The legal angle

13th August 2010 at 01:00

I read with interest the article "Human rights hearing on school-place row could open complaints floodgates" (July 23). This suggested that parents of severely disabled children might pursue claims against local authorities and schools, using the Human Rights Act to argue that their children have been denied the right to education.

But the conclusions reached by the Supreme Court in A v Essex County Council, July 14 2010 show courts will not entertain the Human Rights Act being used like this: there is little chance of a flurry of litigation.

In A v Essex, the Supreme Court reinforced the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights, which has stated that the Right to Education - set out in the European Convention on Human Rights - is a weak one. It guarantees the right to non-discriminatory access to state education, but not the type and quality of that education.

This reinforces a 2006 House of Lords ruling stating that an unlawful pupil exclusion did not violate the pupil's Right to Education, as he was given school work and was offered a place at a pupil referral unit, which was rejected.

The Human Rights Act will not afford parents a new course of action, save in exceptional cases. Education providers should now be assured that they are not at risk of defending expensive human rights litigation.

Yvonne Spencer, Partner, Veale Wasbrough Vizards, Bristol.

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