Statements – 19 year olds are not children

November 28th, 2011

The Court of Appeal has confirmed that a person who reaches the age of 19 is no longer a child for the purposes of Part IV of the Education Act 1996 and so statements lapse automatically when a child reaches the age of 19: Essex CC v Williams [2011] EWCA Civ 1315.

Readers who have been following the various decisions on this topic will recall that the definition of a child for this purpose “includes any person who has not attained the age of 19 and is a registered pupil at a school” (section 312, Education Act 1996). There are two limbs to this definition.

The Court of Appeal considered the scope of the definition in R (Hill) v Bedfordshire CC [2008] EWCA Civ 66 and held that it is not exhaustive. It considered the second limb and found that a person could still be a child if they ceased to be registered at a school but there was every reason for a continuing belief that they may need, and be given, special educational provision later.

The Upper Tribunal and High Court then each considered the first limb of the definition, namely that a child includes any person who has not attained the age of 19.  In AW v Essex CC [2010] UKUT 74 (AAC), the First Tier Tribunal had struck out an appeal because the ‘child’ in question was 19; the Upper Tribunal overturned this decision, finding that there was scope for argument about whether they remained a child when they  attained 19. In contrast, in R (B) v Islington LBC [2010] EWHC 2539 (Admin) Mr Justice Cranston decided that a statement lapses when a child reaches the age of 19; the first limb of the definition is not so flexible that it could include a person who has attained the age of 19.

The Upper Tribunal’s decision in AW was appealed to the Court of Appeal: Essex CC v Williams [2011] EWCA Civ 1315. Mrs Justice Baron (with whom LJ Moses and LJ Maurice Kay agreed) found that:

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