This blog has been slow to report on three Upper Tribunal cases about the capacity of young people to bring SEN appeals, the need for an EHC Plan, and home-school transport. Anyone would think that there had been some legal and political distractions recently. Read more »
The Isle of Wight Council has announced that it has applied for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court against the Divisional Court’s judgment in the Platt case about term-time holiday prosecutions. The Council explains that it is appealing following a formal request from the Secretary of State for Education, who is funding the appeal and will seek to be joined as an interested party. Read more »
The National College of Teaching & Leadership regulates teachers’ professional conduct on behalf of the Secretary of State. The Teachers’ Disciplinary (England) Regulations 2012 provide for the policing of “Teachers’ Standards”, a document published by SoS, which has a section entitled “Personal and Professional Conduct”. This includes the following:-
“Teachers uphold public trust in the profession and maintain high standards of ethics and behaviour, within and outside school, by: … not undermining fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.” Read more »
The judgment provides further information about the factual background. Mr Platt’s daughter (M) had had two unauthorised absences in the school year in question. First, she had been absent for a week in February when she had been on holiday with Mr Platt’s ex-wife. Secondly, she had been absent for seven school days in April when she went on holiday with Mr Platt (which was the relevant absence). Before that April holiday, her attendance for the school year had been 95% and afterwards it was 90.3%. The local authority’s documents indicated that attendance of 90-95% was satisfactory. Read more »
There is a rare example of a successful challenge to an OFSTED nursery inspection in R ota Old Co-operative Day Nursery Ltd v OFSTED  EWHC 1126, handed down last week, which can be found here.
In September 2013, the nursery received a glowing OFSTED report. Some months later, OFSTED received a complaint about a child at the nursery getting into the road, and it carried out what the nursery said was an investigation into the complaint, and an inspection. OFSTED produced a very critical draft report, with a notice to improve. Some stipulations were held by the judge to be “so vague as to be meaningless” (though those in the field might not think that the one referred to in the judgment is very different from many they will have come across). Further, OFSTED published on its website an “Outcome Summary”, which recorded that the investigation found that children’s safety had been compromised and that the provider had been sent a notice to improve. Read more »
For those, like me, who keep a close eye on the development of the law on religious rights and freedoms, the decision of the First-Tier Tribunal in Beis Aharon Trust v Secretary of State for Education is certainly eye-catching.
Beis Aharon School is an independent Orthodox Jewish school in Hackney. It appealed against a decision of the Secretary of State ordering it to stop admitting new pupils from 23 October 2015 because it was failing to meet a number of the legislative standards applying to all independent schools (religious or not).
The Tribunal upheld the Secretary of State’s order. Read more »
I blogged back in November about the Isle of Wight Council’s pending appeal to the High Court against the magistrates’ decision that Mr Platt had not committed a criminal offence by taking his child out of school for seven days in term-time for a holiday. In that post, I set out the legal framework and commented that it does not fix a particular number of days that count as regular attendance, that presumably whether or not attendance was regular would depend on the pattern of attendance rather than just the number of days ,and that it would be interesting to see whether the Court found that an unauthorised absence of seven consecutive days counts as regular attendance in this case (in the context of the child’s attendance record over a longer period).
The High Court has upheld the magistrates’ decision, finding that the magistrates were entitled to take into account the wider picture of the child’s attendance. There has been extensive media coverage of the decision (e.g. The Times (pay wall), Guardian, BBC and Telegraph) and we will post a link to the judgment once it is available. In the meantime, parents should be cautious about treating this as High Court endorsement of any term-time holiday – each case still will turn on its facts.
11KBW’s Paul Greatorex represented Mr Platt.
The Government has announced today that, whilst it is still committed to every school becoming an academy in the next six years, it will not legislate to require blanket conversion. Instead, it proposes legislating to “trigger conversion of all schools within a local authority in 2 specific circumstances:
- firstly, where it is clear that the local authority can no longer viably support its remaining schools because a critical mass of schools in that area has converted. Under this mechanism a local authority will also be able to request the Department for Education converts all of its remaining schools
- secondly, where the local authority consistently fails to meet a minimum performance threshold across its schools, demonstrating an inability to bring about meaningful school improvement“.
In R ota Ben-dor v University of Southampton  EWHC 953, a judgment handed down earlier this week, the Administrative Court dismissed a challenge that the University had breached s 43 of the Education (No 2) Act 1986 and Arts 10 and 11 of the ECHR in barring a conference entitled “International Law and State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism” unless the organisers paid for the added security arrangements needed to meet assessed risks of disturbance to which the conference might give rise.
S 43 provides:-
43.— Freedom of speech in universities, polytechnics and colleges.
(1) Every individual and body of persons concerned in the government of any establishment to which this section applies shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees of the establishment and for visiting speakers.
Under s 43(3), the University had to have a code for facilitating the exercise of the s 43(1) duty.
Art 10 concerns freedom of expression, and Art 11 freedom of assembly and association. Neither are absolute rights, but the Supreme Court in R ota Lord Carlile of Berriew v SSHD  3 WLR 1404 unsurprisingly said that freedom of expression was an essential foundation of democracy.
The judge dismissed the claim. The University had relied on evidence-based risk assessments, both internal and from the police, which had warned of a real risk of disturbances. It had not barred the conference absolutely. It had followed its s 43(3) code. In short it had acted proportionately in the interference of rights of freedom of speech and assembly.
Peter Oldham QC
The House of Commons Library has published a briefing paper: Every School an Academy: The White Paper Proposals. It’s a useful summary of the legal and policy background to the proposal that every school will be an academy by 2022. There’s also a section on the reactions to the proposal and concerns raised. Read more »