The working document is an important part of a contents appeal. It is a Word version of the EHC plan which can be amended by both parties in the run up to the hearing.

You should be given a Word version of the final EHC plan (if not, ask the LA to send you one). The SEND Tribunal directions will include a deadline for when the working document with both parties’ amendments needs to be submitted to the SEND Tribunal, although the parties can continue to work on it after that date. You should email the SEND Tribunal the latest version of the working document a week or so before the hearing if the parties have continued to make changes to it.

It usually makes sense to wait until all of the evidence has been filed by both parties and then work through the evidence to see what changes to the EHC plan are needed.

Mark up your suggested amendments to the EHC plan on the working document using the recommended key (see below). The LA should then come back to you accepting anything that it agrees with. Your LA may also suggest other amendments. In this way the document will go back and forth between you and the LA before the hearing.

The reason for doing this is to try and narrow down the key issues which you and the LA disagree about. This will make the hearing more efficient.

Key for amendments

Normal type

Original EHC plan

Underlined type/ Underlined strikethrough

Amendments agreed by both parties

Bold type

Parents’ proposed amendments

Bold strikethrough

Parents’ proposed deletions

Italic type

LA’s proposed amendments

Italic strikethrough

LA’s proposed deletions

To work out what changes are needed, go through all the evidence making note of the special educational needs identified and special educational provision recommended. Make sure that all of this is in the EHC plan, in the right sections, and that it is clear and specific.

Don’t copy chunks from professional reports unnecessarily; the SEND Tribunal has repeatedly expressed unhappiness with working documents (and EHC plans) which are too long. Just quote or paraphrase the key points which show the relevant needs or provision.

If you want to suggest changes, for example, including a particular provision in section F, it is a good idea to use a footnote reference next to your proposed change to reference the report or evidence which supports your requested change. For example, if you have a report from a speech and language therapist recommending that your child receives one hour speech and language therapy once a week, on a 1:1 basis, with a qualified speech and language therapist, insert the report, page number, and report writer reference as a footnote to show the LA that your requested changes are evidence-based.

If you are asking for a particular placement, think about how your child or young person’s needs and provision can show that this placement is needed. For example, if you are looking for an extended day curriculum, then it needs to be clear from section F that your child or young person needs educational programmes to meet their special educational needs outside of the normal school day.

Alternatives to using the SEND Tribunal key for amendments

The SEND Tribunal is aware that the current key is not accessible for all users, such as those who are dyslexic, given the use of underline and italic fonts.

If it is difficult for you to engage in the working document process due to the key and any special educational needs you have, then tell your LA. You and your LA can set out all the issues in a detailed list if that is easier for you. The SEND Tribunal confirmed in a meeting with various user groups in April 2024 that it is happy to accept either a working document or a detailed list of issues between the parties, if you need to use such a list.

If you do decide to write a list of issues, rather than use a working document, some top tips are:

  • do not use colour to indicate your and the LA’s comments – the SEND Tribunal does not use colour printing
  • make sure you include all the changes you wish to see
  • be as detailed as possible, and reference evidence and reports to back up your comments and requested amendments, and
  • be clear which of the LA’s comments and which sections of the EHC plan you do not agree with.

Who needs to see the working document?

The working document, or list of issues, will pass between you and your LA whilst it is being worked on. It then needs to be sent to the SEND Tribunal when the SEND Tribunal has asked (check your registration letter for the date, it is usually at the same time as the case review form deadline).

You also need to send the latest version of the document to your witnesses, so they know what changes are being sought.

If you have a representative or a supporter who is assisting you at the hearing then make sure they also receive a copy of it.

If you are not able to reach agreement with the LA about the contents of the EHC plan, the case will proceed to a hearing. You can find more information on how a contents appeal hearing will work here.