Parents and young people could be receiving inaccurate information about their right to mediation when bringing an appeal to the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) Tribunal, according to IPSEA.

The independent provider of special education advice says that some parent have been incorrectly advised that they do not have a right to mediation if they only want to appeal against the school or other setting named in your education, health and care (EHC) plan (section I).

As local authorities are legally required to issue final amended EHC plans for children and young people moving to a new phase of education by 15 February or 31 March a large number of EHC plans have recently been finalised. 

According to IPSEA, this together with the fact that the Tribunal is currently receiving an unprecedented volume of appeals, makes it especially important that mediation is available to everyone who requests it, including those who disagree with the school or institution named in section I (or the fact that no school/institution has been named).

Parents/carers and young people seeking a change to section I of an EHC plan will often seek improvements to the special educational needs and provision in the plan too. In those situations they are required to think about whether they would like to try mediation and obtain a mediation certificate before they can appeal to the SEND Tribunal.

When a parent/carer or young person is only appealing section I of an EHC plan, they do not have to obtain a mediation certificate first (section 55 of the Children and Families Act (“CAFA”) 2014). This does not mean they are not entitled to mediate if they would like to.

As a result, IPSEA says some mediation providers may be misinterpreting this part of the law.

The charity adds that if parents decide to go ahead and appeal without taking part in mediation, disagreement resolution might still be available. Local authorities are required to notify parents/young people about the availability of disagreement resolution services when they issue a finalised EHC plan. 

Parents, carers and young people can access more information on the appeals process here.