Please note these figures are costs paid to SEN Legal. They exclude VAT which goes to the Government and disbursements (e.g. travel) as well as the cost of Expert Witnesses instructed by parents and Specialist Counsel.
The variation on costs, in any particular case, is bluntly, down to the conduct of the Local Authority involved, which we have no control over. A Local Authority's behaviour can drive parents' costs up quite considerably and out of the normal fee range for an Appeal of this kind.
The majority of our cases are dealt with in the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SEND), of which there is an extremely high yearly volume. However, we also have experience of dealing with cases that go the Upper Tribunal (formerly the High Court) and the High Court and the Court of Appeal. Such cases are the exception, as our objective is always to achieve a successful outcome in the First-Tier Tribunal (and in most cases we achieve this goal). Ordinarily, therefore, the need for an appeal simply will not arise. However, the following selection of cases in which SEN Legal were instructed demonstrates our experience of dealing with cases in the higher courts:
Parents of C v The Trustees of Stanbridge Earls School 2013.
A Disability Discrimination Claim, in which Stanbridge Earls School was held to have been responsible for direct and indirect discrimination. Click here for link to Tribunal Decision. The decision of the Tribunal was subsequently supported by an emergency Ofsted visit in January 2013. Click here to read Ofsted Report.
Sex Discrimination and Negligence Proceedings against the school are underway
Chapple v Suffolk County Council  EWCA Civ 870
The Court of Appeal gives guidance in this case to the proper approach the Upper Tribunal should adopt, emphasising the "evolving role of the new Upper Tribunal...which may provide opportunities for more flexible approaches to meeting the needs of particular cases in the interests of the parties". This is important as there are often interlinked issues at play and it is often prohibitively expensive for parents to fund more than one set of legal proceedings at the same time. The Upper Tribunal should consider, for example, adjourning to allow Judicial Review proceedings to be instituted and then transferred from the Administrative Court to the Upper Tribunal. There is also considerable criticism of the approach adopted by Suffolk County Council in this case; criticism only tempered because the Council did, shortly before the hearing, concede the substantive issue.
Slough Borough Council v Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal and Others  EWCA Civ 668
This case was heard by the Court of Appeal. The Local Authority appealed to the High Court and then subsequently the Court of Appeal because it argued that the Tribunal's findings as to the respective costs of the parental choice of school were incorrect. The Local Authority lost at the Tribunal, lost at the High Court and lost in the Court of Appeal and ended up paying the bill. SEN Legal instructed Mr John Friel, Barrister, in this case.
In this case, educational provision required out of school hours was not specified by the SEND Tribunal. In setting aside the SEND Tribunal's Decision, the High Court held that the package of educational provision must be specified in HW & W v Bedfordshire County Council and another 2004 EWHC 560 (Admin) 2004 ELR 586. the SEND Tribunal decision was set aside when the out of hours “package of care” was not specified by the SEND Tribunal.
J v Staffordshire County Council and Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal 2005 EWHC 1664 (Admin) 2006 ELR 141. Evidence held to have been wrongly admitted to the SEND Tribunal. Despite having held that the evidence had been erroneously admitted, relief was refused by the Court, one of the most relevant factors was that the lay advocate on the day (i.e. not SEN Legal, but a lay representative from a charity) did not apply for an adjournment to consider the material.
JR & AR v Hampshire County Council and SEND Tribunal 2006 EWHC 588 (Admin) 2006 ELR 335. The Tribunal held that the child should be educated in good acoustic conditions, was not satisfied that the LEA's placement could provide good acoustic conditions but nevertheless proceeded to name it.
Similarly in Jones v Norfolk CC and another 2006 ELR 547 in which Crane J dealt with the Tribunal decision which failed to deal with the opinions and reasoning of the experts:
“What the Tribunal wholly failed to do was to refer to the opinions and reasoning of Mrs Sharkey, Mrs Page and Dr Male on the issue of whether a special school was required. It would be difficult to tell from the decision that those 3 experts had given any evidence at all on that issue”.
Finally in JF v London Borough of Croydon and Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal 31 August 2006 EWHC 2368 (Admin) CO/2705/2006, in which SEN Legal were also instructed. In setting aside the SEND Tribunal Decision, Mr Justice Sullivan para 11 commented:
“I find the first defendant's attitude in this case very troubling indeed. It betrays a complete failure to understand the role of the Local Education Authority in Hearings before the Tribunal. Athought the proceedings are in part adversarial because the Local Education Authority will be responding to the parent's Appeal, the role of an Education Authority as a public body at such a Hearing is to assist the Tribunal in making all relevant information available. Its role is not to provide only so much information as to assist its own case. At the Hearing the Local Education Authority should be placing all of its cards on the table including those which might assist the parent's case. It is not an adequate answer to a failure to disclose information to the Tribunal for a Local Education Authority to say that the parent could have unearthed the information for themselves if they had dug deep enough.”
And Para 13
“Whether the first defendants failure to give this information to the Tribunal was deliberate or an oversight is of no consequence for the present purposes. What is of great concern is the first defendant's initial response as set out above, once the true position emerged in the evidence obtained by the Appellants. One would have hoped any Education Authority confronted by such information would have been most concerned that the Tribunal might have been muddled even if wholly inadvertently by its evidence. I say the first defendant's initial response because after taking instructions, Mr Dunlop very properly, if very belatedly, conceded the fact that the school was registered with the Department as a school for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties and they further fact that the school was not registered with the Society in the sense of being any way approved or endorsed by the society should have been disclosed to the Tribunal. However, despite those concessions, the first defendant continued to maintain that the decision should be quashed.”