Education Law

Education law governs the legal relationship between pupils or parents and the education authority’s statutory responsibility to meet a pupil’s educational needs.

Education law also governs the legal relationship between students and higher education institutions and universities.

Examples of areas where parents and pupils may require legal advice include:

  • Special Educational Needs Tribunal.
  • School admissions
  • School exclusions
  • School transport
  • Complaints to Ofsted
  • Complaints to the governing body
  • Complaints to the Secretary of State
  • University complaints
  • Complaints to the office of the independent adjudicator.

If you think that the Education Department or the Secretary of State has made an unreasonable or irrational decision about the education of your child in relation to the provision of education to meet your child’s educational needs then GT Stewart’s Education Solicitors can help.

What we have done for others

Our solicitors have successfully acted for pupils and parents in school admissions, school exclusions and in judicial review cases.

  • We have successfully appealed school admission decisions
  • We have successfully overturned school exclusion decisions
  • We have secured provision for pupils with special educational needs
  • We have successfully represented parents at the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal
  • We have successfully taken university complaints through the complaints procedure or taken the complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator
  • We have successfully issued judicial review proceedings against the Office of the Independent Adjudicator

Bullying may include the following types of behaviour – Name calling and teasing, taunting, mocking, making offensive comments, malicious gossip, stealing from the victim, physical violence, making threats, coercion and isolation from group activities.

The Department for Education considers bullying to be conduct which is deliberately hurtful, repeated over a period of time and difficult for victims to defend themselves against.

Head Teachers are under a requirement to have an up to date Anti Bullying Policy in place. Schools and local education authorities have a legal duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children which requires two types of arrangements to be made:

  • To take all reasonable measures to ensure that risk of harm to children’s welfare is minimised and…
  • To take all appropriate action to address concerns about the welfare of a child or children working to agreed policies and procedures in full partnership with other local agencies. This also encompasses issues including pupil health, safety and bullying.

What to do

If your child is being bullied you should approach the school to tell them about the situation and find out what they are doing or planning to do about the problem.

First approach the teacher concerned. If you feel you cannot talk to the teacher or the teacher does not take your complaint seriously there may be other support staff you can talk to.

Secondly, talk to the Head Teacher and explain that you have already raised your concerns with the head teacher.

If the Head Teacher does not resolve your complaint or you feel the action taken is insufficient you may need to take matters further by making a formal complaint.

There is a legal requirement for schools to have a written complaints policy. Before making your complaint you should ask to see a copy of your child’s education record. You can do this in writing by writing to the teacher and stating you are making the request formally.

There is a legal requirement for schools to have a written complaints policy. Before making your complaint you should ask to see a copy of your child’s education record. You can do this in writing by writing to the teacher and stating you are making the request formally.

Often schools have their own procedures for managing complaints and the governors will appoint a sub-committee of between 3 – 5 governors to hear the complaint at a Panel Hearing and decide what action should be taken. Normally parents would be allowed to attend and present evidence to the sub- committees.

Governing bodies often allow solicitors to make these representations on behalf of parents. Some governing bodies may make a decision on paper submissions alone.

GT Stewart Solicitors can help prepare any written representations and also present parent’s cases at a Panel Hearing. We can advise on process and procedure, and help parents negotiate an action plan with schools in order to combat bullying.

We can also advise if there are any related Equality Act 2010 issues that may be in play if your child has a protected characteristic as well as advising upon the local authority’s duty to safeguard children generally under the Children Act 1989.

For initial advice or to arrange a meeting with one of our solicitors, please contact us on 020 8299 6000.

Parents of children transferring from nursery or kindergarten to reception; or from Year 6 to secondary school in September of every year will submit an application for a school place in January of the same year. In this application parents list their preferred schools and eagerly await the outcome.

Local authorities start sending decisions regarding the allocation of school places from March of each year and can make offers until the last day of the summer term. If you are disappointed with the application outcome there is an appeals process.

Parents will need to consider the school they want to appeal to and compare it with the school that has been offered.

