We have the largest team of top ranked Education Law specialists in the UK. Our expert Education Solicitors and SEND Lawyers can help you find the right solutions for your child, so they receive the education and help they need.
We pride ourselves on giving practical advice, based on our years of expertise and experience in all areas of Education Law. And we also extend our expertise to work with other solicitors and alongside Case Managers during or after litigation.
We represent parents and children, not Local Authorities. We’re focused on giving expert help to you so you can navigate the system and get the solutions that your child needs.
If you need help with an education issue, get in touch with one of our specialist Lawyers with more detail and we’ll tell you if we can help.
In addition to special educational needs and EHCPs, we can also help with admissions, exclusions, children out of education, bullying, discrimination, judicial reviews and many different types of disputes with schools.
For legal advice contact our Education Solicitors and SEND Lawyers.
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Our Education Legal Services
Our Education Solicitors and SEND Lawyers can also support you and your child with:
Special Educational Needs
We know that it is often not easy to get your child’s special educational needs met. Local Authorities’ education budgets are squeezed, and schools often seem to have other priorities. We understand the importance of the getting the right provision now, to avoid more problems later.
We can review your situation and give you the Special Educational Needs (SEN) advice that you need to move things forward for your child.
If you need to go further and appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal or take action with a Judicial Review to enforce provision, we can be there for you.
It is not unusual for Local Authorities to refuse to agree the provision required, the school place you want or even to give your child an Education Health and Care Needs Assessment at all. In all of these situations, and more, our Education Law Solicitors can support you to make an EHCP Appeal.
Parents have a right to express a preference for a school of their choice for their child. If your child doesn’t get a place at the school you choose, you have a right to appeal.
Our Education Law Solicitors can give you realistic initial advice on the merits of any school admissions appeal, and help you with your appeal if you need us to.
We also have particular expertise helping parents with in-year admissions, and more strategic advice around challenging the admissions criteria of schools in advance of applications.
We can help you if your child has been excluded, or if they are at risk of exclusion. Early, expert legal advice is often key to stop a bad situation getting worse. Our Education Solicitors have experience challenging exclusions and in exclusion appeals and hearings before the governing body and Independent Review Panel. We have a legal aid contract and can bring Judicial Review proceedings where exclusions or other actions forcing a child out of school are potentially unlawful.
Our Education Law Solicitors also help with the next steps for children who’ve been excluded, and we have significant experience acting for children with SEN who have been excluded from school.
Children Who Are Out of School
Having a child who is out of school, particularly if they aren’t receiving education, is extremely difficult for any parent. Even if a child has been excluded from a school, they should still be receiving education.
Our solicitors can talk you through all possible courses of action, and then help you follow through if needed. We have a legal aid contract so can bring a Judicial Review against either the school or the Local Authority if required.
Disputes with Private Schools
If you have a dispute with a private school, our Solicitors have significant experience of acting for parents and children in the independent school system. We can help if your child is at risk of exclusion or being forced out of school or if your child has been a victim of serious bullying or other unwanted behaviour. Early, expert input usually helps to resolve situations more quickly and avoids them escalating.
If, as a parent of a child with special needs, you can’t look after them at home any more or you want to give them a consistent environment and waking day curriculum, we can help.
Our Education Law Solicitors have lots of experience in making sure that these vulnerable children get the right support and the right environment with a residential placement. Our expertise in Education and Social Care Law means we’re well placed to advance these cases through a Tribunal or, if necessary, Judicial Review.
Education Judicial Review
Our Education Lawyers can help parents challenge unlawful acts (or failures to act) of schools, Local Authorities and other public bodies.
A Judicial Review is an extremely powerful tool to enforce legal obligations in education law, and is often the right tool to use when an urgent problem needs resolving quickly, or a blockage needs to be removed. The threat of legal action when a public body is acting unlawfully often resolves the problem.
Unlike some other education law firms we have a legal aid contract so are in a position to take matters to Court if appropriate if initial correspondence does not work.
Discrimination should not happen in schools, but it often does. It is extremely upsetting for children and their parents. If you believe that your child has been discriminated against, our experienced Solicitors can provide you with pragmatic advice on your options, so you can achieve the right result for your child. A discrimination claim may sometimes be the way forwards, but there may well be other options available. We can help you find the right route to achieve your goals.
For advice and help join our Education Matters Facebook community group here
Funding Your Case
We undertake both private and publicly funded (Legal Aid) work with clients.
Our Education Law Solicitors offer fixed fees for admissions appeals and can discuss packages for Special Educational Needs appeals.
We’ll give you a clear estimate, as we want to be open and transparent about how much legal action may cost.
Where parents aren’t eligible for Legal Aid, it’s often possible to do initial work privately, and if that doesn’t resolve the problem, make a subsequent application for Legal Aid for the child.
Frequently asked questions
- What are Special Educational Needs?
