Challenging Decisions

Children and young people with SEN and disabilities seem to have more than their fair share of problems arising in relation to their education and training. Sometimes such problems can be resolved by discussion and informal forms of dispute resolution. However, sometimes problems do not go away and parents of children with SEN and young people will be looking for some means of redress which means that they need to know how decisions can be challenged. In other words they need to know how to make formal complaints.

Please find your problem in the left-hand column of the table below, and then look at the steps you can take.

The links below will take you to detailed help. You may need to use more than one route of complaint, and you may need more advice from our helplines.

Your problem

Step 1: Complain To

Step 2: If not satisfied contact

Step 3: If still unsatisfied consider going

School not carrying out SEN responsibilities

Governing Body

(1)  Ofsted

(2)  Information Commissioner;

(3)  If curriculum complaint, LA

(4)  Secretary of State for Education




To the High Court to judicially review a public body



To the High Court to claim educational negligence

LA not carrying out SEN responsibilities

LA internal complaints procedure

(1)   Information Commissioner

(2)   Ombudsman

(3)   Secretary of State for Education


LA decision is wrong

For most cases, consider mediation

Appeal to the SEND Tribunal

To the Upper Tribunal on a point of law


Go to the top of the page and click the CHALLENGING DECISIONS RESOURCES tab for more detailed information about the following:

  • Complaints about schools;
  • Complaints about LAs;
  • Going to the High Court (Judicial Review)]
  • Challenging Tribunal decisions

Follow these links to our webpages about the SEND Tribunal and Mediation:

SEND Tribunal



    Following a Tribunal decision either party can apply to the Tribunal for the decision to be set aside, reviewed or appealed.


    The first port of call for complaints about schools should usually be to the school itself.


    This briefing looks at two types of court action: Judicial review and Educational negligence.


    Complaints about any element of local authority (LA) children’s services should be made to the most senior person, usually called Director of Children’s Services.

IPSEA mailing list

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IPSEA training

IPSEA provides a wide range of SEN training for Parents, School Staff, Parent Forums, Support Groups, Local Authority SEN teams, Parent Partnership Schemes, School Governors and other groups / organisations. Click here for details.

Advice Line

This provides next step advice on: problems with schools, requesting statutory assessment, statements and Education, Health and Care Plans, annual reviews, disability discrimination and exclusion. Please click here to book an appointment to get one of our advisers to call you back.

Tribunal Helpline

Our Tribunal Helpline Gives next step advice on SEN appeals and disability discrimination claims to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. When you call we will also assess whether you need casework support. Please click here to book an appointment to get one of our advisers to call you back.

Information Service

The Information Service is for general legal enquiries and will signpost you to factsheets and resources on our website.  The Information Service cannot provide specific advice about individuals and their circumstances.

Face to Face Advice

IPSEA is now able to offer free and independent legally based SEN advice at Face to Face sessions organised in conjunction with the Pen Green Centre for children and families (

For information on how to book a session please click here.