Watkins Solicitors speak at Bristol Autism Support

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Watkins Solicitors speak at Bristol Autism Support

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Watkins Solicitors speak at Bristol Autism Support – dispelling more myths about exclusion and school transport for children and young people with SEN and/or a disability.

Liz Smith and Beverley Watkins gave a talk at a Bristol Autism Support Evening on 21 January 2016. They focussed on issues parents may face in relation to exclusions and school transport for children and young people with SEN and/or a disability.

Beverley began by talking about school transport. Beverley clarified the minimum statutory walking distance before the Local Authority has to provide transport to a child without a statement or EHC Plan. This is two miles for under-eights and three miles for those aged eight and above. This is measured by the nearest available route which the child (accompanied if necessary) may walk with reasonable safety.

The case of R v Hereford and Worcester County Council, ex parte P (1992) held that transport must be non-stressful for a child.

beverley             liz
  Beverley Watkins                    Liz Smith

If a child does have a statement or an EHC Plan then the Local Authority has a statutory duty to provide transport to and from the school named in either Part 4 of a statement or Section I of an EHC Plan.

Local Authorities will sometimes say to parents that “…where pupils under 16 attend, as a result of parental preference, a school other than the nearest appropriate one, parents must accept full responsibility for the cost and daily arrangements of their child’s daily travel to and from school.” This is not binding on parents. The Local Authority has a statutory duty to provide transport to the school named in the statement or EHC Plan and parents should be wary of the Local Authority trying to get out of this duty.

Parents can however negotiate on transport with the Local Authority, if there is a large difference in cost between the parents’ preferred school and the school the Local Authority suggest. Parents are not under an eternal obligation to provide transport for the preferred school. Parents are within their right to say that their circumstances have now changed and so the Local Authority must now provide transport. Local Authorities will be very conscious of saving money so parents can check to see if their child can join an existing transport route to school. This will be unlikely to cost the Local Authority significantly more and the Local Authority may look favourably on it and agree to the parental preference school.

Liz Smith then followed with the issues that can arise from exclusions. There are two types of exclusions: fixed-term and permanent. Only the head teacher of a school can authorise exclusion. An exclusion should be a last resort and has to be lawful, reasonable and fair. If a child is excluded for up to five days the school has a duty to provide work for the child. The Local Authority has a duty to provide school work for a child who is subject to an exclusion that is longer than five days duration.

A school who puts a child onto ‘part-time’ timetables is carrying out an unofficial exclusion.

A large proportion of children who are excluded have Special Educational Needs or a Disability. Schools need to put in place early interventions and assessments to make sure children with SEN do not end up being excluded. Schools have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to ensure sure the correct support is put in place for them so they can access learning at a level suitable to their needs.

A school who excludes a child with SEN or a disability could be subject to a claim for disability discrimination, if they have not put in place any reasonable adjustments for that child.

Lydia Dunford