"The hope you give parents is nothing short of a miracle"
"I clearly remember a call from the LA..."
"I clearly remember a call from the LA on a Wednesday in December 2011 informing me that it had been decided that our daughter would be going to the in Borough’s special needs school instead of our preferred choice of school.
I was given 24 hours to submit reasons for why she should not attend the school and so that these reasons could be presented to “The Panel” on Friday. In hindsight, it was the first indication that we had to be prepared to battle for what we wanted for our child.
Mid-February, the Statement of Educational Needs arrived in the post advising that our daughter's High school from September would be the Borough’s special needs school. We attended a meeting with the LA to see if we could explain to them why the LA school was totally inappropriate for our daughter.
Following this, we were left no choice but to appeal to the SEND Tribunal.
We got a hearing date in early July but this would not have been enough time to secure the services of a Speech and Language Therapist or an Occupational Therapist. We felt we needed to have these specialist reports to support our case.
On top of this, our preferred school could not assess M until September which meant we would be fighting for a school that could potentially refuse to take her. We had to request for the hearing date to be postponed. Fortunately this was granted and the hearing took place in November 2012. We decided that M would be educated at home until she could go to an appropriate school.
Our experience at the hearing was not good. We were shocked and unprepared for the tactics used by the LA and their Barrister. We had gone with an experienced advocate and not a solicitor, a purely cost-related decision.
There was not enough time at the first hearing and so another date was scheduled to continue. More of the same antics were experienced with the possibility of a further postponement.
We did not get the result we wanted.
There were so many discrepancies in the Decision that we decided to appeal to the Upper Tribunal. It was at this point our Advocate recommended we seek the services of Douglas Silas.
We met with him and his team in January 2013 and the above was presented to him. We discussed an awful lot in our first meeting and eventually Douglas suggested how best that he thought that we should proceed.
We pursued the Upper Tribunal appeal on a consultative service and re-lodged a further appeal to the SEND which he and his team dealt with.
The appeal to the Upper Tier tribunal was unsuccessful. The Tribunal highlighted that it dealt with errors in applying the facts and not legal or procedural errors. Reflecting on this now, it is easy to see this was a gamble and Douglas even asked us on many occasions if we wanted to pursue the appeal; however at the time, there was so much frustration and anger as we just wanted justice for what we thought was an unfair hearing.
In having Douglas and his team handle our second appeal we felt at a bit of a loss, having been so heavily involved with the first appeal. Further assessments and reports from a Speech and Language Therapist, Occupational Therapist and Educational Psychologist were arranged. We had regular updates and we really had very little to do, but to continue educating our daughter at home.
The second Tribunal hearing was in February 2015 and conducted much more professionally. The LA were better behaved but I think this was down to the amount of preparation Douglas and his team had put into our case. The second hearing was as we expected and hoped the first hearing to have been conducted.
We got the decision we had been looking for and our daughter has settled in so well into her new school. It was a turbulent time for the family, emotionally and financially draining.
Hindsight is a great thing to have, but we honestly wish we had engaged in the services of Douglas Silas Solicitors earlier."
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