Statements of Special Educational Needs – The impact of a new ruling


We’ve been interested in a recent legal case which ruled that Local Education Authorities (LEAs) must continue with statements of special educational needs until the young person with SEN reaches their 19th birthday.

The case has raised an issue that has cropped up several times in recent years – when can there be a right of appeal when the local authority wants to stop the statement? These cases have pushed the boundaries and usually found in favour of the young people involved who needed the LEA to continue to secure their ongoing education provision.

So, even if the young person with SEN is over compulsory school age and not registered at a school, if their statement is withdrawn there is the right to appeal.

One of our specialist in this field, acted for a SEN client whose school had closed down and he needed funding for an alternative place at a local college. In another case, Emily acted for a client who was part way through a course and required the LEA to continue the statement.

The upper age limit on statementing has now been clarified: "It does not change the other case law developments that have prevented local authorities from denying responsibility for disabled learners who may still need a statement. So, appeals to SEND can still be made for 16 - 18 year olds not attending school."

This is particularly important at the moment because post 16 and 19 provision generally is in a state of flux. "Following the Apprenticeships Skills Children and Learning Act 2009, more responsibility for post 16 education (and post 19 for learners with learning difficulties) has transferred back to LEAs. Many authorities are pushing school leavers towards local college provision rather than independent specialist placements".

If you do have difficulty gaining SEN funding through all the usual legal channels, in addition to any rights you may have under a statement, you can arrange a non-legal challenge through the Young Person’s Learning Agency to an independent panel. However, this is far more limited in scope and does not provide an equivalent to the SEN Code of Practice.

As experts in Education Law with a strong track record of handling special educational needs cases we would be happy to offer advice and guidance if you would like to take legal action in this specialised area of law.

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