There are useful websites set up for the Department of Education which gives up to date information on every educational establishment within England and Wales. It is useful to find information on the schools that are being compared from these websites.

The Admission Appeal Process

Admission appeals are heard by a panel of 3 or 5 people. The panel of 3 will be made up of at least 1 lay member who has no experience in the management of a school or the provision of education and 1 member who has experience of education. Panel members cannot belong to the school’s maintaining education authority and cannot be people who have been involved with a decision making process. The Panel hearing is clerked to ensure the smooth running of an appeal. The appeal is a two stage process.

1. The Panel will look at the school’s Admission Criteria and check whether they are in fact lawful and comply with the Admissions Code of Practice. The school will make its case to show that to admit one more child above their published admission number will cause prejudice to the efficient education of other children or the efficient use of resources within the school.

2. If the school is able to make its case in Part 1, all is not lost as the hearing moves on to stage 2. This is when the Panel will carry out the balancing act and decide whether the school’s prejudice outweighs the parent and the pupil’s own personal reasons for appealing.

Lodging your Appeal and Case Statement

We can help you fill in your appeal form and also draft your case statement. We can help you work through the points to consider which can include factors such as:

  • Distance and catchment area
  • Single sex schools, if you are appealing for a single sex school
  • Faith schools, with their own admissions criteria
  • Medical reasons, where applicable
  • School’s strengths
  • Pupil’s strengths
  • We can compare the schools in a meaningful and objective manner. We can also look at:
    • Exam performance
    • Family trauma, where applicable
    • Bullying, where applicable
    • Child Care Issues, where applicable
    • Friends and Social Circles

We can advise you on how to collect and prepare evidence in relation to any of the above factors which are relevant.

Crucially, we can also look at the school’s prejudice case. By picking holes in the school’s prejudice case you can improve your case enormously and stand out from other appeals.

What else can we do to help

  • We can talk through your case and advise you on the best angles to focus on.
  • We can review any documents and advise you on evidence.
  • We can draft your appeal and submit it.
  • We can prepare angles of attack on the school’s case and improve your chances of winning.
  • We can meet with you and coach you before the big day.
  • We can represent you in the hearing and assist you with your presentation and to act as a watchdog to ensure your legal rights are protected.

For initial advice or to arrange a meeting with one of our solicitors, please contact us on 020 8299 6000.

Local authorities do not always follow the law when making decisions about children with special educational needs. When they do get it wrong, we are here to provide expert advice to parents and to challenge such decisions by appealing to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SEND) on your behalf.

Disabilities requiring special education

Should your child be born with a disability, it is highly likely that they will require special educational arrangements to assist with their education. Such disabilities include:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Down’s Syndrome
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Dyslexia/Dyspraxia
  • Sensory processing disorder
  • Speech and language difficulties

Choosing the right school

Choosing a school to meet your child’s needs can be difficult, especially when the local authority turns you down. It can also be difficult to ensure that the local authority provides the right help for your child in school.

We understand how stressful and upsetting it can be when local authorities make poor decisions about your child and what they need in school in order to learn and progress.

Managing your appeal

You may wish to contact your local authority in the first instance to see if you can resolve any issues without the need for legal action.

We would not advise parents to attempt to lodge an appeal on their own without any legal help. There is only one chance to appeal, and in order for your case to have the best chance of success we strongly recommend you seek specialist legal advice.

You may wish to visit the SEND website for more information.

If you are unsure whether you have sufficient grounds to lodge an appeal, we would be pleased to look at your documentation and advise you.

If you have a child with special educational needs and wish to make an appeal to a SEND tribunal, our Education Lawyers can provide you with quality advice to achieve the best possible outcome.

For initial advice or to arrange a meeting with one of our solicitors, please contact us on 020 8299 6000.

