Academy challenged on special needs admission

Mossbourne Academy in Hackney

The family of an 11 year old boy, with cerebral palsy, are challenging Mossbourne Academy’s policy on special needs, after he was told he could not apply for a place this year.

Mossbourne Academy is a flagship academy, whose record of academic achievements has made it one of the most celebrated schools in the country.

The family of the boy have instructed solicitors, Maxwell Gillott, who say their clients were informed by the school that they could not have the boy because his admission “would be incompatible with the efficient education of other children in the school”. They say they were also informed that the school already had a higher than average number of pupils with special needs.

Any child, with severe special educational needs, must have a ‘statement’ when applying to secondary education and 2.7 per cent of children in England require them.

In Hackney, The Learning Trust is responsible for education services and providing these statements.  It is reported that the Learning Trust did not name Mossbourne in the boy’s statement as one of his choices.

The boy has clear academic ability, having already achieved A* GCSE maths, winning the pan-Hackney debating challenge two years running, being chosen as a prefect and a reading mentor at his school.

Although his disability means that he can be unsteady on his feet, and can struggle with practical tasks such as using a ruler.

Pic: National Archive

The boy’s family instructed the legal firm to start an appeal.  Maxwell Gillott say that the school does not accept that the Special Educational Needs Tribunal has jurisdiction. The school is not governed by the same legislation as state schools, and have arranged its own funding agreement with the education secretary.

Elaine Maxwell, a partner at Maxwell Gillott solicitors, said in a statement, “When you get a school saying it’s full, that’s not the end of it. The child or his parents should be able to say: Does our disadvantage outweigh the disadvantage to other children? There’s a balancing act that has to be struck.”

Maxwell Gillott say it is “a groundbreaking case on how far academies can be made to comply with the special needs legislation which applies to other non-fee paying schools.”

With Mossbourne’s academic success, the competition for places is high. They have 200 places available for the September 2012 intake, and almost 1,600 applicants, of which 53 have statements, due to special educational needs, and 28 of them have put Mossbourne as their first choice.

Across the country, 21 per cent of schoolchildren have some form of special needs, and at Mossbourne between 26 per cent-28 per cent of pupils in each year have special educational needs.

Academies’ refusal to admit pupils with special needs prompts legal battles

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