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I am a solicitor specialising in education and community care law. I am based in Newcastle but advise clients throughout England and Wales.
My caseload varies but I mainly advise on a range of education and social care issues with a particular focus on securing the provision of suitable education and/or services for children with a wide range of special educational needs and/or disabilities.
I have a particular interest in dealing with cases involving those with Autistic Spectrum Disorder.
I represent families in Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal appeals in England (SEND) and Wales (SENTW) and in discrimination claims. I have challenged decisions at the Upper Tier Tribunal and secured a number of high value independent school placements for children with special educational needs, including residential provision.
I regularly advise on a range of special educational needs matters such as:
I am also experienced in advising on judicial review challenges and have successfully challenged local authorities on many issues surrounding education, school transport and social care decisions amongst other issues.
I assist with school admission and exclusion appeals and have dealt with judicial review actions in relation to both of these. I conduct my own advocacy at tribunal hearings and independent appeal panel hearings.
I also act for individuals in Court of Protection cases dealing with disputes surrounding health and welfare decisions.
In addition to my casework, I provide regularly training to charities and other organisations on education and social care law. I support a number of charities assisting those with special needs and disabilities and am a trustee of the North East Special Needs Network; a local charity which supports families with children who have special needs.
The most rewarding aspect of my role is achieving the much needed support and/or provision needed by my clients.
I have assisted in writing articles for a number of publications and have recently started writing for the Education Law Journal.
“Many thanks to your entire team for dealing with me so efficiently and effectively. I am absolutely delighted with the successful outcome and would highly recommend your services." - Saima
“I just wanted to write and thank you for all your help with the appeal. X is in his third week of transport and it is all going well and is a great relief to us.” - Client, March 2016
“There are very clear legal duties on local authorities to provide transport to those who meet specified criteria when they are under the age of 16. Once young people reach the age of 16, the law provides for local authorities to use their discretion to provide suitable school transport where it is needed. In exercising this discretion, authorities should take into account relevant circumstances which would include consideration of a young person’s needs, amongst other factors. If local authorities are not complying with their legal duties in this regard, legal challenges may be brought.
When children are under 16 (and over five), they are eligible for free home to school transport where they attend their nearest suitable school and that school is:
• Beyond two miles (if the child is below eight years) from the family home; or
• Beyond three miles (if the child is between eight and 16 years) from the family home.
“Where a child has special educational needs, a disability or mobility problems which impact on their ability to travel, a local authority must make transport arrangements for all children who cannot reasonably be expected to walk to school regardless of the distance involved. A child’s ability to walk to school can be affected by physical disabilities in addition to other needs such as challenging behaviour or their awareness of danger. Local authorities should consider the full circumstances of the case when making arrangements for school transport.
“At Irwin Mitchell, our team continues to see an increase in enquiries from parents of disabled children and young people who have been negatively affected by cost-cutting measures made by a number of local authorities across England and Wales. It is disappointing to see local authorities continuing to make cuts to services which impact on some of the most vulnerable children and young people.”
“Local authorities have a legal duty to ensure that child of compulsory school age have access to suitable full time education. Some of the situations outlined in this report suggest that this is not happening particularly when those with additional needs are educated in classes which are nearly double the standard size when their individual needs suggest they may actually require a smaller than average class size.
“There are specific rules in place which restrict class sizes for Reception, Years 1 and 2 having more than 30 pupils in a class except in very limited prescribed circumstances. There are not the same safeguards for secondary education.
“The government may need to tackle this issue before it gets worse and ensure that funding is available for schools to teach children in appropriate class sizes. There has been ongoing efforts to increase the number of school places for several years now but this clearly has not resolved the problem and given this is against a background of increasing government cuts to education and other services, there is concern that the situation is not going to get any better.”
“It is disappointing to see that figures have not improved since last year, with a significant number of families still not securing a place for their children at a chosen school. Sometimes parents have important reasons why their child needs to attend a particular school and losing out on a place can have a significant detrimental impact on families.
“It is imperative for families to know that these decisions can be appealed to an Independent Appeal Panel, and even when a school is technically full, places can still be awarded by that panel if the parents are able to present a strong enough case that their child/children will suffer if they are not awarded a place. Parents can also appeal where there is evidence that the school have allocated their spaces incorrectly or not followed their published admissions criteria.
“Parents can obtain further information on appealing and the procedures that should be followed from the School Admissions Appeal Code, which can be found on the Department for Education’s website. Importantly, these rights of appeal apply equally to academies as well as local authority maintained schools.
“Parents should be informed about their right to appeal when they receive their decision letter from the school or local authority. Appeals should be a parent friendly process but specialist legal advice can inevitably assist in ensuring that a strong case is presented and that appropriate points are made.
“It is incredibly worrying that some children are not allocated any school place. It is the duty of the child’s local authority to ensure that a school place is allocated and further legal challenges can be brought separately to the appeal process in situations where this does not happen.”
“The team have never done anything like this before but knowing we were all doing it for such a great cause made every terrifying second of the drop feel worthwhile. We have first-hand experience working with many children and families who are affected by Cerebral Palsy and understand how important the services from charities like Heel and Toe are to them.”
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