When naming a school for Section I is it wise to justify the choice?
I’m reviewing the draft EHCP at the moment and need to name a setting. I want to name a ms independent school which has very small classes.
How much detail should I go into when I tell the local authority that I want this particular school?
I am expecting to be knocked back and have to go to tribunal but should I at least try to explain why?
- 0 Yes
- 0 No
- 1 Other
- 22 Jul 2023
Can't answer yes or no.:
The Noddy Guides glossary defines a private school as: a fee-charging institution, often referred to as an "independent school." It is essential to note that the legal definition of independent schools includes Academy schools, which do not require fees.
For the purpose of this response, I will use the terminology ‘private school’.
Despite the enactment of the Children and Families Act 2014, s9 Education Act 1996 remains relevant when considering placing a child in a private school.
According to s9, local authorities (or the Tribunal, acting on their behalf) must take parental preference into account (or have regard to) while making educational arrangements for a child, ensuring that it does not lead to unreasonable public expenditure for the authority.
When seeking a private school placement under section I, several crucial points should be considered. Accurate cost calculations are of utmost importance, as both parents and the local authority must be clear about each other's placement costs. The private school should provide additional benefits that cater to the child's special educational needs, extending beyond education alone. If the private school's cost exceeds that of the local authority's school, the significance of the additional benefits becomes even more critical. These benefits should be fundamental to ensuring appropriate education for the child. The private school must, at the very least, be suitable for the child's age, ability, aptitude, and special educational needs.
Please note that the above is a concise summary, and for more detailed information, I have included links to The Noddy Guide. A comprehensive understanding of these areas is advised, especially if you are a litigant in person seeking placement at a private school.
I appreciate that above may seem a lot to have to digest but the Noddy Guide does a first class job in making the complicated accessible.
Regarding how much to advocate for your preference under section I, the decision must be yours. Firstly, you will have to justify your choice be it now, during mediation or before a Tribunal - assuming the LA doesn't simply agree to your preference, which I have seen on very few occasions but in these infrequent cases the expert evidence pointed strongly towards the parental preferred placement and the parents didn't have to say much other than to identify the private school.
Considering your abundance of expert evidence and the significance of costs, it might be in your favour to advocate strongly at this stage. Cooperation and establishing a constructive relationship with the local authority are crucial aspects in cases like yours and there is little doubt that, if a relationship built of these factors could be established, it would clearly be helpful to all concerned both now and in the future. As your question make clear it is not unheard of for local authorities to fund placements at private schools.
I very much look forward to reading the contributions of others who may well have more direct experience with such cases.
1 This is helpful