Mark Greaves, instructed by Qaisar Sheikh at Coram Children’s Legal Centre, appeared for Mr C (on behalf of AB).
Mr C (on behalf of AB) v X Council concerned an appeal before the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability). AB’s father, Mr C (acting on her behalf due to her lack of capacity), appealed against Sections B, F and I of her Education, Health and Care Plan which was prepared by X Council, the local authority (“LA”). AB is a young person with expressive and receptive language impairments.
The primary area of dispute in this case was the type of educational setting AB required. The LA proposed the post-16 Further Education (“FE”) College she attended at the time of appeal, where she received two days of tuition per week with an additional day at a work placement. However, her father hoped she could attend an independent specialist college where she would receive a “waking day curriculum” for five days per week as part of a residential course. The difference in the cost to the LA for these two placements was significant – £2,000 in top-up funding for AB to attend the FE College compared to £60,000 a year in fees for the specialist college.
AB herself gave evidence at the hearing and the Tribunal panel commented that “it was a pleasure to hear her views”. The Tribunal found that she was “very enthusiastic about everything about [the specialist college]” and “had an understanding that it would mean leaving home and living with other young people”.
The educational psychologists on behalf of both the LA and AB agreed that AB had difficulty retaining information and skills. They also agreed that all aspects of her learning required repetition and “over-learning” to enable her to acquire the skills to live and work independently. However, they disagreed about the amount of time required to provide this “over-learning” curriculum.
The educational psychologist on behalf of the LA considered that AB’s needs could be met by the FE college on the understanding that AB’s father continued the work at home, supported by a social care package. However, the Tribunal forcefully held that “we cannot agree that the onus of over-learning should be placed on [AB]’s father…we are satisfied that the LA must take responsibility for the provision of special educational needs.”
The LA also sought to demonstrate AB’s progress during her time at the FE College by providing evidence of the certificates she had gained each year. However, the Tribunal held that the courses for which she received these certificates “have not enabled her to transfer those taught skills into skills she can use in her day-to-day life.” For example, the Tribunal noted that AB could not prepare any food or wash up independently despite having been on a catering course for a full academic year.
The Tribunal therefore found that the FE college could not meet AB’s special educational needs, whereas it had little hesitation in finding that the specialist college could meet her needs. The Tribunal therefore ordered the specialist college to be named and upheld the appeal.
Mr Qaisar Sheikh, the instructing solicitor, commented, “The Tribunal’s decision was a truly fantastic outcome for AB, and it required a whole team approach from Coram Children’s Legal Centre, Counsel Mark Greaves, the independent Educational Psychologist, AB, her advocate and her dedicated father”.
AB has now begun her placement at the specialist college and her father reports that she is “thriving”.
William Meade (Senior Clerk)