My experience to this point continues to grow, because every tribunal I go to, is slightly different!
The patterns I continue to see in 2018:
1) More adjournments
The reasons range from: not enough information from the LA on their school, LA witness not in attendance to working documents having not been been issued on time.
2) More mistakes
Ranging from, bundles not being sent to judges by SENDIST admin team, wrong versions of the working documents being used and LA’s and overbooking hearing dates (resulting in last minute cancelations)
3) Fewer repercussions for LA
Lenience is given constantly. If you submit a request for change for an LA to be barred, it can take weeks on end for the judges to consider your request. Normally by this time, the LA has submitted their information and the Judge rarely strikes them out.
4) No improvement on ‘child-friendly’ or ‘parent-friendly’ accessibility
Children are not encouraged to be in court. Even in a case where the child is over 16, they are normally discouraged. I would not want to put anyone through the attendance of a tribunal, but why is it not more child friendly? There is hardly ever any prep time for the parents involved in the case, let alone a child/young person with additional needs.
5) Increase in legal representation from the LA
LAs are increasingly spending the SEN budget on getting representation from solicitors. This makes the process feel alien and less accessible for families. It is difficult for a family to have to comprehend speaking and having ongoing discussions with a solicitor when they perhaps do not have one.
6) Two systems that do not talk
We have recently found out that SENDIST is operating two separate online systems for the education (B,F and I) appeals and a separate system for the national trials. Two-day hearings are logged on a completely different system which is causing some confusion up in Darlington, currently.
What I have to say is staff we ring, are as helpful as they possibly can be, but also powerless and obviously not allowed to give advice.
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