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Coronavirus and additional support for learning


What do the changes mean for the Additional Support Needs Tribunal?

The tribunal is an independent and expert body that considers certain kinds of appeals and disagreements about additional support for learning. For example , parents can normally 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

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. However, please be aware that some things like timescales have changed during the coronavirus, as explained here on our coronavirus webpages.

Due to the coronavirus, all scheduled hearings have been postponed until after the end of June 2020, unless the hearing is ‘time critical’. This date may be pushed back further, depending on what the health guidance on responding to coronavirus is nearer the time.

This means if you were due to have a hearing, it will likely have been postponed. Your hearing will still go ahead, but a new date will be set later in the year once the tribunal knows when it will be able to resume normal hearings.

A hearing is considered time critical if you or the local authority would suffer ‘substantial prejudice’ if your hearing is postponed. It is the tribunal who will decide if your case is time critical.

If the tribunal does decide your hearing is time critical, the hearing will not be held in person. Any time critical hearings will be held remotely by telephone or video call. The tribunal may also ask for more evidence to be submitted in written form, for example written statements from your witnesses. The tribunal has experience of supporting parents to take part in hearings done this way, as it will be similar to the case conference calls that the tribunal already uses.

If the tribunal has not already done so, they will write to you to explain if your hearing is postponed, or if it is considered time critical and going ahead remotely.

You can also still get help from Let’s Talk ASN – a free advocacy and legal support service for parents and carers who have the right to make a reference to the tribunal.

Yes, you can still take your appeal or disagreement to the tribunal.

You still need to submit your appeal or disagreement to the tribunal within the normal deadlines. For most appeals or disagreements, the deadline is within 2 months of:

- the date you received the decision that you disagree with
- the date that the local authority missed the legal deadline for giving you an answer about something
- the date the failure happened.

If you are making a discrimination claim to the tribunal, you need to do this within 6 months of when the alleged discrimination happened.

If you wish to go to the tribunal, there is a free advocacy and legal support service available called Let’s Talk ASN. They can help you complete the forms and support you throughout the process. They can also help you to explore whether there are other ways you could resolve the issue, such as mediation.

Once you have submitted your appeal or disagreement to the tribunal, you will not be given a date for your hearing that is before the end of June 2020, unless the tribunal decides your case is ‘time critical’. Your hearing is time critical if the tribunal decide you or the local authority would suffer ‘substantial prejudice’ if your hearing is postponed. The tribunal will write to you to explain if your hearing will happen later in the year, or if they believe it is time critical and it will go ahead remotely.

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 until after June 2020 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.

We understand that even before the coronavirus, it is not a quick process to go to the tribunal. Concerns about your child’s education and support may have felt like they have been unresolved for quite some time already. So it will be a worrying time if your hearing has been postponed until after the end of June 2020. For example, if you are appealing a placing request you might be worried about not knowing what school your child should attend in time for the schools re-opening.

Although there are no easy answers to the delays caused by the coronavirus, if you are worried about what should happen with your child’s education and support while you’re waiting on a decision from the tribunal you can speak to your local authority. The local authority should stay in contact with you to explain your options while you wait on a hearing and a decision from the tribunal.

There may also be other ways that your appeal or disagreement could be resolved, such as mediation, which may be able to happen more quickly. You can contact our helpline if you would like to discuss your options.

We know some people will be concerned about what these changes mean in practice and how they may affect your child’s education and support. We are trying to find out more information, and we will update our website when we know more.

You can check the tribunal’s website for updates on how they are responding to the coronavirus.

You can also contact our helpline for further advice.


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