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LOCAL AUTHORITY LAWYERS -
What do they really think of children with SEN and their families?
A busy weekend on social media has thrown an unwelcome light on the attitudes of a solicitors' firm regularly instructed by local authorities in SENDIST tribunals, Baker Small. However, whilst it is rare to see anything so overt, for many of us the events of the last weekend have merely confirmed what we already knew.
Problems started with an initial Tweet saying:
Great ABA Trib win this week … interesting to see how parents continue to persist with it. Funny thing is parents think they won ;)
That Tweet on its own was bad enough. In effect the firm was poking fun at the parents for being so naïve as to think they had done something that would help their child. It would be inappropriate for any solicitor to post a gloating, triumphalist tweet of this nature; but when it is directed at the family of a vulnerable child, it tips over into the offensively unprofessional. ...
Click to read the full news item:
Local Authority Lawyers - What do they really think of children with SEN and their families?.
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* INFORMATION BOOKLETS *
Booklets written by Eleanor Wright, SOS!SEN coordinator and solicitor.
Assessment of Special Educational Needs - £4.00
Education, Health and Care Plan - £4.00
Appeals to Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal - £5.00
SEN and Exclusions from School - £5.00
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*15th BIRTHDAY GALA*
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TED TALK - Autism
To understand autism, don't look away
Carina Morilla knew almost nothing about autism when her son Ivan was diagnosed - only that he didn't speak or respond to words, and that she had to find other ways to connect with him. She shares how she learned to help her son thrive by being curious along with him. (In Spanish with English subtitles)
SOS!SEN and Eleanor Wright
Featured on Special Needs Jungle
8th March 2017
How a parent held her council to account for its SEND failures
What can a parent do when an LA has failed in its legal responsibilities? One parent wasn't about to take her local authority's unacceptable delay in conducting an assessment for an Education, Health and Care Plan go without challenge. SOS!SEN and Eleanor Wright are featured in the article on the Special Needs Jungle website.
*BRITISH CITIZEN AWARD*
Bob Parslow - Co-Founder of SOS!SEN
Bob celebrated his 90th Birthday recently, so we thought we'd put the spotlight on him and let everyone know a bit more about how he came to SOS!SEN.
Bob has been honing his teaching skills for a very long time. We learned from his sisters that during his wartime Fleet Air Arm training he would pass his knowledge on to them when home on leave – they were the only children in the street to have been schooled in semaphore and flying techniques! Bob's formal teaching career was spent primarily at Brunel University where he lectured in mathematics and the then emerging subject of Computer Science.
As part of his interest in computer graphics (another area which he pioneered), Bob discovered 3-D blindness and worked hard to help people develop counteract it – notnot only helping students to work visually, but also saving the lives of people parking on the motorway hard shoulder through the Parslow Parking Procedure he devised. This is just one example of Bob's life-long interest in problem-solving techniques.
Bob was a Lib Dem councillor for Richmond-upon-Thames when he got involved in the fight against the closure of Oldfield House BED School. Despite the best efforts of all involved, that fight was lost, but it had drawn Bob in to providing advice for the parents affected by the closure. With Marion Strudwick (his partner of over 20 years) and Martin Dean, Bob set up SOS!SEN and has continued to be a stalwart in the charity. He continues to solve problems and provides advice to volunteers and trustees, as well as the parents and children we support.
When he isn't busy with SOS!SEN, Bob's hobby is saiing.
*Thank You Volunteers*
We wanted to say a big thank you to all of our helpline, advice centre and office volunteers at SOS!SEN. We rely on you all and we are very grateful for the time that you regularly give to help other parents with children with special educational needs.
Did you know ...
The facts about disability discrimination claims in education
The facts about education negligence claims
Unfair and inefficient communication tactics from some LA representatives
We are receiving a heavy number of calls from people who have appealed to the SENDIST and are worried because they are often not receiving information from local authorities and their representatives in a form they can readily download. Some have even missed out on the opportunity to oppose Requests for Changes from LAs because they had no idea that a document had been copied to them! This has severely prejudiced the conduct of their case. Even where a LA has informed them that a document has been sent, there is still a problem because of the complexity of the measures needed to download it.
