Are the LA legally allowed to withdraw my sons place at his current school whilst we are engaged in mediation?
I have been working with LA to identify a school for a couple of years unfortunately covid has had an impact on finding a school for my son who has high functioning autism, ADHD, sensory modulation & is severely dyslexic. The LA identified and have named a school in the EHCP prior to me having the opportunity to visit. This school was named out of the blue without any consultation with me. The school is a maintained school SEMH which is currently failing in all areas. Having now visited the school it is not an appropriate environment for my son. The principal of the school advised the could meet his needs but the environment is not appropriate due to the type of SEMH provision. The LA are insistent that I send my son to this school despite mediation. Out of the blue today, I have heard from his current school that they have been advised that he is to be removed off Roll from January 22 which will leave my son without a school forcing me to send my child to the school of their choice. The LA have not shared this information with me. Recent mediation in Nov has requested my son EHCP goes back to the panel which was due yesterday. I have not received the outcome of the panel and have engaged an advocate to prepare for the appeal. Are LA legally allowed to withdraw my son's place at his current school whilst we are midst mediation? Are the LA allowed to force me to send my child to a school that is not my preference?
When finalising an EHC plan, the LA must consider any schools the parent requests and carry out consultations with those schools (unless the school is wholly independent). If a parent does not make a specific request, then the LA must consult with schools it deems appropriate and makes a decision to name a school. The LA does not need permission from parents to name a particular school as set out in section 40 of the Children and Families Act 2014. Once a school is named in section I of the plan, then this is the school that must admit the child and the child will be removed from any other school roll. It is unfortunate in your case that either the LA was unaware that you would prefer your son to remain in his current school until you had found a more suitable placement, or that the LA knew this and chose to name a different school regardless.
As a first step, we would suggest that you contact the LA and explain why the SEMH school is not suitable, that you would prefer your son to remain in his previous school and that you have not been informed of the outcome of the recent panel meeting. Hopefully, a discussion with the LA will be enough to rectify the problem and your son’s previous school can be added back into the EHC plan.
Whilst waiting for a response, you should also consider submitting an appeal to the SEND Tribunal to appeal the contents of the plan (sections B, F and I). The deadline for submitting an appeal is 2 months from the date of the final EHC plan or 1 month from the date of the mediation certificate, whichever is later. You can find more information about submitting a contents appeal on the IPSEA website here: Appeals about the contents of an EHC plan | (IPSEA) Independent Provider of Special Education Advice
If the dispute is then dealt with and agreed with the LA, the appeal can be withdrawn, but we would suggest submitting your appeal as soon as possible to prevent missing the deadline.
Alternatively, you do have the right to Electively Home Educate (“EHE”) but we would suggest that you consider this very carefully before taking this option and seek advice beforehand from IPSEA’s Advice Line or your local IASS team. You can find more information about EHE here: Home schooling and ‘education otherwise’ | (IPSEA) Independent Provider of Special Education Advice and here: Education Otherwise - | Education is Compulsory - School is Optional