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Successful Statement Appeal secures right to residential special school waking day curriculum for client with complex special educational needs

Education lawyers successfully secure change in SEN statement

Posted on 10 September 2012

Alison Millar and her assistant solicitor, Charlotte Skouby, have recently been successful in representing the parents of David Steed in an appeal against Parts 2, 3 and 4 of his Statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN).

David is 17 years old. He has significant developmental delay and autism, and scoliosis of the spine for which he will soon be having corrective surgery. He has very limited language and communication skills and is non-verbal. David’s parents, Jill and Martin Steed, approached Leigh Day in 2011 when things had reached crisis point for David. He had become increasingly difficult to engage in education at his state special school placement and his parents were finding his challenging behaviours increasingly difficult to manage at home.

Jill and Martin were of the view that his school, whilst it is an Ofsted-rated excellent placement for children with SEN, was no longer able to meet David’s very complex needs and that, in fact, he required a more holistic provision where education in the roundest sense could be delivered across the waking day. David’s home care package was fragmented and it was extremely difficult, if not impossible, for his learning to be generalised in any meaningful way outside of the school day. His parents were requesting that significant amendments be made to Parts 2 and 3 of David’s statement to reflect his current level of functioning and to specify and quantify the level of therapy provision he requires to meet his SEN. They were also asking for an independent residential special school, the Dame Hannah Rogers School, to be named in Part 4 of his statement.

The responsible Local Authority, Hertfordshire, strongly resisted the appeal on the basis that David’s school placement was suitable to meet his needs and that the overriding issue in the appeal was his social care, rather than educational needs, which were not a matter for the specialist educational Tribunal to consider. Alison and Charlotte were successful in arguing that David’s social care and educational needs were inextricably linked and that ‘education’ ought to be considered in the widest sense in this case.

Independent expert advice was obtained from an Educational Psychologist, a Speech and Language Therapist and an Occupational Therapist.

The experts instructed were unanimously of the view that the distress that David experienced at making the transition between school and home and the inconsistency in provision that was possible in a home setting meant that any learning that was being achieved during the school day was, effectively, being defeated.

It was a particularly difficult appeal given David’s age (and his remaining limited period of statutory education) and the disparity in cost between the 2 proposed placements (a local maintained day placement and a specialist independent residential placement). The parties were able to agree significant amendments to Parts 2 and 3 of David’s statement and, following two days of hearings, the Tribunal “had no hesitation in concluding that for this young person, with his very extensive and complex difficulties, there is a need for a “waking day” curriculum beyond the usual school day.” They took the view that “in the particular circumstances of this exceptional case…a placement at Dame Hannah Rogers School on a 52 week residential basis is not an unreasonable public expenditure”.

Arrangements have now been made for David to start the new academic year 2012-2013 at Dame Hannah Rogers School and Alison and Charlotte have every confidence that he will now go from strength to strength at a placement which is geared up to meet his very complex needs.

Jill Steed said:

“It is a fantastic school, and the staff are really caring…it is perfect for David”.

Alison Millar, specialist education lawyer, said:

“We are extremely pleased that the Tribunal accepted our arguments that David needed a specialist residential placement to meet his holistic needs which were so challenging for his family to try to manage whilst at home”.