Launch Event: The School Inclusion Project

Tuesday 20 July 2021

Stephanie Harrison KC

Michael Etienne

Ollie Persey

Ruba Huleihel

Professor Gus John

Florence Cole

Phil Storey

Michaela Rafferty

Rose Akinsulire

Johnathan Akindutire

Stefan Brown

Date: Tuesday 20 July 2021
Time: 5pm-6.30pm
Venue: Online  
Cost: Free
Areas of Law: Education Law , School Inclusion Project (SIP)

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SIP will be a forum to bring together lawyers, advisers and campaigners with expertise in the field of school exclusions and related issues, to address systemic discrimination in the education system.

SIP aims to:

  • Facilitate referrals for legal representation in school exclusion hearings and related legal proceedings
  • Share knowledge and best practice; and
  • Identify and address systemic issues

This launch event will explain how SIP will work and how anyone interested can get involved. SIP is only open to individuals and organisations that support children who have been excluded and/or discriminated against in school. Any individual who represents schools, local authorities or similar organisations on school exclusion/inclusion issues should not be a member of SIP.

For more information on how to join SIP, please see here.  




Speaker Profiles

Stephanie Harrison QC, Joint Head of Garden Court Chambers (Chair)
Described as a "brilliant advocate", Stephanie is a leading public law practitioner who has appeared at all court levels. Her multi-disciplinary practice spans the breadth of public law and civil liberties. Stephanie's cases include those arising from unlawful detention, national security, official misconduct, abuse of power, child sexual exploitation, equality and discrimination, minority rights, education law and civil rights protest and injunctions.

Stephanie is regularly involved in test case litigation and has been instrumental in winning some of the most important cases within her areas of specialism in recent times. Much of her work is high profile and receives media coverage. She is passionate about upholding and advancing the rights of vulnerable, minority groups and children. Stephanie was appointed as legal counsel to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in 2015 and is head of the Garden Court Public Law team. Stephanie is ranked for Administrative and Public Law, Civil Liberties and Human Rights and Immigration in both the Legal 500 and Chambers UK Bar Guide. Stephanie was shortlisted for Civil Liberties & Human Rights Silk of the Year at Legal 500 UK Awards 2020 and for Human Rights and Public Law Silk of the Year at the Chambers Bar Awards 2019.

Michael Etienne, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers
Michael is a public law and human rights barrister at Garden Court, with a focus on cases involving the State and issues of discrimination. He is an experienced Exclusion advocate, having represented a large number of children and their families in challenges to exclusion decision before independent panels and the First-tier Tribunal (SEND) since 2016. In 2020, he was one of the nominees for Young Pro Bono Barrister of the Year, partly in recognition of his work representing excluded children, working with the Legal Team at Just For Kids Law. 

Michael has extensive experience in challenging decisions to permanently exclude children from school and has a particular concern about the implications of these decisions for the vulnerability of those who face exclusion. He has secured reconsideration and reinstatement of pupils, on a number of occasions. His recent successes include settling a disability discrimination claim for a pupil with complex behavioural needs who was excluded as a result of behaviour during a “meltdown”. It had been alleged that the permanent exclusion was disproportionate within the meaning of s.15 EqA 2010. The claim was settled without any admission of liability.

Ollie Persey, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers
Ollie is a public law barrister. He joined Garden Court Chambers from Public Law Project, where he gained considerable experience of strategic litigation at all domestic levels including the Supreme Court.  He has particular expertise in judicial review claims raising discrimination, education, EU citizens’ rights and retained EU law issues. 

Ollie has a growing education law practice. He frequently appears in the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunal in Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) appeals and disability discrimination claims under the Equality Act 2010. He devised and coordinated Public Law Project’s work supporting education law legal aid providers to secure legal aid for representation in the SEND Tribunal, which led to SEND ECF being granted for the first time. He welcomes instructions in SEND appeals to the Upper Tribunal as well as judicial review claims raising education law issues. 

Ruba Huleihel, Legal Advisor, Harrow Law Centre
Ruba Huleihel is the Young Person’s Advisor at Harrow Law Centre. She advises young people up to age 19, and their families, primarily on education law and community care law. Previously she has volunteered as an advocate for the Communities Empowerment Network (a school exclusion charity) and she speaks at schools about the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict with Solutions Not Sides (an education and conflict-resolution charity). She is an unqualified barrister due to start a criminal pupillage in October 2021. 

Professor Gus John, Chair & Co-Founder, Communities Empowerment Network (CEN)
As well as being one of the co-founders of the Communities Empowerment Network - CEN, Gus is also a writer, education campaigner, consultant, lecturer, and researcher. He has worked extensively in the fields of education policy, management, and international development and as a social analyst he specialises in social audits, change management, policy formulation and review, and programme evaluation and development.

Since the 1960s Gus has been visibly active in issues of education and schooling in Britain's inner cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, and London, and was the first black Director of Education and Leisure Services in Britain. Gus has also worked in several university settings, including as visiting Faculty Professor of Education at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, as an associate professor of education and honorary fellow of the London Centre for Leadership in Learning at the UCL Institute of Education, University of London and is a visiting professor at Coventry University. A respected public speaker and media commentator, Gus works internationally as an executive coach and a management and social investment consultant.