Important things to consider

Our Education Law solicitors can offer expert advice and prepare your appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SEND). We have established links with the following experts who we can instruct on your behalf to provide independent reports about your child:

  • Educational psychologists
  • Clinical psychologists
  • Speech and language therapists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Physiotherapists

We also draft key documents, including the ’working document’, instruct expert barristers when required and, where possible, negotiate with the local authority to settle the appeal on favourable terms for your child, saving you the stress of having to attend an appeal hearing.

We will also ensure that the local authority carries out the decision of the tribunal fully and within the stipulated time-frame.

Every school has a behaviour policy, which lists the rules of conduct for pupils before and after school as well as during the school day. The policy should also say what the school does to prevent bullying. You can ask the school for a copy of the policy document.

Punishments

Schools can punish pupils if they behave badly. Examples of punishments include:

  • A telling-off
  • A letter home
  • Removal from a class or group
  • Confiscating something inappropriate for school
  • Detention

The punishment should ‘fit the crime’ and should not be disproportionate.

Detention

Schools don’t have to give parents notice of after-school detentions or tell them why a detention has been given

Physical contact by school staff

School staff can use reasonable force to control and restrain pupils. This could include leading a pupil by the arm into a classroom.

Complaining about a punishment

If you disagree with the way your child’s been punished, first talk to the head teacher. If you’re not satisfied, ask for a copy of the complaints procedure and complain in accordance with the procedure.

Exclusions

Headteachers can exclude your child if they misbehave and breach the behaviour policy.

What happens when your child is excluded

Your child’s school should let parents know about exclusion as soon as possible and follow up with a letter including information about how long your child is excluded for and why. You should also be told how to challenge the exclusion.

Exclusions can start the same day but the school can’t make you collect your child straight away. For the first 5 school days of exclusion, it’s the parent’s responsibility to make sure your child isn’t in a public place during normal school hours unless there is a good reason.

Types of Exclusion

There are 2 kinds of exclusion:

  • Fixed period exclusion (of up to 5 days)
  • Permanent exclusion

Fixed period exclusion

A fixed period exclusion is where your child is temporarily removed from school. They can only be removed for up to 45 school days in one school year.

If a child has been excluded for a fixed period, schools should set and mark work for the first 5 school days. If the exclusion is longer than 5 school days, the school must arrange full-time education from the sixth school day, normally in a pupil referral unit.

Alternative Education and Exclusion

The school must tell you about any alternative education they or the local council arrange. It’s your responsibility to make sure your child attends. Contact the school for fixed period exclusions or the local council for permanent exclusions if they haven’t arranged anything after 5 days, or if you have a complaint about the education.

Challenging an Exclusion

You can challenge fixed period exclusions if a pupil has been excluded for more than 5 school days in a term or exclusion will mean they will miss a public exam or national curriculum test.

For exclusions of 5 school days or less, parents can ask the governing body to consider their views.

You can challenge permanent exclusion with the governing body. If the governors agree with the head teacher’s decision to exclude, you can appeal to the local authority and ask the local authority to convene a review panel or you can appeal to the Academy Trust if the school is an academy.

What we can do for you

We can advise you on how to challenge a permanent exclusion at a review panel, prepare the submissions and make oral representations at the review panel hearing.

We can also advise you the regarding legality of the review panel’s decision. We can advise you about bringing judicial review proceedings on public law grounds if such grounds exist.

We can advise you about Equality Act 2010, if your child has a protected characteristic and if you suspect that there has been discrimination on the part of the school or governing body.

For initial advice or to arrange a meeting with one of our solicitors, please contact us on 020 8299 6000.

In April 2013 the Government removed Legal Aid for face to face advice and assistance in education law matters. You can still receive telephone advice about special educational needs cases through the CLA advice line:

Telephone: 0345 345 4 345 Minicom: 0345 609 6677

Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm and Saturday, 9am to 12:30pm

You can instruct GT Stewart Solicitors on a private basis for face to face legal advice from a qualified solicitor.

Our hourly rates start at £150 per hour plus VAT and we can offer fixed fee consultations and cap your legal fees in some types of cases.

For initial advice or to arrange a meeting with one of our solicitors, please contact us on 020 8299 6000.