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.
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 Likewise, there were 166 EHCP cases withdrawn or conceded out of total 2530 cases withdrawn or conceded before the appeal reached a Tribunal hearing.
Of those that are conceded or withdrawn, many may have been dealt with by telephone hearings as Tribunal Judges seek to reach an early agreement before everyone ends up in the courtroom, which is a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.
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She is also an experienced broadcast and print journalist & author. Tania also runs a PR, web & social media consultancy, SocialOro Media. She is a Rare Disease & chronic pain patient advocate with Ehlers Danlos syndrome.
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