Home therapy

4th February 2005 at 00:00
Q My child has a rare genetic disorder that requires a lot of intensive therapy: speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy. I have found he responds best if this takes place in a familiar environment, so we have arranged therapy at home, with a private therapist.

The local education authority has recently finalised his statement of special educational needs, indicating that he can attend a school where he will receive all the therapy he requires. I accept he should be going to school and will benefit from a place, but I want him to carry on receiving therapy at home.

Is it possible to have a part-time school placement?

A I assume the education authority has only agreed to provide for your son's full-time attendance at school. The first question, then, is whether your child is of statutory school age - between five and 16. If so, he must receive a full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude, and to any special needs he has.

Although it is possible this could arise by way of a part-time school placement, with home therapy, it is an issue that would have to be addressed.

If your son is not of statutory school age and you are content to fund the therapy at home, the arrangements are likely to be more straightforward.

Unless the school objects to him attending part time, it may well be that you can reach an arrangement whereby the statement will remain as it is, but your son will receive education for some of his week at home, through therapy, and for the remainder of the week at school. However, this would require the head's agreement; otherwise, your child would be taking unapproved absences.

If you want the education authority to fund therapy at home and his part-time school placement, you will have to bring an appeal to the special educational needs and disability tribunal to change his statement.

In that event, section 319 of the Education Act 1996 provides that the only way a local authority and a tribunal may agree such an arrangement is if they are persuaded that a full-time placement at school would be inappropriate.

However, you need to think carefully about trying to make the argument that your son's educational needs cannot be met by a full-time placement at school. You want the therapy to be at home because it is a familiar environment - but it will be argued that, at some point, the school will become a familiar environment.

David Ruebain is a partner specialising in education and disability discrimination at the law firm Levenes. www.levenes.co.uk

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