Confusion over appeals tribunal

1st July 2005 at 01:00
As president of the special educational needs tribunal for Wales (SENTW), I must address some points made in your article, "Estyn could have special-needs role" (TESCymru, June 17).

At a recent meeting of the Assembly's education and lifelong learning committee, Jane Davidson, minister for education and lifelong learning, asked whether Estyn should get involved where local education authorities have a disproportionately high number of appeals to SENTW.

I believed Ms Davidson was asking if there could be an investigative role for Estyn - in other words, that the inspectorate would seek to determine why there were so many appeals. This could be useful, but I do not envisage a pre-hearing role for Estyn, as your article suggests.

You also refer to the children's commissioner's recommendation for children over the age of 12 to be able to make appeals to SENTW. Peter Clarke's report of October 2004 does not refer to any age limit, but calls for pupils' rights to include the right of appeal. As the law stands only parents may make an appeal, but children can attend a hearing.

Tribunals will take account of written and oral representations made by a child, and will also consider the LEA's evidence. Clearly, a young person's views are important, but we must act with discretion and sensitivity.

I am not fundamentally opposed to Mr Clarke's recommendation. It is also erroneous to claim that "children have no say in the process".

Rhiannon Walker President SEN Tribunal for Wales Llandrindod Wells, Powys Editor's footnote: Information regarding the children's commissioner's proposals came from his office.

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