Forgotten children - Education Committee Report
Erin Smart | 25.07.2018
27.07.2017 Erin Smart
With the summer holidays now upon us, parents will be looking for something for their children to do for the 6 weeks ahead. Spare a thought, however, for those parents with no placement for their child/children come September 2017. Usually, these are pupils starting a new phase be that primary school, secondary school or post-16 education.
This can happen for a range of reasons, however, those pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN) come to mind initially. There is a requirement for the Local Authority to provide for children with SEN in order for them to access education and attend a suitable setting. The Local Authority is therefore required to identify a school for the child or young person by a specified deadline (age dependant) to allow opportunity for the parents or young person themselves, to appeal the school named.
Unfortunately, however, this deadline is often missed by the Local Authority, meaning that the parents and young people are left with little time. This can be a very stressful period for the family as they then need to action the following:
consider the school
mediate with the Local Authority
decide whether to appeal this
identify an alternative
lodge an appeal
receive the decision before the summer holidays
Even those parents who are fortunate in receiving a decision within the deadline, are required to consider mediation before lodging an appeal. The appeal process itself takes at least 12 weeks and the decision also take up to 10 days following the Hearing. Furthermore, the Tribunal does not sit during August, this is because of the difficulty in witnesses attending, given the summer holidays. This often means that the child or young person misses the all important transition arrangements, including: visits to the school, open days, subject introductions, summer reading, school uniform buying etc.
Once an appeal is registered, and the deadlines are imposed, the case is still not always plain sailing. If deadlines are missed, or witnesses are not available, the hearing date can be moved, through request and (usually) agreement of the Local Authority and family. Whilst this is not ideal, unfortunately, because of the shortened deadlines, both parties can struggle to gather the information needed within the deadline, specially given the busy time of year for all schools.
When it is necessary to change the Hearing date, the Tribunal are often so busy at this time of year, that any request results in the case being relisted for a date in September. This means that the child or young person in question misses, not just the transition stage of moving schools, but the first few days, or even weeks of term.
In order to avoid this, as far as possible, it is important to seek expert advice and keep the Tribunal updated with any issues in the case that may impact on the deadlines or hearing date.