2011 06 Education

Friday 1 July 2011

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G (By his litigation friend) v St Gregory’s Catholic Science College Governors [2011] EWHC 1452 (Admin) (Collins J): The school’s refusal to allow an exception to its uniform policy so that a pupil can wear his hair in cornrows on the basis of a long-standing family tradition was held to amount to indirect racial discrimination and could not be justified. What amounts to putting a person at a ‘particular disadvantage’ for the purposes of indirect discrimination under the Race Relations Act 1976 must be based on the facts of the particular case. There is no need to show exceptional importance but more than choice is required. The claim in respect of sex discrimination, however, was not allowed. Permitting girls but not boys to wear cornrows did not equate to treating boys to wear cornrows did not amount to treating boys less favourably. Click here for judgment

EH v Kent County Council[2011] EWCA Civ 709 (Arden LJ, Sullivan LJ and Patten LJ): The courts have been busy with cases relating to what amounts to public expenditure under s9, Education Act 1996. In this case, the dispute was over the placement of a child with special educational needs at a mainstream school as opposed to an independent school, the preference of the grandmother. The First Tier Tribunal held that both schools are suitable. The question of whether a child’s parent’s choice of school would be compatible with the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure was a question of fact for the tribunal to assess. In assessing the issue of costs of the schools, the First Tier Tribunal was entitled as a starting point to consider the local authority’s budgetary arrangements for an individual school together with any additional costs specifically incurred in respect of the child in question, for example therapy, transport costs, 1:1 learning support costs. Click here for judgment

Islington London Borough Council v D [2011] EWHC 990 (Admin) (Sullivan LJ and Owen J): The appellant local authority appealed by way of case stated against a magistrate’s court’s decision to find the respondent parent not guilty of failing to ensure that her child regularly attended secondary school contrary to section 444(1), Education Act 1996. The child in question had only attended 20 out of 88 available sessions over a particular period with no proper reasons provided for the absences. On the evidence, the absences were not due to sickness or any unavoidable cause as provided for under s444(1), EA 96. The parent pleaded that the absences related to longstanding issues dating back to primary school of behavioural, as a result of which the child had behavioural and mental health difficulties that remained unresolved. The magistrates acquitted the parent on the basis that she had done all she could reasonably do to ensure the child’s attention. The child had also been diagnosed with a social phobia and was being treated for his special needs and receiving schooling specific to his needs.

The Court had to consider whether the magistrates were correct in finding that the parent had done all she could to secure her child’s attendance at school in view of the child’s psychological and behavioural difficulties and that those difficulties founded a defence under s444 because they amounted to unavoidance cause.

The Court held that there were two distinct offences under s444 and two distinct defences. It is a defence to say that absences were by reason of sickness or an unavoidable cause. The unavoidable cause had to relate to the child, not to the parent and had to be something in the nature of an emergency. Reasonable justification for non-attendance did not necessarily amount to an unavoidable cause. The facts of the case did not provide a sufficient defence for the purposes of s444(2A).

K v Hillingdon London Borough Council [2011] UKUT 71 (Judge David Pearl): When assessing what amounts to unreasonable public expenditure for the purposes of s9, Education Act 1996, it was appropriate to take account of the wider social and health benefits of the placement rather than merely the educational benefits.

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