Increase of 13% in SEN appeals compared to 2018/19

In the academic year 2019/20 HMCTS tribunals recorded 7,900 registered appeals in relation to SEN, an increase of 13% when compared to the prior year. In the same period, 6,700 SEN appeals were disposed of, an increase of 14% on 2018/19.

The increase in appeals registered is likely a continued effect of the 2014 SEN reforms which introduced Education Health and Care plans (EHC) and extended the provision of support from birth to 25 years of age and the effect of the National Trial which began in April 2018. Under the National Trial the Tribunal is able to make non-binding recommendations on the health and social care elements of the EHC plan.

Figure 6.1: Registered SEND appeals, 1994/95 to 2019/20 academic years (Source: Tables SEND_1 and S_4)

SEND reforms, which came into effect from 1 September 2014, introduced Education Health and Care (EHC) plans and extended provision of support from birth to 25 years of age for those in education (excluding Higher education).

Of the 7,900 registered SEND appeals in 2019/20, 29% were against ‘refusal to secure an EHC assessment’, while over half (58%) were in relation to the content of EHC plans. The most common type of educational need identified in appeals continues to be Autistic Spectrum Disorder, accounting for 47% (3,700) of all SEN appeals.

SEND caseload outstanding reached a new high of 3,300 cases in Q2 2020/21, driven by the previously-noted rising trend in SEND appeals registered.

In 2019/20, ethnicity data was ‘not completed’ for any of the appeals registered, therefore it is not possible to provide analysis of SEN appeals by child ethnicity. As the table on ethnic origin (SEND_4) provides no new information, it will be removed from future publications until this data is populated.

In 2019/20, HMCTS recorded 6,700 outcomes in relation to SEN appeals, an increase of 14% compared to 2018/19. Of these outcomes, 56% (3,800) of cases were decided by the tribunal, an increase of 12 percentage points on 2018/19. Of the cases decided, 95% (3,600) were in favour of the appellant, an increase of two percentage points on 2018/19.

In 2019/20, there were 180 registered appeals in relation to disability discrimination, three more than the previous year (2% rise). Of these appeals, 11 cases (6%) were related to permanent exclusion from school, two cases (1%) were related to temporary exclusion, and the remainder were uncategorised.

The SEND tribunals disposed of 140 Disability Discrimination claims in 2019/20, up from 130 in the previous year (6% rise). Of these disposals, 93 claims (68%) were decided at hearing, 41 appeals (30%) were withdrawn prior to the hearing taking place, and the remaining two appeals (1%) were conceded. Of those decided at hearing, 53% were dismissed and 47% upheld – compared to 50% in 2018/19.

Source: Government tribunal statistics