Helping A Child With Autism Secure A Performing Arts Placement
The Law Of… Following Your Dreams
James Betts, Solicitor in Education and Community Care, explains how he recently helped a disabled child with autism secure a dual placement. This included a place at a prestigious theatre and performing arts school.
Spending Two Years Out Of Education
Jack was 10 years old when his family approached James for help. He had been out of school for around two years as he was bullied at the primary school he attended. His mother had been home educating him since he left school.
Jack has a set of complex needs, including autism and ADHD. But, during his time out of school Jack had developed a particular interest in the performing arts. He was a talented performer and his abilities had helped him secure a two-day placement at a prestigious theatre school. He had also managed to get jobs performing on television adverts for well known national companies and stage productions.
His mother had asked the Local Education Authority (LEA) to fund the theatre school place for two days a week alongside an academic placement at a local international school that was willing to offer Jack a three-day programme. But, the LEA refused to do this and instead named an independent special school for Jack (which was primarily for children with dyslexia). Because of this, Jack remained out of formal education as his mother was worried about the impact it could have if Jack was forced to attend a school against his wishes that was not suitable for him.
Getting The Help Of An Education Law Solicitor
Worried about Jack's future, his family contacted James and asked for his support in taking the case to a SEND tribunal.
Experts who had assessed Jack had recommended that engaging with Jack’s interests in the performing arts was likely to be key to the success of his educational placement. Other types of learning experiences in a general classroom where he would be expected to follow a national curriculum of activities would be stressful for him since he would rather pursue a different educational route.
These are special educational needs and they are driven by his autism.
A Successful Outcome
The SEND tribunal agreed with the experts' recommendations and found that allowing Jack to pursue his interest in the performing arts was crucial to making sure that he was motivated to access education.
The tribunal therefore ordered that the Local Authority should fund the placement that Jack's mother was seeking by naming the dual placement in his Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).
James comments on the case:
"This case reiterates that it is so important for local authorities to look at an individual child’s needs in each particular case, as opposed to simply allocating provision based on a particular diagnosis."
"Jack’s needs in this case were unique and meant that an independent special school that may have been suitable for many other children was not appropriate for Jack. His particular skillset and interest in the performing arts were such that he required a vocational programme alongside an academic one and this could only be provided by the provision his mother was seeking."
"The Tribunal recognised this and ordered the split placement requested. Jack and his mother are both delighted and we look forward to seeing Jack on television and the stage in the near future."