Tribunal challenged

3rd March 1995 at 00:00
The first decision by the newly constituted special needs tribunal panel is to be challenged in court.

Despite attempts to keep the proceedings informal, the tribunal's first case was, embarrassingly, conducted by two legal representatives and took twice as long as had been scheduled. Now the decision itself is creating further legal conflict because it is to be contested in the High Court by special needs solicitor Jack Rabinowicz.

The case had been brought by a dyslexic boy who argued that the comprehensive school chosen for him by Westminster education authority was not suitable. The tribunal panel found that the boy's statement of special educational needs - describing his requirements - was inadequate. But it also decided that the school chosen by the LEA was in fact suitable despite his claim. Mr Rabinowicz describes the ruling as inadequate, citing the fact that a day-long hearing produced a judgment running to only two A4 pages with the conclusions contained in one paragraph.

The High Court case is also likely to deal with a parent's right under the 1993 Education Act to veto a mainstream school place in favour of a special school. The law does not make clear, says Mr Rabinowicz, how the parental choice is affected if - as in this case - the council does not have any suitable special schools and would be obliged to look to the private sector.

The tribunal was set up under the 1993 Education Act to provide a new, independent means of appeal for parents and pupils dissatisfied with statements of special need.

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