The new Special Educational Needs Tribunal has been busy. Some 1,700 appeals have now been heard. About 60 per cent of the cases have been decided in favour of the parents. The average time for a case to be settled is four months.
A number of appeals have been heard against local authorities that refused to make statements. In one case, a boy attending a grant-maintained school was deemed to be an above-average pupil but was identified as having spelling difficulties. He was given intensive help with his spelling by the special needs department head but, although his progress was satisfactory, it was stretching the school's resources and the school asked the LEA to make an assessment.
This was agreed and completed. However, the LEA then refused to make a statement, issuing instead a "Note in Lieu". The school was not happy with the situation. More than 150 of its 1,500 pupils had special educational needs, but, although there were three special needs teachers, more than half of their time was earmarked for other duties. The LEA provided additional support for 27 statemented pupils and also some resources for hearing-impaired children who were not statemented.
The tribunal felt that the school should have considered buying in support from its own resources, which GM schools can do. But even so, the tribunal's view was that the boy's progress was satisfactory, and on these grounds dismissed the appeal against the authority's decision not to make a statement.
Chris Lowe is legal adviser to the Secondary Heads Association