The Additional Support Needs Tribunal is an independent expert body that considers certain kinds of appeals and disagreements about additional support for learning.
For example, parents can go to the tribunal if they disagree with a local authority decision:
- about co-ordinated support plans (CSPs)
- to refuse a placing request to a special school or nursery
- to refuse a placing request to a mainstream school or nursery if the child has a CSP.
The tribunal also hears disability discrimination claims in schools and nurseries.
In this section, we will describe how coronavirus has changed the timescales and procedures for the Additional Support Needs Tribunal.
For more information on the tribunal, for example when you can take an appeal or disagreement to the tribunal, see our factsheet on The Additional Support Needs Tribunal.
Tribunal hearings are still going ahead but are happening remotely, by video or telephone call.
During lockdown, only ‘time critical’ hearings went ahead remotely, and other hearings were postponed. Now, the tribunal has decided that all hearings will take place by video or telephone. If everyone agrees, the tribunal can also make a decision without a hearing (see the next section for more about this).
The same deadlines as usual apply for you to take a case to the tribunal:
• 2 months for most types of appeal
• 6 months for disability discrimination claims.
The tribunal will let you know what the timescales will be for arranging a hearing for your case, and how things will work.
It is likely that it will take longer than usual for a hearing to be arranged, so you may want to consider other ways of trying to resolve your disagreement with the local authority, such as mediation. Find out more in our factsheet on Mediation.
Sometimes, if both you and the local authority agree, a case can be decided by the tribunal without a hearing.
If you don’t want to have to wait for a hearing, you could consider asking for your case to be decided without a hearing. You can raise this at the conference call that will be organised by the tribunal to discuss your case. If you are considering this option, it may be helpful to first take some advice on whether asking for your case to be decided without a hearing will affect your ability to put your best case forward to the tribunal. Let’s Talk ASN offer free advocacy and legal support to parents and carers who have a right to make a reference to the tribunal.
If you and the local authority both ask for there to be no hearing, and the tribunal agrees to this, your case will be decided on the basis of the key documents you and the local authority submit. For example, your reference or claim form, and written statements from witnesses.
All hearings will be held remotely for now, usually by video call but sometimes by telephone conference call if video is not possible. Tribunal members will make sure that everyone has the necessary equipment and facilities for the hearing.
There will be an opportunity to test out everything in advance to make sure it is all working properly for you and everyone else. If there are any technical difficulties during the hearing, everything will be paused while these are sorted out so that nobody misses anything.
The tribunal members will make sure that everyone can hear everything that is being said, and that everyone has an equal chance to participate. You will be asked to do things like make sure you are in a quiet space in your home where you won’t be interrupted and to make sure that others won’t overhear.
You still have the right to be represented and to be accompanied by a supporter if your hearing happens remotely. If you have any accessibility needs, these must still be taken into account and adjustments will be made for you.
Remote hearings will usually start at 10am and finish by 4pm. At least one comfort break will be built into the morning and afternoon sessions, as well as a lunch break.