The SEND Tribunal has been using video hearings, in place of face to face hearings, since 2019 The SEND Tribunal anticipates that video hearings will continue for the foreseeable future, with the option of hybrid or face to face hearings where necessary.

What can I expect from a remote hearing?

The SEND Tribunal team has been improving its virtual hearing platform – including by using linked rooms for British Sign Language users 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. 

Here is a film that has been prepared by the HM Courts and Tribunal Service, providing guidance on what happens in remote hearings in the SEND Tribunals:

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 online.

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.

Are all hearings heard remotely?

Face to face and hybrid hearings (where some people attend remotely but not all) can still go ahead.

If you feel you need a hybrid or an “in person” hearing as a reasonable adjustment for any needs you have, it is a good idea to let the SEND Tribunal and the local authority (LA) know as soon as you can. You can do this on the Case Review Form or on a Request for Changes form

There may also be an option to use a court venue if there is no access to a stable telephone or internet connection. 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: 

Before the hearing:

  • Check phone or internet connections

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.

  • Make clear what adjustments you need

If you or anyone else expected to dial-in has caring responsibilities alert the LA and the Tribunal to this to discuss what adjustments you may need during the hearing and whether it might be possible to arrange them for you.

  • Meet with witnesses and advocates

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.

  • Agree methods of communication

If an advocate will be supporting you in the hearing, speak to them in advance to agree how you will communicate with them confidentially during the hearing as necessary.

Try to agree how you will communicate with the LA as necessary during any breaks in the hearing.

  • When and how to log in to the hearing

Make sure you are sitting somewhere comfortable, quiet and close to charging points.

Make sure that the phone or computer you are using is charged or plugged in.

The joining instructions usually suggest that you try logging in about 30 minutes early to make sure that everything works.

During the hearing:

  • Late evidence – check whether it has been received

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!

  • Communicating with others during 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.

  • Technology issues

If during the hearing, you can’t hear, be heard or properly take part for another reason, get the judge’s attention and explain this.

Depending on what the issue is, you could raise your hand, use the “chat” function or unmute yourself to speak and explain the issue.

It’s important the judge knows if you’re having problems taking part or understanding what’s happening so this can be sorted out, otherwise the hearing might not be fair.

It will be more difficult to try to challenge unfairness afterwards if you don’t raise the issue during the hearing.

  • Take notes 

Make sure you keep notes as the hearing is going on. This way, when it’s your turn to talk, you can address things raised by others when they were talking. 

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