Skip to main content

Special Educational Needs (SEN)

Every parent or guardian wants to ensure that their child receives the best education suited to their individual learning needs. If your child is struggling at school or requires extra support it may be that your child has special educational needs and therefore needs some further provision, beyond what the school can provide, to ensure they get the most out of their school and learning experience.

At Cartwright King we have a team of education lawyers who can assist with securing EHC Needs Assessments and EHCPs as well as making appeals to and representation at the SENDIST. If you are looking for guidance regarding these issues, it is in your best interest to seek legal advice and if necessary, to appoint a lawyer to act on your behalf.

What does SEN mean?

Special educational needs (SEN) describes the needs of a child who has a learning difficulty or disability that means special educational provision needs to be made for them. We provide help for children with a wide ranging abilities including:

  • Autism
  • Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Down’s Syndrome
  • Dyslexia (Also referred to as Specific Learning Difficulty- spLD)
  • Dyspraxia
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Severe Allergies

Special educational needs and the law

No child should be denied an education. In the case of children with SEN, a legally binding Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP – formerly known as a Statement of Special Educational Needs) can be put in place by the Local Authority to ensure the child’s learning needs are met.

In 2014, The Children and Families Act was introduced and replaced Statements of Special Educational Needs (Statements) and Learning Difficulty Assessments (LDAs) with EHCPs. EHCPs can remain in place from birth until a child or young person reaches the age of 25.

Existing Statements or LDAs will remain in place, but these children will go through a process called “transition” to move them onto an EHCP. This process must be complete by 1 April 2018 for Statements and for LDAs should have been completed by 1 September 2016.

What is an EHCP and how is one obtained?

The EHC Needs Assessment is the process the Local Authority goes through to decide whether or not the child or young person needs support through an EHCP. A parent or school can request that the Local Authority carry out an assessment of a child or young person’s special educational needs. A young person over the age of 16 can also request their own assessment.

The Local Authority has a maximum of 16 weeks to complete an assessment. If the Local Authority determines that they need to issue an EHCP, this must be done so within 20 weeks of the assessment being requested.

The EHCP sets out the education, health and social care support that the children or young person needs as well as where they must be educated.

Parents should be involved in the whole process, having the opportunity to comment on a draft EHCP and express a preference as to the school they would like their child to attend. Children and young people should also, as far as is appropriate and possible, be involved in the process.

Who are the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST)

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal is a panel made up of a lawyer who will chair the Tribunal and two others with SEN experience. The panel will consider appeals against SEN decisions made by the Local Authority. Appeals to the SENDIST usually take place when parents and Local Authority cannot reach a suitable agreement. The SENDIST can also deal with some claims relating to disability discrimination against a child by a Local Authority or school.

If you are considering an appeal, instructing a lawyer to help prepare the relevant paperwork or to represent you at the appeal will help to put forward the best possible case for your child.

  • An appeal can be made to the SENDIST if the Local Authority:
  • refuses to conduct an EHC Needs Assessment;
  • refuses to issue an EHCP;
  • refuses to conduct a reassessment of the SEN;
  • refuses to amend the EHCP after a review or reassessment;
  • don’t name a school in the EHCP; or
  • ceases to maintain an EHCP.

An appeal can also be made to the SENDIST if you disagree with:

  • the description of SEN in the EHCP;
  •  the description of the SEN provision in the EHCP; or
  • the school or type of school named in the EHCP.

It is important to note that mediation should be considered before you start the process of appealing to the SENDIST.

The Local Authority decision letter should set out the reasons for their decision, provide details of the local mediation service and explain your right of appeal to the SENDIST. Appeals usually have to be lodge within 2 months of the decision letter and therefore time is of the essence.

How we can help

If you need help in navigating what can often be an overwhelming process in order to secure the additional support your child needs, please get in touch. Below are some of the ways we can assist.

  • Requesting transition from a Statement to EHCP
  • Requesting an EHC Needs Assessment for your child
  • Advising on the content of an EHCP
  • Securing the appropriate support outlined in an EHCP
  • Advising you on the duties of the relevant public bodies and the rights of parents and children with SEN
  • Appealing to the SENDIST for any of the matters listed above
  • Assisting with the annual review of an EHCP
  • Complaining to schools or Local Authorities where the statutory processes are not being followed

Legal Aid

Cartwright King is able to offer legal aid in respect of education law advice and assistance in the following categories:

  • Special Educational Needs including Education, Health and Care Plans;
  • discrimination in education; and
  • public law challenges to education matters.

To find out if you are eligible you first need to contact Civil Legal Advice who will assess your financial circumstances and the nature of your case. The contact details for Civil Legal Advice can be found here.

If you are eligible for legal aid and are referred to Cartwright King either because we are the closest legal aid provider to you, or you have expressed a preference to be referred to Cartwright King then we will arrange an appointment with you to discuss your case. You will be given a reference number that you will need to provide. The appointment will usually be at our Nottingham or Leicester offices but if you are unable to access those offices we may be able to meet you elsewhere, for example in our Derby or Birmingham offices.

If you would like a preliminary discussion with someone to see if your case may be covered by legal aid or you would like to know more about the process, please contact us on 0808 168 5550.

If you are assessed as not eligible for legal aid then we would be happy to discuss other payment options with you and you can contact us on 0808 168 5550.

Initial telephone consultation

Our experienced education lawyers can help you to make sure your position is protected and that any appeal is properly presented. The team are on hand to provide you with advice, guidance and reassurance as you and your child face the future together. We will happily provide an initial telephone consultation and if you are happy to proceed with our services, we will discuss our estimated fees with you. Please feel free to contact us for a no obligation telephone discussion on 0808 168 5550 or email

Why Choose Us?

We have a team of education lawyers across the country who have a wide range of experience in dealing with education law and other relevant matters. Our breadth of experience puts us in the best position to represent you and your child. How to make contact To contact our team of education lawyers please telephone 0808 168 5550 or email and we will call you back.

At Cartwright King we have offices across the country. We can assist wherever you are based but our offices are in BirminghamBedfordDerbyLeedsLeicesterLondon TempleManchesterMiddlesbroughNorthamptonNottingham and Sheffield.

Email you enquiry:

Email your Enquiry

Please complete the form below providing a brief outline of your query, and a member of our friendly team will be in touch with you shortly.

What clients say about us


Please provide a brief outline of your query below, and one of our specialist team members will be in touch with you shortly.


Solicitor Advocate


The Legal 500 - The Clients Guide to Law Firms
Email Cartwright King Solicitors
Call Cartwright King Solicitors