SEN admissions obligations on “old” Academies

August 1st, 2011

A judicial review which would have looked at the obligations (if any) on “old-style” (i.e. pre 2010 Act) Academies to admit children with Special Educational Needs has settled.
Prior to the Academies Act 2010, there was no doubt that an Academy, which is, in law, an “independent” school, had no statutory obligation to admit children with Statements naming it in Part 4 as the child’s placement. But the transitional provisions in ss.1 and 15 of the 2010 Act now allow for an argument that, whenever an Academy was established, it now falls under the same admissions obligations as “maintained” schools (even though provision is not expressly made for this in the school’s Funding Agreement) . If this is so, it will be obliged to admit a child if named in Part 4 of that child’s Statement.
Even though a mechanism generally exists in Academies’ Funding Agreements for admissions disputes to be resolved by decision of the Secretary of State, it remains unclear what effect such a decision has in law. This makes the issue above important.
This is not the first time that a challenge raising the issue has been settled since the Act has come into force but it is bound to be decided at some point. A safe bet is that a number of cases will give rise to the issue when Statements are finalised in cases of school transfers (e.g. from primary school to secondary school) by 15 February 2012.

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