Two SEN Schools Close Suddenly, Leaving Many without Specialist Education
A school and college for pupils with special educational needs (SEN) closed with immediate effect in December 2015, leaving the families of children and adults depending on these services in the lurch. Many face the prospect of losing the specialist support services they rely on, as remaining staff scramble to secure alternative care arrangements.
150 Children and Young People Lose Out
The Royal School for Deaf Children Margate, a non-maintained specialist school and associated Westgate College, a non-maintained specialist college, were both closed with the trusts that run them being placed into administration following financial difficulties. The school and college provided day and residential specialist provision for children and young people who are deaf or have associated communication difficulties. Most of the children and young people have additional educational, emotional, /behavioural, or medical needs.
At the time of the closure there were about 150 children and young people at the school and college. Alternative placements are limited, leaving parents faced with the possibility of having to send their child with SEN to a school they do not consider suitable, or young people attending a college not suitable for their education and training needs.
What Should Happen In These Situations?
The Local Authority is legally obliged to provide suitable full time education to children in its area who are of compulsory school age (5-16). When a child or young person has a Statement of SEN or an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP), the Local Authority must ensure that they provide for the additional needs as set out in the document. If the Local Authority fails to do this, the parent or young person may find legal action is their only option.
What if Alternative Care Can't be Found?
Some children and young people’s special needs are so complex that no truly suitable school or college will be found within the immediate future. If the Local Authority is unable to identify an alternative school or college, immediate interim arrangements, such as home tutoring and or therapeutic support, can and should be made by the Local Authority.
Alternatively, there may be schools or colleges they can attend immediately, on the strict understanding that these are temporary measures pending more suitable long-term placements being secured elsewhere. It is important that Local Authorities work closely with parents and young people to ensure that this unfortunate situation is rectified quickly.
It is feared that some Local Authorities will suggest schools or colleges that, while they have places available could lack the expertise and facilities to deal with some children and young people’s special needs.
Appealing to the SEND Tribunal
The Local Authority should amend the child or young persons Statement of SEN or EHC Plan to reflect the school or college the Local Authority considers suitable. If the parents or young people disagree with this, they will be able to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunal.
An appeal must be received by the SEND Tribunal within 2 months of the Local Authority covering letter sent with the final amended Statement of SEN or amendment notice. If the appeal is against an EHCP, then an appeal must be received by the Tribunal within 2 months of the date of the covering letter, or within 1 month of the date of the mediation certificate, whichever is later.
Seeking Legal Support
Working to get the right education and training for a child or young person with SEN can be an incredibly stressful and confusing experience, especially if you need to take your case to the SEND Tribunal.
Our award winning Education Law specialists at Simpson Millar are on hand to provide any support and assistance you need to ensure your child receives the specialist education and training they are entitled to.
For expert legal advice, do not hesitate to contact us so that we can discuss your options.