2012 06 Education

Sunday 1 July 2012

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R (on the application of Lambeth LBC) v Lambeth Independent Appeals Panel (2012) extempore, 23rd March 2012 (John Howell Q.C).: Successful judicial review brought by the Local Authority against a decision of an IAP to allow an appeal against the local authority’s decision not to admit a child to the reception class of a primary school in September 2011. The child’s mother suffered from thyroid problems and was unable to walk long distances. She applied for the child to joint a school a short walk from her home. After the date for school applications had closed, the mother discovered that the primary school of her choice was moving to a location further away. She made a late application for a different primary school but failed to include details of her medical condition. The admissions criteria stated that medication reasons could be a basis for higher priority for admission. Then the priority is determined on the basis of distance between the child’s school and home. The child fell outside the distance criterion for the new school. The local authority had a policy of dealing with late applications only after in-time applications had been dealt with. By then the school of the mother’s choice was full. The mother appealed against the refusal of admission and the panel stated that if the policy was applied correctly, the child would have been admitted on medical grounds. The challenge against the panel’s decision succeeded on grounds that the panel was wrong to find that the child would have been offered a place had the policy been applied properly. The child’s mother had not raised the medical issues so that was not for the local authority to decide on that basis.

A Borough Council v S and Ors [2012] EWCA Civ 346 (Lord Neuberger (MR), Richards LJ, Davis LJ): The Court of Appeal upheld a decision of the First-Tier Tribunal to consider transport costs involved in sending a child with special educational needs to his parents’ preferred school and to conclude that specifying the name of the parents’ preferred school in the statement of special educational needs would not constitute an inefficient use of resources (see s9 Education Act 1996). The local authority had stated to the parents that they would name the preferred school if the parents provided the transport. The Court of Appeal held that this was not a dispute over transport costs and there was no continuing issue as to placement. The Appellate Court found that there was a continuing issue as to placement and that remained so notwithstanding that both schools were assessed by the Tribunal as suitable: see paras 37-39. It was difficult to see a principled basis, as a matter of statutory interpretation, for saying that a dual-worded placement contained in Pt 4 of a statement of the kind used in this case was or was not a matter of educational provision, depending on whether the parents were able to pay the transport costs or otherwise arrange the transport. The Tribunal steps into the shoes of the local authority on appeal to consider whether the parents’ preferred school should be named. The local authority’s policy was to consider efficient use of resources and the Tribunal duly applied that policy.

Other matters:

See Children's Commissioner for England's Report on school exclusions: They Never Give Up on You. It finds most schools work hard to cater for troubled students. However, for the first time on record, schools have admitted illegally excluding children.Click here for the report.

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