Our client was the parent of a 12 year old child who had a Statement of Special Educational Needs (‘the Statement’) that named a maintained secondary school in Part 4; the child had attended the school since starting in Year 7 and had continued to receive a high level of sanctions for his behaviour. His mental health deteriorated to the extent that he began to self-harm and created an imaginary friend at school. Our client appealed to the First-Tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) (‘the Tribunal’) against parts 2, 3 and 4 of the Statement (‘the appeal’) seeking to ensure a greater level of specificity in relation to his son’s Special Educational Needs and the provision required to meet those needs. Our client was also extremely concerned about his son’s mental and physical health, noting that his son was assessed as clinically obese and was seemingly finding succour in overeating, he also suffered from high blood pressure. Our client wanted to secure a place for his son at an independent special school.
Our client had previously had cause to appeal to the Tribunal against the Local Authority’s decision not to carry out a Statutory Assessment. In its decision, at the conclusion of that appeal, in respect of which the Tribunal ruled in our client’s favour, the Tribunal indicated that the child should be assessed by a Clinical Psychologist as part of the Statutory Assessment process. For inexplicable reasons the Local Authority failed to take this step when carrying out the Statutory Assessment and our client commissioned an independent Clinical Psychology report within the appeal. This was particularly important in relation to exploring the child’s diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome and its relationship to how he presented in the educational setting, noting that he was at risk of permanent exclusion.
An emergency review was convened at the School, at our client’s request, due to concerns that his son was not coping at school and was not receiving adequate support. The Local Authority agreed to increase the number of hours of support that he would receive from a Learning Support Assistant but this did not take away from the fundamental inadequacy of the mainstream environment for this child; noting also that there had, by this stage, been no programme of support devised by either a Speech and Language Therapist or by an Occupational Therapist. As part of the appeal process independent experts carried out assessments and prepared reports; as well as the Clinical Psychologist these included a Child Psychiatrist; Educational Psychologist and Speech and Language and Occupational Therapists. The Local Authority failed to enter into negotiations and chose not to call any witnesses at the final hearing. Helpfully, the Local Authority Autism outreach service confirmed that it had identified that the mainstream environment was unsuitable and the school itself had identified that it was unable to meet the child’s needs. The Tribunal decision recognised the importance of the child continuing his education within a specialist environment and named the parental school of choice in Part 4 of the Statement, leaving our client confident in the knowledge that his son will receive an education that can meet his Special Educational Needs.
Led by: Anita Chopra
Supported by: Nicole Henham