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

Posted on: 4 mins read
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Shea Kelly

Paralegal, Education and Children's Rights

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We recently 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. Recently, two parents got in touch with us about their 16-year-old son, who was working significantly below age-related expectations due to his Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) diagnosis. He experienced communication and sensory difficulties.

At the time, their son attended a maintained special school, but was due 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. This was also a placement that had been suggested by the Local Authority. The Local Authority issued an Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP), following the phase transfer process.

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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. The young person would have lost access to most of the provision within Section F of his EHCP, as this placement was not equipped to deal with the child’s special educational needs.

Their son had attended specialist schools for many years - there was no evidence to suggest his needs had changed to the extent that he no longer needed this same level of support.

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. The FE college had not met the boy or assessed him.

Unfortunately, this is a common issue. Local Authorities can refrain from sourcing expert reports because they have a lack of resources and time. It’s often easier for Local Authorities to put a child in a placement quickly, without doing the extra work around this, to assess if the placement is truly suitable for the child’s needs. When Local Authorities source expert reports, these reports can often demonstrate that the Local Authority’s preferred placement is not suitable, so this would go against the Local Authority’s wishes. This may be another reason why reports are not sourced.

Whenever the Local Authority issues an amended EHCP, you should be given a right of appeal to the Tribunal against the contents of the plan. This could include the placement that is named on the plan, if young person (depending on their capacity) and/or their parents disagree with it.

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

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How Did We Help the Parents Appeal Against the Local Authority?

We lodged an appeal against the contents of Sections B, F and I of the boy’s EHCP 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?

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.

This was a completely different placement to those originally in dispute and the Local Authority named it very late in proceedings. It nevertheless came as a welcome surprise the family - it was less than a mile from their house and they felt it could offer the provision their son needed. They’d originally been led to believe that this college was not an option because it had no places available.  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. They have said the advice and expertise we provide meant they submitted all the right evidence on behalf of their child.

We 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.

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