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What to do if I disagree with a SEN decision?

This page is to explain the different routes you can take to address concerns with SEN decisions. These can be decisions made by the education setting or the Local Authority.

RIASS can:

  • listen to your concerns
  • help you with the issues
  • identify other people who can support you
  • help you decide what to do next
  • explain the law and your rights.

The SEND Code of Practice says:

Decisions about provision for children and young people with SEN or disabilities should be made jointly by providers, parents, and children and young people themselves, taking a person-centred approach, with the views of children, young people and parents taken into account when those decisions are made.      (11.1)

There are many ways you can contest and raise your concerns on decisions. 

Some cases can be simply as contacting the education setting or the local authority to discuss your concerns, some may be more complex and need a formal approach and in some cases a tribunal.

When decisions are made formal by either the education setting or the local authority they will inform you of your rights and the route you need to take if you want to contest these. 

First steps

RIASS will always advise to try and resolve the issues without the need to go down a formal route.  We are aware that this is not always possible or these routes have been exhausted so we can offer advice on the next steps to address concerns.

Education Settings

If you are not happy about the help that your child is receiving at their education setting the first step is to talk to their teacher, to the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo)or the head teacher. If you think the school is doing all it can but your child still needs more help, you can ask the local authority for an EHC needs assessment.

If your child has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) you can also contact your SEN Case Officer.

Local Authority

If you are not happy with the way in which the local authority has helped on implemented support your child or young person there are several ways to address this.

We would always advise to contact the named person you may have within the local authority who is working with yourself or your child/young person.

Most of the time this can be resolved without going through any formal routes.

Make sure that you have kept a log of all correspondences you have sent regarding the situation.

It might be helpful to ask a friend or relative to attend a meeting with you. It is a good idea to keep notes or records of what the education setting or the local authority has done and has told you.

You can also ask RIASS if they are able to attend with you for support.

RIASS can give you impartial information and advice about possible ways forward.

What next?

If there are still problems after you have tried to resolve the issues yourself you might be able to:

  • seek some help to put your concerns forward
  • make a complaint
  • ask for independent disagreement resolution or mediation
  • appeal against a decision.
  • RIASS can help you with these next steps.

Making a Complaint

If you think that the school, college, or Redbridge as a local authority could do more, you can complain using their complaints procedure. Complaint forms can usually be found on the education setting’s or local authority’s website.

You will usually need to:

  • have tried to resolve your complaint by speaking to the right people.
  • put your complaint in writing.
  • be clear about all the issues you want resolved.
  • state what you would like to happen next.
  • give a reasonable time by which you would like a response.

If you are not happy with the outcome or feel that the complaint has not been dealt with properly, RIASS can give you information about what to do next.

Disagreement resolution

Most disagreements can be sorted out by talking with the school, college or local authority however there are times it can be difficult to reach an agreement.

The SEND Code of Practice says:

Local authorities must make disagreement resolution services available to parents and young people. Use of the disagreement resolution services is voluntary and has to be with the agreement of all parties. The service, while commissioned by it, must be independent of the local authority – no-one who is directly employed by a local authority can provide disagreement resolution services. (11.6)

Redbridge employ an independent service that provides a trained mediator to facilitate a discussion.

The purpose is to look for a way forward that all the parties accept. The service is free and confidential - and you can choose whether to use it or not.  However, in order to proceed to tribunal (unless appealing against a named school); you will need to contact the independent service in order to get a mediation certificate.

The disagreement resolution service is there to help resolve disagreement between parents or young people and the organisations that are responsible for making provision for children and young people with special educational needs.

RIASS or one the approved mediation providers can help you decide if independent disagreement resolution is the right way forward.

You can find out more about disagreement resolution services in the SEND Code of Practice sections 11.6 to 11.10.


Mediation is a type of disagreement resolution for disagreements that can be appealed to the SEN and Disability Tribunal. The service is free and confidential.

The SEND Code of Practice says:

If parents and young people want it to, mediation can take place following decisions by a local authority not to carry out an EHC needs assessment, not to draw up an EHC plan, after they receive a final EHC plan or amended plan, following a decision not to amend an EHC plan or a decision to cease to maintain an EHC plan. (11.13)

If you wish to register an appeal with the First Tier Tribunal (SEN and disability) you first need to consider whether to enter mediation and obtain a certificate stating that you have considered it. This is called mediation advice. If you decide not to go to mediation a certificate will be sent to you within 3 working days.  Once you have the certificate you can then register an appeal. You do not have to go to mediation if you do not want to – you only have to consider it.

Your local authority must tell you about mediation and who to contact for the initial advice when they send you their decision regarding the EHC plan. You must contact the mediation adviser within two months of receiving the decision. Your time limit for appealing to the Tribunal is two months from the date of that decision, or one month from the date of the mediation certificate, whichever is the later.

There is one exception to this rule. You can register an appeal without considering mediation first if the appeal is only about the school, or college named on the plan, the type of school or college specified in the plan or the fact that no school or other institution is named.

If you choose mediation the local authority must take part. The meeting will be arranged within 30 days.

An independent mediator runs the meeting. When the meeting has finished the mediator will issue you with a certificate within 3 working days. You need this certificate if you still want to register an appeal with the First Tier Tribunal.

Mediators must be trained and accredited and are independent of the local authority.

If you go over the two-month deadline for considering mediation, or want to appeal without a certificate, the law says you can still approach the Tribunal to see if you can register an appeal.

You can find out more about mediation in the SEND Code of Practice sections 11.13 to 11.38.

Do I have to choose between making a complaint, using disagreement resolution and mediation?

Usually you can follow more than one route. For example, you can still make a complaint if you have already tried disagreement resolution.

RIASS can explain your rights and the different procedures.


The SEND Code of Practice says that parents and young people can appeal to the Tribunal about:

  • a decision by a local authority not to carry out an EHC needs assessment or re-assessment
  • a decision by a local authority that it is not necessary to issue an EHC plan following an assessment
  • the description of a child or young person’s SEN specified in an EHC plan, the special educational provision specified, the school or other institution or type of school or other institution (such as a mainstream school/college) specified in the plan or that no school or other institution is specified
  • an amendment to these elements of the EHC plan
  • a decision by a local authority not to amend an EHC plan following a review or re-assessment
  • a decision by a local authority to cease to maintain an EHC plan

You can find out more about appeals to the Tribunal in the SEND Code of Practice sections 11.39 to 11.55.

You can also look at RIASS’s Appeals leaflet for further information

Where can I get more information, advice or support?

You can find out more about making a complaint about provision at your child’s education setting on its website or by asking about its complaints procedure.

The Local Offer, published by the local authority, includes information about the arrangements for resolving disagreements and for mediation and details about making complaints. It also tells you about your right to appeal to the Tribunal. You can find the Local Offer at

Chapter 11 of the SEND Code of Practice includes a lot more information about complaints procedures, disagreement resolution, mediation advice and mediation.

RIASS can help you with:

  • Information about complaints procedures, disagreement resolution and mediation
  • advice about what to do if you are unhappy with the support the school or college is providing
  • details of other organisations, support groups and information services that might help
  • information and advice about your rights to appeal to the First Tier Tribunal (SEN and Disability)
  • impartial advice and support through the process of making a complaint, disagreement resolution, mediation or appeal.

National organisations that can also provide information and advice on SEND include: