Well before the day of the SEND Tribunal hearing you will need to complete a number of steps to ensure that you are fully prepared and your case is properly presented. It is up to you to advance and prove your case.
The first thing you will need to do is make sure that you send everything that you submitted to the SEND Tribunal to your Local Authority at the same time This is because they need to see everything that you have included in your appeal and they have responsibility for preparing the hearing bundle. Don’t worry, the LA has to send you copies of evidence and correspondence too that it has filed with the SEND Tribunal.
Once you’ve submitted all your evidence it is still possible to make changes to your appeal by using a Request Changes Form. This could be because you’ve found additional evidence or there has been a new event, for example an admission or exclusion. You can also request an extension to your deadline to file evidence.
If your case is complicated or there are some parts of the dispute that need to be sorted before the hearing you may be asked to have a telephone case management hearing. This allows the SEND Tribunal to consider any issues that need to be dealt with before the hearing can be held. Examples could be if further tests need to be carried out, or you want to extend the deadline but the LA doesn’t agree. It may also be because a suitable school place has not been sourced.
We always recommend gathering evidence as quickly as possible including the obtaining of medical evidence, or evidence from a school. Most of your evidence will have already been sent with your appeal form, but if you didn’t have all evidence available when you appealed you can submit it later. If you’re finding it hard to get evidence from your LA you can ask the SEND Tribunal for a ‘direction’ to make the LA release the document. This is also done through the Request Changes Form.
You have the option to call witnesses to attend the tribunal. They should be able to give evidence that is relevant to the case, so it could be a SENCO, speech and language therapist or Headteacher. You could also consider calling teachers/teaching assistants who work with your child. If you want the EHC Plan to include a particular school a representative should attend as a witness. It’s important to remember that all witnesses will be asked to discuss facts and are not there to take sides.
All of the evidence that you and the LA submit are put together in a hearing bundle. There is a limit to how big the bundle can be, but all of your evidence will be included. It’s always worth checking to make sure that everything is in there (that’s why we always recommend keeping copies of everything you’ve submitted).
If you are preparing for a SEND Tribunal hearing and need some legal assistance, contact us to book an appointment with our SEND legal team.