Understanding the role of a SEN experts

The Department for Education guidance says:

The SEN expert should be a professional with first-hand experience of the assessment and support of SEN, as well as an understanding of the legal requirements on schools in relation to SEN and disability. Examples of suitable individuals might include educational psychologists; specialist SEN teachers; special educational needs coordinators (SENCOs); and behaviour support teachers. Recently retired individuals are not precluded from fulfilling this role, though the local authority/academy trust would need to assure themselves that the individual had a good understanding of current practice and the legal requirements on schools in relation to SEN. (131)

They must be impartial but can be employed by the local authority involved,  provided that they have had no previous involvement with assessment or support of your child.

The SEN expert’s role does not include making an assessment of your child’s special educational needs; their focus will be on whether the school’s policies which relate to SEN, and how they were applied in relation to the exclusion, were lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair.

Where the school does not recognise your child as having SEN, the SEN expert should advise the panel on whether they believe the school acted in a legal, reasonable and procedurally fair way regarding the identification of any SEN that your child may potentially have, and any impact this may have had on the circumstances of the exclusion.

Preparing your case

Send your case,  including any evidence,  in advance of the review panel to allow this to be circulated by the Clerk.

Evidence received too late or on the day may result in an adjournment.

On the day

On the day of the review,  you will be waiting separately to the panel members, and the Clerk will call you through when the panel is ready. The process is  formal,  though the panel will understand that this can be emotional for children and their parents.

The likely structure of the review panel will be:

  • Chair person’s introduction
  • Case for the Governing body(GB)/Head teacher (HT)
  • Questions for the GB/HT
  • Local authority view (only for non-academy schools & may only comment as to whether the decision was conducted fairly)
  • Questions to the local authority
  • Your case including your child’s view
  • Questions to you/your child
  • SEN expert (if attending)
  • Questions for the SEN expert
  • Summing up GB/HT
  • Summing up – you/your child

If you have any questions about the ‘impartiality’ of any review panel member; for example,  if you know they have prior knowledge of your child,  you should highlight this at the start and could seek an adjournment.

The outcome

When considering the governing body’s decision, the Panel should apply the following tests,  which need to be satisfied to quash the decision:

  • Illegality – Did the Head teacher and / or Governing body act outside the scope of their legal powers in taking the decision to exclude?
  • Irrationality – Did the Governing body rely on irrelevant points, fail to take account of all relevant points or make a decision so unreasonable,  that no governing board acting reasonably in such circumstances would have made it?
  • Procedural impropriety – Was the process of exclusion and the Governing body’s consideration so unfair or flawed,  that justice was clearly not done?

The IRP will decide to:

  • uphold the exclusion decision;
  • recommend that the Governing body reconsiders their decision; or
  • quash the decision and direct that the Governing body considers the exclusion again.

The Clerk will write to you explaining the decision made, the reasons for it and, where the decision is to recommend or direct the Governing body to reconsider reinstatement, they must do so within ten school days and notify you of their reconsidered decision without delay.

There is no further appeal. For schools other than academies, if you believe there were procedural flaws in how the review was conducted, you can contact the Local Government Ombudsman.