Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Take care over care plans

School leaders wondering how the local authority can possibly justify putting a young person with complex needs into their school may take a little heart from a decision of the High Court (B v LB Barnet Council EWHC 2009).

The case was an extreme one involving language difficulties, physical disability, and child abuse. However, it seems to say that if the local authority fails to come up with an argument that is as clear and cogent as the school's, the court may take a decision as to whose view should prevail. In this case Barnet Council had decided that a mainstream placement was appropriate for the pupil. The court agreed that it was not within its jurisdiction to decide this issue, as the case was before the relevant special needs tribunal, but it did consider the care plan that informed the council's action.

The court's view was scathing: "All too often the defendant's (care) plan is to arrange a meeting with someone else to explore options. There is a lack of specificity."

However, the interesting part of the judgement for schools was expressed in this way: "Where the head of a school...states clearly and cogently that in his view the school is not a suitable placement for the claimant (pupil), it does not seem to me that it can be said that the claimant's parents have acted unreasonably in preventing the claimant from attending that school. In which case, it is not reasonably practicable for the claimant to attend that school and the defendant (council) should make alternative provision."

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