The SEND Tribunal can hear claims about disability discrimination by a school under the Equality Act 2010.

The procedure is very similar to that of bringing an appeal about an EHC needs assessment or EHC plan, which is referred to as a ‘SEN appeal’. There are a few differences, which are set out below – we would recommend reading this section as well as the section on appealing to the SEND Tribunal in relation to SEN appeals.

The SEND Tribunal has produced guidance on bringing a claim of disability discrimination against a school.

Timetable

For claims about disability discrimination against a school, the claim must be received by the SEND Tribunal within six months of the discrimination you are claiming about (or within six months of the most recent alleged act or omission if they have been continuing for a period of time).

Appeals about disability discrimination generally have a 20 week timetable (SEN appeals are only 12 weeks).

If a pupil has been permanently excluded and the school’s governing body has upheld the exclusion, and the SEND Tribunal is being asked to order their reinstatement, the appeal is likely to be dealt with more quickly – within six to eight weeks of submitting your claim.

Submitting the appeal form

There are different claim forms depending on whether the claim involves an exclusion or not, and whether the claim is being brought by a young person or a parent. Claim forms can be found on the SEND Tribunal site.

If you are simultaneously making a SEN appeal and disability discrimination claim to the SEND Tribunal, you can request that they are ‘consolidated’ so that they are heard at the same hearing. However, you will need to complete a separate form for each claim.

You should explain:

  • The child or young person’s disability
  • The discrimination complained of
  • The remedy sought

Evidence needed

You will need copies of professional reports or other documents which help explain the disability in question. If there is a diagnosis of a particular condition, you must provide copies of documents showing this. You should submit this evidence with your claim form.

You should also send a copy of your current EHC plan if you have one.

You should also send copies of any documents which might help the SEND Tribunal to understand what the disability discrimination claim is about. This could include correspondence, copies of documents sent from the school, or written statements from people who witnessed events.

Once the appeal is registered

The registration letter should inform you of:

  •  the hearing date;
  •  individual case management directions decided by a Tribunal chair (judge) on review of the papers – this may include a date for a telephone case management conference.

The SEND Tribunal should also send the parent or young person copies of:

  •  an Attendance Form to return to Tribunal;
  •  a Request for Changes Form.

The hearing

Disability discrimination claims will be heard by three-member panels.

The school is very likely to be represented by a solicitor or a barrister (because of the adversarial nature of the claim). IPSEA strongly recommends seeking advice about claims under the Equality Act 2010 as early as possible in the process.

The panel will not normally make a decision on the day, but will send out a written judgment after the hearing.

Appealing a SEND Tribunal decision

You can only appeal against a SEND Tribunal decision if they make an error of law – you cannot appeal just because you disagree with their findings.

In disability discrimination claims, you could either appeal or request that the decision is set aside – you can read more about this on the section about challenging SEND Tribunal decisions. The number of cases which are successfully set aside or appealed are relatively low.

Note that for SEN appeals there is also the option to ask for the decision to be reviewed in light of a change of circumstances. This is not relevant for disability discrimination appeals, because they deal only with past events rather than ongoing provision.

If a parent or young person believes they have grounds to appeal, or to ask that the decision is set aside or reviewed, they should seek legal advice. You may be able to get legal aid to cover the cost of this – see the page on where to get help for more information.

If you haven’t been able to find the answer to your question in this section, you can book an appointment to speak with us.