One mum's fight for the right school placement for her son

One mums fight for the right school placement for her son

After making the decision that I wished to change the school that my son attended, I was then faced with the daunting task of trying to get him placed there.

Seeking advice

I was fortunate enough to be recommended Laxmi Patel of Boyes Turner by a friend and therapist I know and so contacted her for her advice. I had an initial, free of charge telephone conversation with Laxmi, where she explained to me the basic principles that would affect the LA’s decision as to where my son was placed and what my next steps should be.

My son is 14 and has cerebral palsy, he was already in a special school that has a good reputation, but I was not convinced that it was necessarily the right place for him. It caters for a wide range of special needs but is not particularly specialised for meeting the needs of children with significant and profound physical difficulties. The new school that I had been to see had a peer group similar to my son and was clearly set up for dealing with exactly his type of needs including much better access to physio, speech and language therapy and occupational therapy.

Changing his EHCP

I contacted the local authority to request that the named school in my son’s EHC Plan be changed as advised by Laxmi and eventually heard back from them that they were not prepared to do so and that they felt that the current school was meeting his needs. At this point I contacted Laxmi again to begin the appeal process.

Appealing the local authority decision

The first stage in the process was to lodge the appeal and instruct the experts. Laxmi was kind enough to let me do what of this process I could myself in order to keep costs down, but she provided me with all the necessary paperwork to lodge the appeal including the grounds of appeal document which was excellently put together.

Following this the various experts came to see my son in his current school as well as visiting the proposed school. At this stage I was still very unsure as to whether we had a case or not and this was quite a stressful time for me as it felt like we were spending a considerable amount of money without knowing what the verdict would be. I told myself that regardless of what happened and whether or not we got our son into the new school, it would still be useful to have a clearer understanding of his needs and that getting the EHC plan watertight would mean that we could then ensure that he received the necessary provision regardless of which school he was in.

It was extremely reassuring however, when the initial feedback I had from the experts was that my feelings that my chose of school would be a much better placement for my son was actually correct and that it would be much better placed to meet his needs. I was particularly grateful to the educational psychologist and the speech and language therapist, who took the time and effort to visit me directly after their visits and discuss their findings. This was helpful and enlightening and gave me an early indication that the time and expense of going through this process was going to be worthwhile.

We received our expert reports and forwarded them on to the court by the given date. By the time I had received all the reports, our case was looking very strong and I was beginning to hope that we may be successful. I had agreed with Laxmi that I would give the LA a couple of days to digest the reports and then call them to see if they wanted to reconsider their decision in light of our expert evidence. I did this and to my delight they confirmed that they were indeed minded to change the named school but initially asked whether we could leave the rest of the EHC Plan as it was. After a further telephone conversation with Laxmi we decided that we would not agree to this and she advised on a way forward. Eventually the LA agreed to the changes to the plan in full as well as the naming of the new school and we did not need to go to tribunal which was a relief.

Why getting experts involved helps

Throughout the process, I have found Laxmi and all her team very pleasant to deal with, extremely competent and professional and I would thoroughly recommend them. When my son had his first EHC plan drafted several years ago, I found the whole process daunting and was never happy with the final plan. Compared to the plan he has now, it was clearly lacking any depth or detail. In hindsight and if at all financially possible, I think that going to the effort of getting expert reports and getting the plan watertight, has to be a good idea and would help with any parent’s understanding of their child’s needs and what provision they are entitled to.

From first visiting the new school in October last year, the whole process took roughly nine months. My son has just started at his new school and seems to be settling in well. In hindsight I’m very glad that I went to the effort to change school and despite the cost, I’m convinced it will be worth it. He now has a peer group similar to himself and it’s my belief that he will be given every opportunity to achieve to the best of his abilities and will be well supported there. I’m extremely grateful to Laxmi, Cleo and Rachel for all their help and support and would not hesitate to recommend Boyes Turner.

I am so happy at the outcome, I don't think we would have had such a comprehensive service from any other law firm, and you took the worry away...I do not regret a single second of the whole process, apart from the bit before you got involved. 

James' mother, Boyes Turner client

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