A child or young person has Special Educational Needs (SEN) if they have greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others the same age, or if they have a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of normal educational facilities.
SEN is generally split into four areas. They are:
- Communication and interaction
- Cognition or Learning
- Social, emotional and mental health (SEMH)
- Sensory and/or physical needs
We’ll take a look at each one individually.
Communication and Interaction
This can include difficulties expressing themselves or understanding others. This could be because of difficulties forming particular speech sounds or because of difficulties organising information into grammatical structures.
Children with diagnoses of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often have needs in this area, particularly if they find it difficult to engage in shared conversation or read social cues.
If a child or young person has needs arising solely from speaking English as an additional language (EAL), they do not have SEN. But it can be more difficult to establish whether EAL children are also affected by a learning difficulty. This should be looked at closely if there are any concerns.
Cognition or Learning
This relates to difficulties processing information and includes needs arising from attention deficit disorder (ADHD) or specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia or dyscalculia.
Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH)
Issues such as behavioural regulation are likely to come under this heading, along with any difficulties a child may face as a result of mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. Emotional vulnerabilities, such as attachment disorders will also be SEN if it affects the way a child learns.
Sensory and/or Physical Needs
Difficulties with mobility, coordination and balance, or with handwriting (indicating issues with fine motor skills) will be considered here. Health conditions, if they affect learning or access to normal school facilities are likely to be considered SEN. This area of need also includes children and young people whose learning is affected by particular sensitivities around sight, smell, sounds, or touch.
Is a Diagnosis Needed?
You do not need to have a diagnosis to have Special Educational Needs.
The focus in the SEN Code of Conduct is on needs. Diagnoses can be helpful in illuminating the underlying reasons for particular behaviours or symptoms, can lead to better treatment if it is needed and can bring much needed certainty to the family. But, the Upper Tribunal has made it clear that needs can be assessed without knowing their precise cause.
- What should I do if my child has SEND?
Schools must use their best endeavours to support children with Special Educational Needs. This is known as the ‘best endeavours’ duty.
Parents can also approach the Local Authority directly to ask for an Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment (EHCNA) if they think their child may have SEN.
If the Local Authority agrees to undertake an EHC needs assessment, it may decide to issue an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP). The EHCP should set out the child or young person’s needs, and the provision required to meet them. This can be enforced legally if the school or Local Authority is refusing to provide what is in the Plan.
If your son or daughter has Special Educational Needs or you think they might and they’re are not getting the right support, get legal advice from our Education Solicitors and SEN Lawyers as early as possible.
The process of getting an EHCP is not always straightforward, and can take a long time, particularly if statutory deadlines are not met by the Local Authority.
If your child has SEN, early intervention can help to minimise problems further down the line so take action as soon as possible.
- Will I know whose handling my case?
You’ll be told who’s dealing with your case and who’ll supervise them. Sometimes, it’s more efficient to have more than one person working on a case and you’ll be told if this applies to you.
You can contact all staff through the main office number. If the person dealing with your case isn’t available, a colleague will do whatever they can to assist, or will take a message.
- Will I have to visit your office?
We work for clients from all over England and Wales, communicating with them by phone, e-mail or post. In many education cases, it isn’t necessary for us to meet clients face-to-face.
Clients who wish to meet us are welcome to visit our offices, which are fully accessible for wheelchair users.
- Will I win my case?
In most cases, we’ll only be able to pursue a case under public funding (Legal Aid) if we think you’ve a good chance of winning.
If you’re paying privately, we’ll advise you on what we consider to be your prospects of success so you can decide whether or not to invest money in the case.
We’ll advise all clients as the case develops of any change in the situation.
- Can legal action affect my relationship with a Local Authority or doctor?
While it’s understandable that a client will be concerned that future services or treatment will be harder to get if legal action is threatened or pursued, most public authorities are used to the idea of legal challenges. So the client’s ability to access services isn’t harmed.
Our approach is always to be practical and professional and to settle issues by negotiation if possible, so that relationships are left on a better footing for the future.
We can often negotiate settlements without the need for Court proceedings. If you feel that the threat of legal action is interfering with your access to treatment or services, you can discuss this with us and we can advise you on how to proceed.
- How long will it take?
This will, of course, depend on the type of case.
School exclusions and admissions appeals are generally dealt with in a matter of weeks, though challenges to those appeals can take a number of months or more. Special Educational Needs appeals last approximately five months from start to finish.
Our initial legal advice will usually include an estimate of how long we expect your particular case to take. If you want to clarify, please just ask.
- How much will it cost?
We’ll tell you straight away if you’re going to be liable to pay us for our work. We’ll never charge you without advising you first on what the cost is likely to be and obtaining your agreement that we can proceed.
We run various fixed fee and reduced fee schemes to help clients manage finances.
For legal advice call our Education Solicitors
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Simpson Millar Solicitors are a national law firm with over 500 staff and offices in Bristol, Cardiff, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester.