEA that if the case was to go to Tribunal they would be highly… Read more »

Stephs Two Girls

Great post Tania, thanks. Gives parents confidence to know that it can be worth going to Tribunal, even though they shouldn’t have to. Have a feeling we could be there before too long too!!

Matt Keer

Hi Tania, thanks so much for doing this! I’ve had a dig around the numbers to see whether families are more likely to end up at Tribunal if they have children with certain types of primary SEND. I’ve taken the Tribunal figures for 2014-15, and compared them to the identified cohort for each primary type of SEND reported in the DfE’s January 2015 SEN census. The data is a long way off being perfect, and I’m not a stats expert, but here goes: – For the 2014-15 academic year, 31 appeals were launched to SENDIST for every 10,000 children or… Read more »


No – the Tribunal system is nearly always a win for Councils, even if they lose. It represents a win in terms of delaying provision (and therefore represents a saving for the months it takes to get to tribunal), a win in terms of negotiating a compromise with parents just before tribunal (parents will be happy to accept less than their child needs v the risk of losing) and the cost of a relatively small number of losses in Tribunal is mitigated by all those above and all those parents who can’t face tribunals or don’t know their rights in… Read more »


Just to give an insight into local authority thinking, here’s a quote from a council report from 2011 which made the case for North Yorkshire to start using legal representation at Tribunal: Tribunal hearings are becoming increasingly legalistic, with reliance on case law and more parents being legally represented. Tribunal judges, for the first time, are beginning to recommend that LAs are legally represented. Discussions with our colleagues in the Yorks & Humberside area have shown that two LAs have for the first time sought legal representation ( their cases are in the process of being prepared), and others are… Read more »

Starlight McKenzie

It’s not bad ecenomics. LA’s are using the small percentage that give considerably from their own resources to appeal, to encourage acceptance of illegal and poor plans and statements. If they are seen to abide by the law, they will have an influx and become the national provider for SEN.

L Thomas

Because it saves money! EHCP provision is always a new cost (even if to be expected) it is unplanned/unwanted, to be minimised. If LA already employ Ed psych, sen officers, lawyers…you can afford to stall provision for up to six months….saving cost of provision all the while. If you get to Tribunal the cost of witnesses is not always a new uplanned expense – they don’t always go armed with expensive witnesses, just staff already on payroll and HT’s come cheaper than lawyers! Cost benefit analysis means it’s prob worth their financial ‘while’ to hold out. Stalling for Tribunal has… Read more »

L Thomas

I doubt it! First they have to read it honestly, not praise themselves on how well EHCP is going because DfE are asking! I’m sure they see every EHCP provision as a new cost, even if it is the reason for being! LA’s seem to view provision requests as unplanned expenses and somehow therefore, discretionary. An unplanned/unwanted expense and an opportunity to save when other budgets can’t be. If LA already employ Ed psych, sen officers, lawyers…they can afford to stall provision for up to six months pending tribunal/late settlement….saving cost of provision all the while because if LA do… Read more »


I myself have done 4 tribunals – 2 being this year. we won every single one – we also had at one hearing the judge award costs against the :A as they acted so unreasonably, twice they instructed barristers and every time it was just us as parents fighting the system. at the final hearing for placement , our place choice was cheaper but the LA tried to manage the figures to say otherwise which the judge saw straight through and asked them to reconsider their position which they refused to do so we had to wait until july to… Read more »

Renata @ Just Bring the Choc

Our local authority ‘package buys’ legal services and I suspect they are not alone. This means there is no incentive for them to not pursue a legal course of action as they have paid for it already. As to whether they then pay for a solicitor (or solicitor advocate) to represent them at tribunal, which they usually do, I am led to believe that is decided on a cost basis… How much it costs to buy a solicitor’s time vs how much they will save if the child does not get an EHCP. If this is the case then no… Read more »


I would love to know how many councils take parents to the tribunal ‘door’ and then just walk away from it, at the very last moment. They won’t show up in the statistics but I know this is happening…

Julie Carson

There needs to be something in about communication protocols – our local councillor has been told more than us about our child’s case and where it is up to. Also, consequences if the LA goes over the 20 weeks. Plus, something around treating all suggested provision equitably – my daughter and our family have found the perfect school for her and told the LA. They have gone to visit the 2 schools they are suggesting, but not the school we want! They are therefore making ill-informed decisions. Also, a reminder about their duties to provide an education – my child… Read more »

Tania Tirraoro

Good idea – we should add this in to our code of conduct too