Academy System Blocking Applications With No Right To Appeal
The parents of a gifted eleven year old boy with cerebral palsy have begun a legal battle to have him accepted at one of the government’s flagship academies, after the school turned down his application.
Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, East London, recently rejected applications from a boy with special needs and refused to accept that the Special Educational Needs Tribunal should hear the case, after the school claimed it was not governed by the legislation but its own funding agreement with the Secretary of State.
The school’s response to his application was that his admission “would be incompatible with the efficient education of other children in the school”.
This groundbreaking case will test how far academies can be forced to comply with the special needs legislation which applies to other non-fee paying schools.
Elaine Maxwell, partner at solicitors Maxwell Gillott is representing the boy’s mother. “His condition only affects his ability to get around school at busy times as he can walk but is not always steady on his feet. The only real additional provision he needs is a bit of support during these times to make sure he is safe, and as he has already obtained an A* in Maths GCSE at the age of 11, he certainly has no problem keeping up with lessons, although he will also need appropriate IT which his parents have offered to provide.
What is particularly difficult in this case is that the parents are not allowed to appeal against the school admission process as their son has a statement which means the school he attends should be decided by the Special Educational Needs Tribunal.
Simultaneously, Mossbourne has attempted to ensure that the Tribunal is unable to hear the case, leaving disabled children with statements in a worse position than anyone else if they want a place at an Academy.
“We are keen to hear from any parents who are also facing difficulties in getting Academy schools to accept their statemented children as it is really important that the law is clarified,” added Elaine. “Our major concern with the whole academy system is that in many cases academies are able to operate outside the laws that apply to all local authority schools. Although the Government has attempted to deal with this through the funding agreements it has with the new academies, there are still a considerable number of these schools which do not follow all the requirements which normally apply to children with special educational needs.”
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