Updated 24.06.2022 12:30

Adjournments 

As at May 2022, the Tribunal is facing an unprecedented backlog and will be prioritising cases which involve a phase transfer and/or where the child/young person is out of education. Make sure to notify the Tribunal if your appeal involves either of these scenarios. You should include this in your SEND35 appeal form, and it would also be helpful to make it clear within the subject line of the email in which you submit your appeal form. Other cases will most likely be adjourned until October/November 2022. If you have other exceptional circumstances that require an urgent hearing, then also make this clear in your appeal form.  

If you are notified that your hearing has been postponed and wish to object to this you should email the Tribunal with reasons as soon as possible. If the Tribunal has failed to identify that the child/young person is out of education or approaching a phase transfer you should bring this to their attention. If there are other reasons why a delay to your hearing will be particularly detrimental, such as mental health issues of the child/young person or the risk of permanent exclusion, you should also raise these.

The notification you receive from the Tribunal rescheduling the hearing will be an order inviting the parties to consider if the appeal could be concluded without an oral hearing (i.e. following consideration of the written evidence only). If you agree to your appeal being ‘heard on the papers’ you should send an email consenting to this to the Tribunal as soon as possible.

If your hearing has been postponed to the Autumn term, you could ask the Tribunal to arrange a hearing in August. The LA would have to agree and you should check if any witnesses would have difficulty attending a hearing in August before contacting the Tribunal. If you are unsure whether a paper and/or August hearing would be advisable you should seek advice. You can book an appointment with one of our trained Tribunal Helpline volunteers here or use IPSEA’s Call-in Helpline.

Giving Evidence from Abroad

The HESC Chamber issued interim guidance in May 2022 about giving oral evidence from abroad, which can be found here. Advance permission from the Tribunal will be needed if you want to participate in an oral SEND Tribunal hearing from abroad.

Case Review Forms  

The Tribunal has introduced a new “Case Review Form” to assist with case management. The Tribunal will tell you if you need to use this and send it to you to complete by the final evidence deadline.  If you are not sure if you need to use the form, check the letter and any directions you have received from the Tribunal. If you are told to use the form but don’t receive one, contact the tribunal to request it. Its purpose is to help the Tribunal manage cases as efficiently as possible, by getting an update on the case and to see if there has been any progress on agreeing issues that were in dispute ahead of the hearing. When you are told to complete this form, you will also use it to update the Tribunal and LA about who is attending the hearing (instead of an Attendance Form). 

COVID-19 Impact 

There is guidance on how courts and tribunals will operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. The rules have been significantly relaxed.

Remote hearings

Remote hearings will continue until at least the end of the academic year in 2022. The Tribunal anticipates that video hearings will continue beyond, with the option of hybrid or face to face hearings where necessary.

The Tribunal team has been improving its virtual hearing platform – including by using linked rooms for BSL or spoken interpretation. 

The SEND Tribunal administration team will send out log in details in advance of the hearing. These will be issued when the Notice of Hearing is issued. Instead of a physical venue you will see dial in or video dial in details with full instructions on how to join. General guidance on joining telephone and video hearings is available.

Telephone hearings are via an 0800 number and so should be free from landline or mobile.  If a video hearing is ordered and you are concerned that your internet connection is not good enough, there will also be the option of joining via phone. The number to call should be included in the Notice of Hearing, but if it is not, contact the SEND Tribunal to find this out. If you require technical support for a telephone or video hearing you can call 0330 8089405. 

You can find further guidance on how telephone and video hearings will be used here, and a film that has been prepared by HMCTS on hearings in the SEND tribunals below:

If you click on the settings symbol at the bottom of the video you can select subtitles in various languages. A British Sign Language version of the film is available here. 

This guidance is for people attending remote hearings who want to have a third party supporting them. This could be a friend, family member or someone from a charitable or local government service.

There may be an option to use a court venue if there is no access to a stable telephone or internet connection or you require a face-to-face hearing as a reasonable adjustment because of a disability.  

Alternatively, you may be able to agree with the SEND Tribunal and the LA that a paper hearing (which does not require attendance of the parties or witnesses) would be appropriate, depending on the issues in dispute and the context of your appeal.

Top tips for virtual hearings

As well as the tips outlined in the HMCTS video on hearings in the SEND Tribunal we recommend:- 

  • Contacting all your witnesses and anyone else dialling in on your behalf, in advance, to check whether they have reliable phone or internet connection. If they do not, then let the LA and the SEND Tribunal know as soon as possible.
  • If possible, try to arrange a telephone or virtual meeting before the hearing to give you, any witnesses and advocate you have the opportunity to speak before it begins.
  • If you have any late evidence, send this to the normal email address ([email protected]), with details of your hearing date, time, and appeal number. At the start of the hearing, check that this has been received by the panel. If it has not you may be able to resubmit it via email for their attention and possibly present it live by sharing your screen in the virtual hearing. If the panel agrees to you presenting late evidence in this way, minimise other windows to make sure you only share what you intend to!
  • If you or anyone else expected to dial-in has caring responsibilities alert the LA and the Tribunal to this to discuss what accommodations might be possible.
  • If you are taking part in a hearing with the support of an advocate, speak to them in advance to agree how you will communicate with them confidentially during the hearing as necessary.
  • Try to agree a how you will communicate with the LA as necessary during any breaks in the hearing.
  • Avoid using any “chat” function on the software used for a virtual hearing for any communication that you don't want to share with the LA or SEND Tribunal panel.
  • Make sure you are sitting somewhere comfortable, quiet and close to charging points. The joining instructions usually suggest that you try logging in about 30 minutes early to make sure that everything works. Make sure that the phone or computer you are using is charged or plugged in.
  • If you’re referring to documents in the bundle during a phone or video hearing, double check everyone has the right page as it will be trickier than in person to ensure everyone is looking at the right document.
  • Make sure you keep notes as the hearing is going on, so when it’s your turn to talk, you can address things raised by others when they were talking.

As well as providing these updates the legal team also deliver live training in various areas of special educational needs law. If you would like to learn from them, take a look at our upcoming training sessions.

For further information about appeals see here and where to get help with making an appeal.