Education law in the news

July 18th, 2015 by Rachel Kamm

There have been a few interesting education stories in the news recently.

The BBC reports that a Chelsea Mum has won a home-schooling appeal at the Old Bailey. She was convicted last year for failing to comply with a school attendance order for her youngest son, Gabriel. The case was bought by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea but Ms Sotello appealed the conviction and won her case at the Old Bailey.

The Department for Education has published a Command Paper setting out the Government’s response to the Education Select Committee report “Extremism in schools: the Trojan horse affair“. This was covered by the Guardian and the BBC (who reported the views of Birmingham’s Education Commissioner and Ofsted’s chief). The Telegraph reported that the Department would be introducing a national database of school governors in wake of the concerns.

Further to my post about the Education and Adoption Bill, there is more detail from DfE about the intended meaning of a “coasting school”, which would be eligible for intervention:

“Schools eligible for intervention will be those which fall below a new ‘coasting’ level for 3 years.

In 2014 and 2015 that level will be set at 60% of pupils achieving 5 good GCSEs or an above-average proportion of pupils making acceptable progress. From 2016, the level will be set based on Progress 8 – our new accountability measure, which shows how much progress pupils in a particular school make between the end of primary school and their GCSEs.
At primary level, the definition will apply to those schools who have seen fewer than 85% of children achieving an acceptable secondary-ready standard in reading, writing and maths over the course of 3 years, and who have seen insufficient pupil progress.”

In Wales, the Welsh Government has published a draft of its Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill. It has put the draft out to consultation which will run until December 2015.

The Tribunal Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2015 will come into force on 21 August 2015 and make minor amendments to the Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (Health, Education and Social
Care Chamber) Rules 2008. The explanatory note explains that they identify “the correct respondent in claims under Schedule 17 to the Equality Act 2010 (c. 15) for schools of different types. Rule 10 updates the rule relating to circumstances in which a person requires permission to appeal to the Tribunal by adding in reference to regulation 20(3) of the Special Educational Needs and Disability (Detained Persons) Regulations 2015 (S.I. 2015/62)“.

Turning to higher education, the Department for Business Innovation & Skills is consulting on targeting funding for disabled students in Higher Education from 2016/17 onwards. Responses are due by 24 September 2015. The paper says that:

This consultation seeks to gather specific information and evidence on a range of support available through DSAs including accommodation, peripheral computer equipment (such as printers and scanners), consumables (for example paper and ink), and NonMedical Help (NMH) provision (the additional human support needed to enable an individual to access HE, for example library assistants or sign-language interpreters). It seeks views on how HE providers can best meet the legal duties placed upon them, particularly with regard to the areas outlined above, and how DSAs can complement such support. 4. The results of this consultation will help the Government to determine which types of support for disabled students should be supplied to students by DSAs and which should be provided in part or whole by HE providers in accordance with the duties placed upon them by the Equality Act 2010.

Finally, a law student who failed the Bar Professional Training Course has been unsuccessful in his application for judicial review of the General Council of the Bar and the University of Law. He had failed the opinion writing element twice and therefore failed the course. Mr Justice Hickinbottom summarised the grounds of claim as follows:

Ground 1: The Claimant has already in fact shown himself competent in opinion writing, as evidenced in particular by his “Very competent” grade in his Personal Injury option which required the writing of an opinion. The BSB erred in law in not recognising that fact.

Ground 2: If, contrary to the assertion in Ground 1, the Claimant has not already shown himself to be competent in opinion writing, the BSB failed to exercise any discretion to consider exempting him from a part of the BPTC requirements, namely the requirement to re-take the whole course if an individual assessment is failed twice. The BSB has not brought its mind to bear on this matter.

Ground 3: If it had brought its mind to bear on the matter, then the BSB ought to have concluded that this is a case for the exercise of the discretion in favour of the Claimant, who ought to be allowed to re-take the Opinion Writing module alone. In particular, in all of the circumstances, including the Claimant’s own personal circumstances, to require him to re-take the whole BPTC would be disproportionate on the basis that (a) it would breach the common law duty on a public body not to act disproportionately and/or (b) it would be in breach of his rights to private life under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“article 8”).

Ground 4: The BSB failed to give adequate reasons for its decision not to accept that he had in fact sufficiently demonstrated competency in opinion writing, and/or not to modify the requirement to take the entire BPTC again.

All four grounds were dismissed.

Rachel Kamm, 11KBW, @kamm11kbw


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