Irwin Mitchell Special Educational Needs Solicitors helped a school avoid a costly legal claim after a pupil’s mother accused the school of discrimination.
The pupil, known as T for legal reasons, was 14 at the time of the claim and had a diagnosis of autism and ADHD. Before T started at the school in September 2015, the Local Authority needed to issue a statement that outlined his special educational needs. The Local Authority failed to do this in time.
When the Local Authority did finally issue the statement, it missed out a lot of information. It didn’t say how much one-on-one time T needed, and what training level staff assigned to him would need.
On 23 September, T physically attacked a member of staff at the school, resulting in exclusion on a fixed term basis. Before this, there were already 12 separate behavioural incidents involving T at his new school.
The school set up a meeting with an educational psychologist to discuss new strategies for dealing with T’s challenging behaviour.
Despite changes made by the school, T continued to assault members of staff and other pupils, and was excluded again on two more occasions. The school arranged an emergency review after the last incident. An educational psychologist, T’s ADHD nurse, his mother, and a special needs representative from the Local Authority attended the meeting.
At this meeting, everyone agreed that the current school was not a good environment for T. They decided that the Local Authority would find a better school for him. In the meantime he would receive private tuition arranged by the current school.
T’s private tuition was for 11 hours a week and would only be a temporary arrangement. The Local Authority was supposed to issue a statement to name an alternative school for T. If they couldn’t find another school, they would create a bespoke package of education for him until they could find one. Unfortunately, the Local Authority failed to do either of these things, and T’s temporary private tuition actually lasted for over six months.
During this time, the school wrote to the Local Authority twice, expressing concern about T’s part-time education which they said wasn’t sustainable. With no movement on the situation, the school found placement for T at a local wellbeing centre. Eventually, the Local Authority also found a private education provider that T could attend. He started both these placements in September 2016.
In December 2018, T’s mother made a claim against the school. She claimed her son was a victim of discrimination because of his disabilities.
The school contacted our public law and education solicitors to help them with the claim. After reviewing the claim, we found that the Local Authority was actually responsible for T’s poor education package, not the school. They were the responsible statutory body for providing T’s education and they did not act until September 2016 – despite persistent queries from the school.
The claim was also out of time. The school was no longer involved in T’s care or education from December 2017. The claim was not started until a year after that, making it invalid.
Education solicitor James Betts said: "The school in this case did everything they could to provide support and education for a challenging pupil. There is real prejudice in the school having to apply its scarce public resources to addressing a claim that was the fault of another body entirely – in this case, the Local Authority who failed to take action until the pupil had already been let down by the system. I am pleased that the claim did not progress any further and that both T and the school have been able to move on from this".
If you work in education and feel you have been let down by a public body, our education lawyers may be able to help. You can find full service information, as well as how to start a claim, on our website.
Or, if you or someone you know lives with Special Educational Needs and needs help challenging a decision, our SEN solicitors can help. Visit our Special Educational Needs page for more information.
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