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Education Law Specialist, Alex Line, has recently been involved in an important Upper Tribunal decision concerning families of armed forces personnel who have children with special educational needs.

Alex Line appears in the Upper Tribunal in ‘test case’ concerning armed forces personnel with SEND children

Education Law Specialist, Alex Line, has recently been involved in an important Upper Tribunal decision concerning families of armed forces personnel who have children with special educational needs.

Alex Line recently appeared in the Upper Tribunal in Hampshire County Council v GC & GC [2024] UKUT 128 (AAC), acting for the local authority. This is an important case (described by Upper Tribunal Judge West in his decision as a ‘test case’) concerning a family who moved to Dubai for two years because the father was deployed there as part of his naval service. The local authority ceased to maintain their child’s EHC Plan pursuant to s.45 of the Children and Families Act 2014, on the basis that the family were no longer in its area. There are requirements set out in the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 in relation to consultation before local authorities take such decisions which, in this case, the local authority had not complied with. By the time of the hearing of the appeal to the First-tier Tribunal, the family were still stationed abroad, but were due to return. The Tribunal upheld their appeal on the basis of the local authority’s failure to consult, but also went on to comment that it was possible to ‘pause’ or ‘freeze’ an EHC Plan during the period of absence. The local authority appealed this decision to the Upper Tribunal. The facts of the case are concerned with the context of service families, but the Upper Tribunal’s decision is potentially of wider importance in relation to the issues of:

  1. The extent to which the Tribunal is entitled to take into account, and determine an appeal under s.51 of the 2014 Act, based on procedural omissions made by a local authority before a statutory appeal to the First-tier Tribunal is registered.
  1. The test to apply to the question of whether a child is in the area of a local authority for the purposes of ss.24 and 45(1)(a) of the 2014 Act, which the Upper Tribunal found was an ordinary/habitual residence test.
  1. The approach taken to the duty of a local authority to secure special educational provision found in an EHC Plan pursuant to s.42(2) of the 2014 Act (oft described in the case law as a mandatory and absolute duty) in cases where a child or young person is not physically present in the local authority’s area for a period.

The Upper Tribunal’s decision can be found here.

Find out more

Alex Line specialises in education law and has been ranked in both Chambers and Partners and Legal 500 for several years in relation to this area. His work encompasses the full spectrum of education law, including: special educational needs, admissions, exclusions, safeguarding, discrimination, civil and public law claims concerning schools, colleges and universities. He acts for individuals, local authorities, and education institutions alike. He is also well placed to assist with public law cases affecting these and associated areas.

For further information on Alex, please contact Paul Barton on +44 (0)207 427 4907 or Chris Rowe on +44 (0)207 427 4911 for a confidential discussion.

News 5 Jun, 2024

Authors

Alexander Line

Call: 2009

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