Where can I get help with a disability discrimination claim?

Parent Asks:

We filed a disability discrimination claim against the school. The school is using the LA’s legal team (public fund). Why can't the school using their public fund to defend themselves? Why are parents provided with the same LA legal team help? Also,
What can parents do if the school failed to have (meeting or discussion records) of the SEN child’s records?

IPSEA Answers:

When a parent brings a discrimination case to the SEND Tribunal against a school, the school has a right to legal advice and representation. Unless the school is an independent school, then this will need to be paid for using public funds, typically from the school’s own budget. It is extremely common for schools to have a solicitor and even a barrister for these cases. You also have a right to legal advice and representation, but you would need to arrange this yourself. As a first step, you may be eligible for legal aid which can provide legal help in preparing your case so I would suggest that you check this straight away here: https://www.gov.uk/civil-legal-advice. If you are not eligible for legal aid, then you may be able to access support elsewhere, including using IPSEA’s helplines. You can find more information about support with appeals here: https://www.ipsea.org.uk/where-can-i-get-help-with-making-an-appeal. You can also find information about disability discrimination here: https://www.ipsea.org.uk/disability-discrimination.

With regards to the school failing to keep adequate records, it’s not clear if this is part of your discrimination case or not, so I will respond as though it’s a separate point. The school has a duty to keep records of pupils who are receiving special educational provision under SEN Support. Paragraph 6.43 of the SEND Code of Practice 2015 states:

“Where it is decided that a pupil does have SEN, the decision should be recorded in the school records and the pupil’s parents must be formally informed that special educational provision is being made. Arrangements for appropriate support should be made through the school’s approach to SEN support.”

Paragraph 6.90 of the Code then clarifies that keeping up to date records for pupils with SEN may be the responsibility of the school SENCo. There is also further information throughout chapter 6 of the Code about schools’ duties to keep records detailing SEN Support plans for those identified as having SEN without an EHC plan. If you haven’t already requested a copy of your child’s school records then you can do this: https://www.ipsea.org.uk/asking-for-a-copy-of-a-childs-school-record-model-letter-18. There is also more information about this on the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) website: https://ico.org.uk/for-the-public/schools/pupils-info/.

If your child has an EHC plan, then the plan should detail all of the special educational provision rather than separate school records of this.

If the school has not been keeping adequate records, you can make a complaint to the school and potentially escalate to the ICO. There is more information about complaints here: https://www.ipsea.org.uk/making-a-complaint-about-a-nursery-school-or-college.