Plenty of notice

Q I am a senior local education authority officer. Following a review of all of our schooling, we are proposing to reorganise our special school provision so as to close one school, open a new school and merge two others. Opinion in our area is divided, with some parents supporting the new arrangements, but others opposing it. In particular, those who oppose it say that we cannot do this until we have made appropriate provision for the children who are attending the schools which will be affected. What is the position?

A School reorganisation is a detailed and complex area of law which requires comprehensive consultation and consideration by a school organisation committee and, ultimately, a school adjudicator.

Sometimes these legal arrangements appear to come up against the detailed legal provisions governing children with statements of special educational needs.

The issue is not straightforward but, generally, it is not essential that provision for children with statements is determined before any steps can be taken to reorganise schools.

However, if a decision to close or amalgamate a school has been made, a comprehensive review of provision for the children who are likely to be at the school at the time of the change should take place well in advance of the change so that new arrangements are established before the changes arise.

In addition, it is likely that any changes to a child's statement - for example, naming a new school - should be made sufficiently far in advance so as to give parents a right of appeal to a special educational needs and disability tribunal, before the change, so that the tribunal can consider the new provision in good time.

David Ruebain is a partner specialising in education and disability discrimination at the law firm Levenes. He is co-author with Jo-Anne Graham of the recently revised Disability Discrimination Act Toolkit, now in its 10th edition, published by Levenes. www.levenes.co.uk

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