Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) considers parents’ appeals against the decisions of the Education Authority about children’s special educational needs, where the parents cannot reach agreement with the Education Authority. It also deals with claims of disability discrimination in relation to children at school.

What is the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal?

The Tribunal deals with appeal cases in certain situations where a parent is in disagreement with the Education Authority.  The parents will be of the view that the Education Authority is not dealing with their child’s special educational needs appropriately.  The Tribunal is an independent body, which has no connection with the Education Authority.

When can I appeal?

The legislation, which set up the Tribunal, only allows us to accept appeals on a specific range of matters, and at specific times during the statutory assessment process.

You can appeal:

  • If you or the school have asked the Education Authority to assess formally your child’s special educational needs and it has decided not to, or if it carries out the assessment but then decides not to make a statement on your child.  
  • If the Education Authority does make a statement, or amends an existing statement, you can appeal against the educational contents of the statement.
  • You can also appeal if the Education Authority decides that your child should no longer have a statement, or decides not to amend a statement after carrying out a re-assessment of your child’s needs.
  • In certain circumstances you could also appeal if the Education Authority decides not to re-assess your child, or turns down your request to have your child placed in a different school.

You cannot appeal:

  • If the Education Authority decides not to send your child to an independent school, unless there is a new, or newly amended statement issued.
  • Against the manner in which a formal assessment is carried out, or the length of time taken to complete the assessment.
  • Against the way the Education Authority is arranging the help set out in your child’s statement or the level of funding being provided.
  • Against the way the school is meeting a child’s needs.
  • An appeal does not arise because the Education Authority decides not to amend your child’s statement following an annual review.
  • The Tribunal only has powers over specifically educational parts (2, 3 and 4) of a statement.  You cannot, therefore appeal against parts 5 and 6 of the statement – for example, on arrangements for home to school transport.

The Education Authority must tell you when you have a right of appeal.  If you have any doubts as to whether or not you have, or might in the near future have, a right of appeal in your particular circumstances, please feel free to contact the Tribunal for clarification.

Is there a time limit for appealing?

Yes, you must appeal within two months of receiving from the Education Authority the decision you are unhappy with.

If I appeal can I keep talking to the board?

Yes. We would encourage you to keep in contact with the Education Authority and be open to discussing the points on which you disagree.  Frequently, parent and the Education Authority are able to reach an agreed way forward after an appeal has been lodged but before an appeal hearing takes place. It is then a simple procedure for:

  • Parents to withdraw their appeal; or
  • A formal order to be made by the Tribunal, reflecting the agreement reached between the parents and the Education Authority.

How is a Tribunal panel made up?

Each case is heard by a panel of three people.  The chairman will be a lawyer and the other two members will have experience of special educational needs and/or public administration.  All Tribunal members are strictly required to be impartial and to decide the case on the basis of the law and the documents before them, as well as taking into consideration any oral evidence given at the appeal hearing.

How do I appeal?

If you want to appeal against a decision that the Education Authority has made about your child you will need to provide us with certain information and documents.  The easiest way to do this is to ask for a copy of our ‘How to Appeal’ booklet, which sets out in more detail information about the appeal process and also contains a form that can be completed with all of the relevant information.  It also contains a checklist of the documents you will need to send us so that we can register your appeal.  You can request a copy of this booklet from us (contact details are below).

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal

2nd Floor
Royal Courts of Justice
Chichester Street
Belfast BT1 3JF

Tel: 028 9072 4847 or 028 9072 4886

Email: SENDIST@courtsni.gov.uk

For further information visit Education Authority for Northern Ireland  website at:  https://www.eani.org.uk/


Use this link to access our selection of forms and guidance literature

Useful Links

Children’s Law Centre: www.childrenslawcentre.org

Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People: www.niccy.org

Bar Library: www.barlibrary.com

Equality Commission for Northern Ireland: www.equalityni.org

National Autistic Society Northern Ireland: www.autism.org.uk

Law Society for Northern Ireland: www.lawsoc-ni.org

Special Educational Needs Advice Centre: www.senac.co.uk

Back to top