What is Education Law?

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What is Education Law?

Parents, pupils and students have rights when it comes to their education, which is something many people don’t know or simply never think about. However, this fact is essential to understand if you are unhappy with the support being offered to you, your child or yourself as a student or where you are unhappy with the way you have been treated by your school, university, or college.

Making sure educational institutions meet their legal obligations to support the needs of parents, pupils and students, and to treat all fairly is what education law is all about. Understanding your educational rights and what you can do to deal with a problem can make a huge difference to a learner’s education and to their future.

Every situation is unique, so it is important to get specialist advice tailored to your circumstances and your needs. However, having a better understanding of learners’ rights and how a specialist education lawyer can help when a problem arises can empower you to challenge a school, college or university when you encounter a problem.

Further and Higher Education

What legal rights do students at universities and colleges have?

Universities are autonomous in law and make their own rules, regulations, procedures, statutes, ordinances and policies. The primary legal relationship between a student and a university is one of public law and contract law. This was established in a case decided by the Court of Appeal in 2000 – Clarke v University of Lincolnshire and Humberside.

In addition, universities must have regard to consumer rights legislation including the Consumer Rights Act 2015 in so far as they must provide educational services with reasonable care and skill.

Students with disabilities are also protected in law and universities must make reasonable adjustments further to the Equality Act 2010.

Schools and Children

What legal rights do parents and pupils have for their education?

Some of the laws covering educational rights are:

The Education Act 1996 – s.19 of the Act places an absolute, non-delegable duty on Local Authorities to provide education to children of compulsory school age.

The Education Act 2002 – Section 175 of the Act sets out the safeguarding duty of state schools and colleges (for independent schools, safeguarding is covered by the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014, while for Special Schools, the relevant legislation is the Non-Maintained Special Schools (England) Regulations 2015).

The Children and Families Act 2014 – This legislation introduced Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) to help get education, health care and social care services working together more effectively to meet young people’s needs.

The Equality Act 2010 – Providing protection from discrimination on the basis of protected characteristics, such as disability, sex, race and sexual orientation.

For independent schools, parents’ and pupils’ educational rights will also be defined by the terms of the contracts that parents sign with the schools.

What sort of educational issues can arise?

There are all sorts of issues parents and pupils can run into with their educational institution. The most common revolve around a school failing to provide sufficient support for a child’s educational needs (especially where a child has an EHCP), bullying, school admissions and exclusions and school complaints.

Common education law issues pupils and their parents may have to deal with include:

  • Concerns over Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs)
  • Fixed term and permanent exclusions
  • Admissions appeals
  • Discrimination
  • Bullying
  • School complaints

 Common education law issues at universities and colleges include:

  • Issues with supervision in PhD situations
  • Fitness to practice
  • Appeals against degree classifications
  • Discrimination
  • Bullying
  • Academic misconduct
  • Plagiarism
  • Academic failure

In general, parents and/or pupils and students should think about making a challenge where it seems like the issues they are facing may have an impact on their educational outcomes, their wellbeing and/or their future prospects.