Potential barriers to the new child’s right to appeal to Special Educational Needs and Disability tribunals in Northern Ireland
The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 has changed the legal landscape for those seeking to utilise the Special Educational Needs Tribunal in the event of a dispute regarding special educational provision. The new Act provides children over compulsory school age with the right to request a statutory assessment and the right to appeal to the tribunal against certain decisions of the Education Authority. While these new participative rights are reflective of international obligations emanating from the UNCRC and the UNCRPD, recent research has highlighted a number of procedural and attitudinal barriers which may dilute the effectiveness of the legislation in guaranteeing a child’s right to participate at the tribunal. This paper uses new empirical data from key stakeholders in the process to discuss these potential barriers and asserts that implanting a child’s right to appeal into a process with preexisting participative barriers will do little to ensure meaningful child participation at SEN tribunals.