Legal Updates

Education Law – Special Educational Needs – Failure to Follow Regulations

In the case of M v Wiltshire County Council and Others [2006], the appellant’s daughter was the subject of a special education needs statement made by the respondent local education authority. The statement named a particular secondary school, and the appellant contested before the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal that a different independent secondary school should have been named.

The appellant provided expert evidence that his daughter needed to be resident at the school in order to provide her with a ‘waking hours’ curriculum to develop her communication and social skills. He argued that her needs could not be met in a regular day education setting.

The tribunal considered whether the named school could provide the daughter with her educational needs without her being a resident at the school. It concluded that the named school could meet her educational needs and that she did not need to take part in a ‘waking hours’ curriculum. Therefore, considering that the independent secondary school was considerably more expensive, the named school was deemed appropriate. The tribunal held that the appellant’s daughter did not need to be a resident of any school for her to receive a suitable education.

The appellant appealed to the High Court.

He argued that the tribunal had not given adequate reasons for their decision in accordance with the requirement under regulation 36(2) of the Special Educational Needs Tribunal Regulations 2001. The appeal was allowed.

The court felt that the expert evidence in favour of a residential placement meant that a thoroughly comprehensive list of reasons should have been provided by the tribunal to validate the decision which was reached. The appellant’s argument was that a residential placement was necessary to improve her communication and social skills. The tribunal had not first made a finding on whether the daughter required a ‘waking hours’ curriculum. This was a key factor in establishing whether or not the named school was appropriate for her. As this was not done, the tribunal’s decision was quashed.

Please contact us for advice on education law at enquiries@rtcoopers.com or visit  http://www.rtcoopers.com/educationlawyersandsolicitors.php 

© RT COOPERS, 2006. This Briefing Note does not provide a comprehensive or complete statement of the law relating to the issues discussed nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight general issues. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to particular circumstances.

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