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Case Study: Parents Appeal Son’s EHCP to Achieve Place in Post-16 Specialist School

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Sarah Woosey

Interim Head of Education Law

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We helped two parents achieve a place in an Independent Specialist School for their 16-year-old son with autism. We helped them lodge an appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunal. Read on to see how the parents used their right to appeal to the Tribunal over their son’s Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), and worked with us to get the best outcome for their son.

We help many families each year with disputes that arise around their child’s transitions between schools – this is known as a phase transfer. In this case, parents got in touch with us about their 16-year-old son, who was working significantly below age-related expectations due to his Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis.

ASC is a lifelong developmental disability which affects adults and children of any age. It specifically affects how they communicate and interact with the world, and specifically in this case the child suffered with communication and sensory difficulties. According to the National Autistic Society, more than one in 100 people are on the spectrum, and 700,000 individuals are in the UK with ASC. Though there is a common ground where by Autism is widely recognised, there are still issues in schools and the environments, due to the difficulties that providers have.

At the time of our client reaching out, their son was attending a maintained special school, but it was about the time that he was needing to transition to the next phase of education.

Both the boy and his parents believed that an independent special school (approved under Section 41 of the Children and Families Act 2014) would be the most suitable placement to meet the boy’s special educational needs. This was because of the level of support and therapies that the placement offered. The Local Authority issued the boy’s Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP), after this phase transfer process began, and everything seemed to be going the way that the family were hoping.

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What Was the Problem with the Boy’s EHCP?

Despite the Local Authority suggesting the parents' preferred school initially, they then inexplicably named a general Further Education college that the young person was to attend from September 2022. Further education (FE) includes any study after secondary education and before higher education (university), such as A-levels.

If he were to attend, the young boy would lose access to most of the provisions set out in Section F of his EHCP, as the placement was not equipped to deal with the child’s special educational needs. Section F is specifically there for you to describe the special education provisions that your child will need, so it is crucial that it is adhered to when the Local Authority consider their case. It should detail what kind of provision they’ll need, as well as who will deliver it, and for how long – but the offered college was unable to cater to his requirements.

The boy had attended specialist schools for numerous years, and there was no evidence to suggest that any of his needs had changed, or why the LA would alter their decision. He would still need the same level of support that he has always had, so he would be severely missing out on an education suited to him.

The Responsibility of your Local Authority

The Local Authority did not obtain any information from an Educational Psychologist or any other expert to advise them on the suitability of placements for the boy. Along with this, the further education college had not met the boy or assessed him; so, wouldn’t have the right assessment on his needs either way.

In this case, the boy’s parents decided to appeal, once they got in touch with us for advice.

How Simpson Millar Helped Appeal Against the Local Authority

When the parents reached out to us, we knew that an appeal would be necessary. We scaled the contents of the child’s EHCP, and noticed that they had not considered the information in Sections B, F and I, From there, we lodged an appeal against those to the SEND Tribunal.

We argued that the Local Authority had failed to correctly apply Section 39 of the Children and Families Act 2014, in naming a general Further Educational college in Section I of the EHCP.

After continued collaboration with the Local Authority, a specialist post-16 school placement was named in Section I of the EHCP.

What Was the Outcome for the Boy?

After negotiations, a specialist post-16 school placement was named in Section I of the boy’s EHCP – which was a huge success for the boy and his parents. Some of the facilities at this placement included a hydrotherapy pool, playground, soft play areas, a games area and gardens; which he needed.

This was a completely different placement and the Local Authority named it very late in proceedings. It nevertheless came as a welcome surprise to the family, as those facilities weren’t just brilliant, but it was less than a mile from their home. The parents knew that this college would offer their son the provisions he needed, and they were over the moon with the decision by the Local Authority.

Originally, they were led to believe that this college could never be an option, as it had no apparent spaces left. Of course, the family were delighted with the outcome and the boy was able to start college immediately.

How We Can Help You Appeal Your Child’s EHCP Decision

If you’re unhappy with the school that has been named for your child with SEND, or you’re experiencing difficulties with your child’s phase transfer, get in touch with our Education Law Solicitors. We have extensive knowledge in this area, and we’ll be on your side throughout to get the best outcome for your child.

Many of the families we speak to, like the parents in this article, have said there was a huge advantage to getting our specific advice on appeals; and it gave them the confidence to fight for what their child deserved. They have said the advice and expertise we provided meant that they submitted all the right evidence on behalf of their child; which gave them the best result possible.

We also helped another parent this year make amends to her daughter’s EHCP, and she got the full support and funding she was entitled to. She said she was “confident that the Local Authority would not have agreed” to her wishes around her child’s school without the help of our lawyers, and has agreed to use us again for advice on her other child’s EHCP.

Our Education Law team know the appeals process inside out and have experience of what the SEND Tribunal needs to see, to understand that your child needs more support for their education.

We will make sure the case you put forward is as strong as it can be – so reach out to us on0808 239 9764, and we will work to meet your needs and do everything in the best interest of your child.

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (Publication date not specified). "Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) - Facts." Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html.

UK Government. (1996). "Education Act 1996." Available at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1996/56/contents.

UK Government. (2014). "Children and Families Act 2014, Section 41." Available at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2014/6/section/41/enacted.

Simpson Millar LLP. (Publication date not specified). "What to do if the phase transfer EHCP isn't received in time." Available at: https://www.simpsonmillar.co.uk/education-law-solicitors/what-to-do-if-the-phase-transfer-ehcp-isnt-received-in-time/.

Simpson Millar LLP. (Publication date not specified). "EHCP Section by Section Explained." Available at: https://www.simpsonmillar.co.uk/media/education-law/ehcp-section-by-section-explained/.

Explore Education Statistics. (Publication date not specified). "Education, health and care plans (EHCP)." Available at: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/education-health-and-care-plans.

UK Government. (2014). "Children and Families Act 2014, Section 39." Available at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2014/6/section/39/enacted.

Sarah Woosey Profile Picture

Sarah Woosey

Interim Head of Education Law

Areas of Expertise:
Education Law

Sarah re-joined Simpson Millar in 2018 having previously trained at the firm before spending a number of years working for a different national firm. She has a number of years’ experience in a range of Education Law and Social Care issues and has focused particularly on getting suitable education and/or services for children and young adults with a wide range of Special Educational Needs and/or disabilities.

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