New right of appeal on SEN to be welcomed

11th March 2011 at 00:00

Your article "Parent power predicted to see surge in SEN appeals" (4 March) is unnecessarily and inaccurately alarmist.

It refers, for example, to appeals to the SEN tribunal as "court cases", which implies that they are an adversarial process. They are not: the tribunal operates an inquisitorial procedure - essentially an inquiry into a child's learning needs and what is required to meet them.

The article also refers to such appeals as being cases "against schools." Schools are not parties to SEN appeals, which are challenges solely against decisions taken by local authorities.

It is not unknown for schools to support parents in bringing such appeals. Likewise, the article refers to the right of appeal if a school or local authority refuses to carry out an assessment of a child's needs or to give a statement of SEN - but the decision to carry out statutory assessment or to issue a statement is purely a local authority one.

It is certainly likely that the new right to appeal after an annual review will result in an increased number of appeals, and the legislation has had the entirely healthy result of filling in what was always a noticeable gap in parental appeal rights.

In the past, where a statement was blatantly inadequate but a local authority refused to amend it, parents' only remedy was to go back to the beginning of the statementing process by making a formal request for statutory reassessment.

In the worst-case scenario, the process might stretch over a year or more. The new right of appeal will mean that this type of issue will be resolved much more quickly, which can only be in the best interests of the children concerned.

Eleanor Wright, Maxwell Gillott Solicitors, London.

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