What to do if your child’s SEND School Closes

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August 2023

What to do if your child’s SEND School Closes

Help securing your child’s education in line with their Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP)

Securing a suitable school place with the right provision in place for a child with an EHCP is essential, so it can be particularly difficult if the specialist school that they attend is forced to close down.

This is happening more and more due to funding issues, leaving hundreds of families struggling to find a suitable alternative, in a system where school places are limited.

Simpson Millar’s head of education, Sarah Woosey, is currently supporting the families of Northease Manor School, which is a specialist school in Lewes, East Sussex, which is facing closure over funding issues.

Here, Sarah talks about the challenges facing Northease, and outlines what options are available to the families affected:

“This is a devastating position for families of vulnerable children to be in, and we are very aware that most families have already had to fight to get their children there in the first place by going through the SEND Tribunal appeal process.

“In many cases, the children who attend Northease have an EHCP which specifically names the school as the only suitable educational setting with all of the necessary provision in place to meet their needs.

“Where that is the case, the Local Authority is under a legal obligation to ensure provision is delivered. They also have a duty to ensure that those children have access to suitable, full time, education.

“If Northease ceases to exist, then the local authority is legally obliged to arrange alternative provision.

“Sadly, due to increasing costs Northease is not the first specialist independent school to face closure. This is putting additional pressure on other specialist schools across the country, and many children are struggling to find a place that meets their needs.

"If you have been affected by this situation then feel free to contact Simpson Millar and we will see if our specialist team of education lawyers can assist you.”

  • "Following unsuccessful negotiations with various local authorities over the funding of their students, on Friday 4th August, 2023, Northease Manor School made the difficult decision to send a letter to parents and carers making it clear that there is a real risk of imminent closure if the funding dispute with local authorities is not resolved quickly."

    Sarah Woosey

    Head of Education, Simpson Millar

Questions and Answers

A: You can appeal to the SEND Tribunal to have their Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) updated to include provision specific to their needs. This might also include naming a specific school.

A: The Local Authority is under a legal obligation to ensure provision is delivered. They also have a duty to ensure that those children have access to suitable, full-time, education. Furthermore, there is a duty on local authorities to ensure that there is a sufficient number of school places in their area. The exact way in which a parent can challenge a failure in this respect will be dependent upon the specific facts of their situation but it is not acceptable for a child to be left without education suitable to their needs.

A: If the issues are funding related, it may be possible to take legal action against the local authority as they have a legal duty to provide sufficient funding to ensure that provision can be delivered in their local area. This can be done through a Judicial Review, which is a type of claim which challenges the lawfulness of a decision taken by a public body. However, the courts cannot directly order a school to stay open.

A: The local authority must be able to arrange alternative provision. This is a legal duty, and the school must be within a reasonable travel distance from your home. The statutory guidance includes recommended maximum times for travel depending on the age of your child, but the local authority is also under a duty to provide suitable transport arrangements if the school is not within walking distance. The local authority should arrange an urgent review and discuss available options with you.

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