Deciding whether to request a SEN expert at the independent review panel

Deciding whether to request a SEN expert at the independent review panel


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 SEND. Families are given the opportunity to request an SEN expert to be present at an independent review panel (IRP), regardless of whether or not their child has identified SEND. 

It would be useful to make the family aware of the following factors:


  • The expert may be able to answer questions the family has and provide some closure to disputes with the school.
  • The experts are free to request.
  • If you have no expert, it may be more difficult to argue that SEN is relevant to your case because the IRP panelists may question why you have not asked for an expert to be present.


  • You won't know whether the expert will be supportive of your arguments before the hearing, so you may find them undermining the points you are trying to rely on.
  • The expert is not guaranteed to have a good understanding of the particular needs of the young person you are supporting, and so their comments may not provide clarity.
  • There are more reliable alternative options that may be available.

Where you are able to get supportive evidence on SEN issues from an alternative source, that will likely result in a stronger challenge. For example, if the young person you are working with has autism and you want to show that the behaviors they were excluded for are linked to their autism, it would be better to get evidence from a clinician or other professional working with them, either in the form of a statement or by asking them to attend the meeting. This is preferable because it means you know what is going to be said in advance, and you have the benefit of an opinion based on a more in-depth and specific knowledge of the young person’s needs.

It will likely be to the family's benefit to exhaust as many of these options as you can before asking for an SEN expert. You can seek your own supportive SEN evidence and consider an SEN expert in three steps:

  1. Review the above lists of factors and provide information to the family you are supporting on their options. See downloads section for a suggested text document. 
  2. Identify any alternative sources of SEN evidence and contact the source to ask them to provide a statement or attend the meeting. See downloads section for a suggested text document. 
  3. If you are requesting an SEN expert to attend a panel, include this request in your application for an IRP which is covered in detail in the next step.


Providing Information to the family on requesting a SEN expert for the IRP

Asking an independent professional to support the argument at the IRP

Next step? 

Once you have requested support from relevant independent professionals or the family has decided whether to request a SEN expert or not, continue to the next step.



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This information is correct at the time of writing, 5th September 2023. The law in this area is subject to change.

Coram Children’s Legal Centre cannot be held responsible if changes to the law outdate this publication. Individuals may print or photocopy information in CCLC publications for their personal use.

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