Mossbourne academy loses legal challenge over special needs pupils
Top of the class eleven year old with cerebral palsy amongst those refused admission by Mossbourne Academy
Mossbourne Community Academy has lost a legal challenge over its refusal to admit a number of children with special educational needs.
Parents have successfully challenged the academy in five legal cases, including one in which the school refused to admit an academically talented boy with cerebral palsy.
The 11 year-old, who is at the top of his class, was originally refused admission on the grounds that his condition could compromise the learning of fellow students.
The school also argued that it already has a higher-than-average number of pupils with special needs.
For the 2012/2013 academic year Mossbourne received 56 applications from students with a statement of special educational needs (SEN). Of these, seven were offered a place, which is a higher than average intake of SEN students.
Students with severe special needs have statements drawn up by the Learning Trust (Hackney’s education body) indicating their needs and the school where they will be placed. The Trust must consult with a school before confirming the placement.
The tribunal ruled that Mossbourne should be named in his statement.
Jane McConnell, chief executive of Independent Parental Special Education Advice (IPSEA), who represented one of the parents in the appeals, said,“These parents have gone through an ordeal which should not have happened.
“No state-funded school should think that it can refuse to admit children with statements for the flimsy reasons given to the Tribunal in these cases.
“No school or local authority should speak of such children as necessarily burdensome or detrimental to a school’s life. Very good schools, like Mossbourne, should recognise and celebrate their success with such children, and we hope the children in these cases will be among Mossbourne’s many success stories.’
As this case has shown, not all of Hackney’s schools adhere to the same rules regarding SEN statements.
Under the rules of ordinary maintained state schools, parents have the right to appeal the conditions of a statement.
A spokesperson for the Trust explained: “If a maintained school is named in a statement they must accept the child unless they wish to appeal to the Secretary of State for Education” whereas “independent schools cannot be named against their wishes. This also applies to some academies, depending on their funding agreement.”
The parents of the boy had recently won an appeal against the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal, who had initially stated that it was not within their jurisdiction to consider appeals concerning placements at academy schools.
The decision, made by the Upper Tribunal on Thursday 21 June, forced the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal to hear the case, along with seven others brought against Mossbourne Community Academy regarding the admission of statemented students.
The appeal against Mossbourne’s decision was initially struck out by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal on the grounds that they had no jurisdiction to hear the case, since Mossbourne is an academy and therefore an independent school which could not be forced to comply with any order that the tribunal might make.
Michael Gove has pushed for the expansion of academies, often citing top-performing Mossbourne as an example of their success.
But cases like this one add to the concerns raised by pressure groups like the Anti-Academies Alliance and the Local Schools Network, who have argue that academies lack transparency and accountability in their funding and admissions policies.
For more go to IPSEA.