February 2013 saw judgment delivered in the GCSE judicial review in which three of the four parties were represented by a total of seven members of 11KBW. But away from the headlines, February was a busy month for the education law team at 11KBW and the following is an indication of the type and range of work done.
In the higher education sector, members have been involved in a number of cases involving complaints by students which have taken different forms: internal complaints, complaints to the OIA, contract claims and a challenge by way of judicial review. The greater legal scrutiny being given to the contractual relationship between students and universities is evident with particular questions being asked about the impact of fee caps on such contracts and whether the scope of the duties imposed by one such contract extended to addressing a student’s dyslexia. The cross-over with members’ expertise in employment cases continues to be valuable with advice being sought from a higher education institution on collective redundancy arrangements. The new freedoms given to FE/HE colleges by the Education Act 2011 are also to the fore.
Academies continue to generate legal disputes with a number of members being asked to advise in this area, including questions about the powers of the Secretary of State in relation to “free schools” and the problematic issues that often arise over the sale/transfer of playing fields when a school converts to an Academy. Advice was also sought more generally on central government’s powers to intervene in the education functions of a local authority.
In the field of special educational needs advice has been sought on two forthcoming changes: the new funding arrangements for children with SEN and the draft Inter-authority Recoupment (England) Regulations 2013. In relation to the former advice has also been sought on the pilot scheme for direct payments. Members also continue to be involved in appeals against statements of SEN, often in the most complex and high-value cases where there is a dispute about whether a residential school is needed, as well on appeals to the Upper Tribunal. There are also cases in the disability discrimination field, including a substantive challenge and a case about costs.
Issues which have arisen in the field of admissions include advice sought from selective schools in this regard as well as the question of whether the School Admissions Code enables schools to give priority to children who attend linked nursery provision.
To end where this round-up began, qualifications continue to feature in work done with advice having been sought on the meaning and effect of certain parts of Ofqual’s Qualifications and Credit Framework.