Education Law – What is it and how can we help?
The Education Law calendar is always busy with, for example, secondary school admissions decisions on 1 March, primary school admissions decisions on 16 April, GCSE and A-Level results in August. Complaints, safeguarding matters and issues with exclusion feature throughout the year for both mainstream and independent schools. In the case of independent schools, recovery of school fees is often the desired objective. Meanwhile, Higher Education issues such as academic appeals, fee status appeals and allegations of academic misconduct and Fitness to Practice are also being defended throughout the academic year. IBB Law’s Education Law Team deals with cases covering the full breadth of the education career – from nursery disputes right through to disputes over PhDs. Issues relating to students with Special Educational Needs and Disability also span the full breadth of Education Law.
The Courts and Tribunals have been busy with education law cases this year. Within the last year, education law specialists have received important guidance from the SEND Tribunal regarding the specificity of provision contained within a child’s Education, Health and Care Plan. Importantly, a SEND Tribunal’s decision on school placement for a child made on the basis that the child’s health and social care benefits outweighed the additional cost of the placement preferred by the parents (over the placement suggested by the Local Authority) was also very welcome amongst education law practitioners.
That said, we have recently received the Government’s Special Educational Needs and Disabilities and Alternative Provision Improvement Plan which, it is said, aims to “create a sustainable SEND and alternative provision system that is easier for families to navigate”. It appears that, presumably in an effort to save money, the Government suggests improving mainstream provision such that “the needs of most children can be met through high-quality teaching”. This, in turn, causes concern that it will become more difficult for children and young people to access special educational provision and EHCPs.
Meanwhile, in the Higher Education sphere, where pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disability rely on the Equality Act 2010 for support with their needs and protection against discrimination, the County Court has ruled on the hugely emotive case of Natasha Abrahart who, suffering from disability in the form of mental health issues and forced to undertake public speaking within the context of her course, took her own life. The court found that the University had not been negligent but had breached its duty to make reasonable adjustments. The University has confirmed it is seeking permission of the High Court to appeal this decision in their words “to provide transparency to students and their families about how we support them”. Meanwhile, parents of Natasha Abrahart and other students who have sadly committed suicide whilst at university are campaigning for a change in the law.
At IBB Law, we are very alive to the importance and emotive nature of our clients’ cases. Whether it be gaining the right support for a child with SEN, successfully appealing a decision to permanently exclude a pupil or ensuring that a PhD student has received the right level of supervision to achieve their qualification.
We have seen many successes this year in appealing degree classification awards, securing retakes for students who have not faired as well as expected, submitting retrospective applications for Extenuating Circumstances applications for students, as well as settling cases containing elements of disability.