Florence Cole, Education & Community Care Solicitor, Just for Kids Law
Florence joined Just for Kids Law in February 2014, bringing to the team her experience working with young people since the age of 19.  She started out as a mentor with the Dalston Youth Project, mentoring young people who were at risk of exclusion and embarking on a life of crime. She then worked in a youth hostel, managing 12 homeless young people and providing resettlement and floating support, and later worked at Alone in London for five years as an advocacy officer, providing advocacy for homeless young people, those needing immigration advice, and community care. Florence completed her training contract at Streetwise Community Law Centre (a law centre exclusively for young people) in April 2010, with seats mainly in housing and education. In 2011, she moved to Harrow Law Centre as the sole young person’s solicitor, providing education and community care and housing advice. Florence continues to provide education and community care law advice and support to young people at Just for Kids Law.

Maxine Cooper, Education Advocate Volunteer, CEN
In Maxine's role at CEN she aims to empower parents to explore further and challenge issues they are encountering with their children in the education system. Many parents have said that when contacting CEN it was the first time they had been listened to. What Maxine has learnt in this role is that just listening and having empathy goes a long way, often just talking relieves a lot of pressure and can help many parents find their answers.

CEN's caseload predominantly comprises exclusions, both fixed term and permanent, but CEN is increasingly receiving enquires around all aspects of SEN and general unfair practices in schools/academies. Currently, Maxine works full-time in the Fintech world but previously she worked in the legal and local authority sectors. CEN has had to be creative in meeting obligations to parents during the pandemic. Many industries may have had to stop but alas, exclusions, SEN needs and worried parents have not. CEN has ‘found a safe way’ to continue to deliver its much-needed service which is down, in part, to the dedicated CEN volunteers such as Maxine.

Phil Storey, Senior Solicitor, Bailey Wright & Co
Phil has been a solicitor at Bailey Wright & Co since 2002 and has over 20 years experience advising in education law disputes. Phil has extensive experience appearing before the First Tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) and regularly advises parents in relation to disputes about the contents of statements of special educational needs and disability discrimination. Phil also advises parents in relation to admissions to and exclusions from schools as well as advising students about disputes with their universities and complaints to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education. Phil’s knowledge of the law and practical and sensible approach to matters has helped hundreds of parents and their children over the years. Phil also has experience in advising both individual and companies in employment law disputes including drafting documentation, negotiating settlements and representation at the Employment Tribunal.

Michaela Rafferty, Youth Engagement and Campaigns Organiser, Just for Kids Law
Youth work has been a lifelong passion for Michaela. She graduated from the University of Ulster in 2008 with a degree in Community Youth Work. Throughout her 12 years of experience, Michaela has worked on various youth projects in her home city of Belfast with young people outside of education, training and employment on personal development, good relations, peace and reconciliation and citizenship projects. Michaela has also worked overseas on women’s empowerment projects in Tajikistan, youth rights projects in a Palestinian refugee camp in The West Bank of Palestine and in refugee camps across Greece. Michaela is a dedicated activist for Palestinian rights, housing for all, refugees and asylum-seekers rights, access to social welfare and effective mental health provision.

Michaela’s passion for social justice, equality and human rights led her to join Atlantic Fellowship for Social and Economic Equity in 2019. While completing her year's fellowship Michaela also studied a Masters in Inequalities and Social Science at London School of Economics & Political Science with an interest in learning more about the root causes of inequalities and the leverage points to impact change. Following her year in the academic world, Michaela is looking forward to bringing her passion, experience and skills to this role and learning from the young people and her colleagues at Just for Kids Law.

Rose Akinsulire, Campaigner, Just for Kids Law
Rose joined the Just for Kids Law's School Exclusion campaign in 2021. Rose is driven by making a difference that will impact young people of today and future generations. Through her experiences, as harsh as they may have been, she is able to speak for those that won’t or can’t. She hopes by showing strength she will inspire other young people to have the confidence to speak up for themselves when they feel it is needed. Rose cares deeply for those that are extremely marginalised in their community, particularly those from the care system, and she believes that tackling core setbacks one-by-one like school exclusions will slowly but surely create change. Rose campaigns avidly for public views of young people and children to shift towards being more understanding and less judgemental. Outside of campaigning Rose is interested in psychology, problem-solving and all things creative.

Johnathan Akindutire, Campaigner, Just for Kids Law
Johnathan joined the Just for Kids Law's School Exclusion campaign in 2021. Johnathan was motivated to join the campaign as he wants to see students with disabilities or who have come from a place of adversity receive help and mentoring, rather than exclusion. Johnathan wants to see progressive alternatives within disciplinary and behaviour management, rather than exclusions and manage moves. He campaigns for the rights of young children, who have experienced behavioural problems in school, to go against the odds and overcome the limitations imposed upon them in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. Johnathan aspires to become a barrister and has hope that he will be able to impact communities for good and for justice.

Stefan Brown, Campaigner, Just for Kids Law
Stefan joined the Just for Kids Law's School Exclusion campaign in 2021. Stefan hopes to inspire change and help people understand more about the depths of young people's lives. Often a child is written off as 'badly behaved' but nobody makes the effort to understand what that child is going through to make them behave like that. Stefan wants to raise awareness of the issues children and young people face. Stefan, in his role as a campaigner, hopes to support other young people who have been through the care system, the criminal justice system and have been excluded - to improve life for them so they don’t have to endure what he did. Stefan is interested in power structures, understanding how they work and discovering innovative ways to challenge them.

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