What will the Expulsions Appeal Tribunal consider?

At the hearing the Expulsions Appeal Tribunal must consider all of the circumstances of the case. In particular the Tribunal will look at the following:

  • Anything presented in writing
  • Anything said by you, your child, your child’s friend or representative
  • Anything said by the Education Authority and any other people involved in the decision to expel your child
  • Whether the school’s procedures for expulsion were properly followed.
  • The interests of other pupils and teachers in the school.

As soon as possible after the hearing, the decision of the Tribunal is sent in writing to you if your child is under 18, or directly to them if they are over 18, as well as whoever expelled them.

Can I appeal a decision of the SENDIST?

If you wish to appeal a decision of the SENDIST, you should seek legal advice as the rules on appealing are complex. Legal advice is available free of charge from the Children’s Law Centre.

There are limited circumstances in which a decision can be challenged. These include an application requesting the Tribunal panel to review their decision. This application must be made in writing within 10 working days of the date the decision was issued. A parent/carer can also appeal to the High Court but only where the Tribunal panel have made an error of law.  

If you are considering taking an appeal against a decision by the SENDIST to the High Court you may be able to apply for legal aid under your child’s name. Legal advice is essential if this course of action is being considered.

Do I have to wait for a SENDIST hearing to resolve the issues?

Parents/carers should try to reach agreement with the Education Authority throughout the time leading up to a hearing and in many cases it is possible to reach agreement after lodgement of the appeal but before a hearing.

Parents/carers may use the Dispute Avoidance and Resolution Service (DARS) at any time to assist in resolving disagreements between parents and schools or the Education Authority in relation to special educational needs. This does not affect the right to appeal to SENDIST.

It is important to note that the time limit for appeal to SENDIST continues to run and the appeal should be lodged with the 2 month time limit, even if negotiations are ongoing to protect the child’s rights in the event that agreement cannot be reached.

Parents/carers may seek free independent legal advice from the Children’s Law Centre to ensure they know their legal rights before negotiating with the Education Authority and particularly once a potential agreement has been proposed.

It is strongly recommended that a SENDIST appeal should not be withdrawn by a parent until the agreement is confirmed in writing by the Education Authority and the parent is satisfied with all aspects of the agreement.

How long does a SENDIST appeal take?

Currently, appeals take approximately 14 weeks from registration of the appeal to hearing of the appeal. It takes a further two to three weeks for the issue of the written decision of the tribunal.

How do I lodge an Appeal with SENDIST?

A booklet entitled “How to Appeal” is available from the SENDIST, where staff can be contacted by telephone on 028 9072 4887 or 028 9072 4847.

The address of the SENDIST is as follows:

Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal
Tribunal Hearing Centre
3rd Floor
Bedford House
16-22 Bedford Street

In order to make an appeal a parent can call the SENDIST and ask to lodge an appeal. The booklet and forms will be sent out by post or e-mail.

The form asks for general contact details, the nature of the appeal and asks that you set out reasons for appeal.

Parents may seek free independent legal advice from the Children’s Law Centre to ensure all relevant reasons for appeal are included.

If you have any questions about the grounds of appeal to the SENDIST or how to draft your Notice of Appeal, contact the Children’s Law Centre on 08088085678 or email: info@childrenslawcentre.org for advice.