We Helped a Boy who was Refused Placement at an Independent Special School by the Local Authority

Portrait of Sarah Woosey
Author:
Sarah Woosey
Partner, Education & Community Care Solicitor
Date:
04/02/2022

We were instructed to act on a case involving a 10 year old boy who we’ll refer to as S.

S had been attending an independent special school since 2019. The school provided him with a high level of one-to-one Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) support, along with onsite specialist Occupational Therapy and Speech and Language Therapy.

Before his transition to secondary school, an annual review was held in the summer term of 2021, while S was in year 5. During this meeting it was agreed that because of the intensive therapy S was receiving, he’d made significant progress. As a result, the school no longer felt that S needed the same level of intensive support he’d been receiving.

Although his current placement agreed that S still required support from a specialist placement, they felt they were ‘holding him back’.

S’s mother, Ms H, then started to look for alternative placements. She found another independent special school which provided education for children aged 3-20.

After discussions with the school and a successful taster day, it was agreed that S’s needs could be met within their current year 6 class from September 2021. They’d then be able to continue his education at the school by moving him into their year 7 class from September 2022.

Ms H requested that S’s education be moved to this school. But following a panel meeting, the request to change placement was rejected and instead the Local Authority decided S should remain at his current school until the end of year 6. A suitable special school would then be identified through the usual phase transfer process in February 2022.

Ms H wasn’t given any reason as to why her child should stay in a school that agreed they weren’t able to continue meeting his needs.

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How Simpson Millar Helped

Ms H was understandably disappointed and frustrated by this decision and sought support from Simpson Millar to appeal the Local Authority’s decision. My colleague, Georgia Wake, and I assisted Ms H in bringing an appeal against the contents of Section I of S’s Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) to the Special Educational Need and Disability (SEND) Tribunal.

Although the Local Authority tried to argue they didn’t have sufficient information on Ms H’s proposed school, we provided detailed evidence and submissions to the Tribunal and Local Authority clearly showing that Ms H not only provided them with S’s school’s views that they could no longer meet S’s needs, but also with the offer of a place at her proposed school.

Following a further annual review meeting in November 2021, which Sarah attended with Ms H, it was also agreed that changes were needed in the contents of S’s EHCP. We therefore amended Ms H’s ground for appeal to include amendments to Sections B and F (the special educational needs and provisions sections) of S’s EHCP which were later agreed by the Local Authority.

In preparation for Ms H’s hearing, further pressure was placed on the Local Authority to justify why it didn’t agree to the amendments to S’s EHCP or to the change in placement, when it was clearly felt by all those working with S that his current placement was suitable for him.

No placement for year 7 had been identified either, but the point was made that it was not appropriate to let S stay in a school for a further year simply because his phase transfer was coming up. The situation could, and should, have been resolved at the Local Authority’s earliest opportunity.

Outcome

Prior to the hearing, the Local Authority conceded that the placement identified by Ms H was the only suitable placement to meet S’s needs, both for the remainder of Year 6 and Year 7 meaning that S’s placement for September is already secure, ahead of time.

Ms H is thrilled with this decision and S is excited to start his new school after the February half term.

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