Some LA lawyers are refusing to send information out to parents on anything but such methods, even though they know that SENDIST itself refuses to accept documents transferred by such systems. These strategies are totally unacceptable, go far beyond password protection, and parents need to beware.
The problem often lies with the use of external websites such as Egress that may be used internally within some LAs, but are extremely cumbersome and complex for many of us to use. The reason for using such methods is pretty obvious and not nice.
So what is to be done?
The matter is being taken up by a number of organisations, but our initial advice is to follow the Tribunal regulation below:
Sending and delivery of documents (a) 13 (3): If a party informs the Tribunal and all other parties that a particular form of communication, other than pre-paid post or delivery by hand, should not be used to provide documents to that party, that form of communication must not be so used.
In other words, inform the Tribunal and the LA that you do not wish to receive a particular form of communication. If the LA continues to try it on, then inform Tribunal with a copy to the LA concerned. Complain most strongly. Generally, of course, straightforward use of emails and PDFs etc. is fine.
SOS!SEN's Chief Exec Eleanor Wright
Eleanor is a solicitor who has been specialising in Education Law for 18+ years and has particular experience in cases involving SEN and disability, including social care issues. She has been named for several years in Tier 1 of Education Law solocitors in Legal 500 and Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession, and leaves a nationally respected firm Maxwell Gillott (also ranked no.1 in Chambers and Legal 500) where she has been a partner.
Eleanor has long experience of working in legal aid for education and has been involved in many of the leading cases on SEN and disability law. She has been a school governor for over 20 years, has a long involvement with the Dyslexia Association and experience of sitting on and chairing school admissions and exclusion panels. She has been involved in a number of advice centres, workshops and training sessions with SOS!SEN for many years.
Marion Strudwick retires as SOS!SEN Co-ordinator
At the start of 2015, and after nearly 14 years in the post, Marion Strudwick will stand down as Co-ordinator for SOS!SEN. One of the founders in 2001, Marion has headed as a full-time plus volunteer the education and training side of the charity’s work and carried out the lion’s share of SEN Tribunal representation for parents. Of her work, she says, “I’ve learnt so much!”
SOS!SEN started life in the front room of the home of Bob Parslow and Marion in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames following a decision by the LA to close Oldfield House, a much needed special school for children with behavioural and emotional difficulties. So totally blinkered and undemocratic was the behaviour of the LA, that a group of parents, governors, and professionals decided that although they might not win the battle to retain the school, they could make sure that every parent in Richmond had the chance to get help and advice: “We read up the 1996 Education Act, the Code of Practice, networked a range of professionals for help and advice, and set up a Helpline in 2002”.
Quickly the word spread and SOS!SEN now has over 30 volunteers advising on the Helpline, at the Advice Centres and working closely with many parents on a case by case basis to help empower them to fight for their children’s education rights. SOS!SEN is about to relocate to a much easier office to reach and is seeking to expand further its help to parents. “This has been the most interesting work I have ever done in education and it has been great to work with so many committed and wonderful parents.”
Nonetheless, SEN legislation has changed and there are crucial years ahead to protect children’s rights. SOS!SEN is now a very busy national organisation and it is a good time for change and for a greater legal input to be provided. Marion’s successor has been appointed and will be named in the New Year. WATCH THIS SPACE! Everyone at SOS!SEN is thrilled at the new appointment and know it will take the charity to a higher level of national awareness and yet retain the friendly and individual case approach still to be headed by the volunteers.
Marion will stay on as a volunteer and looks forward to working in any way the new Co-ordinator thinks will be useful to SOS!SEN. “I have loved every minute of the work and have made so many friends amongst my colleague volunteers, parents, and professionals. It is wonderful to find that so many parents are now volunteering to help others and with that caring attitude it is certain that SOS!SEN will go from strength to strength. Thank you to everyone who has helped to bring SOS!SEN to where it is today and to all those who will take it further.”
Everyone at the SOS!SEN team would like to say a huge thank you to Marion for all her hard work and dedication.
"Thank you for always being at the end of the phone to help. Your advice has been invaluable and pivotal in making me realise that as a parent I AM NOT POWERLESS. Thank you!" Parental comment - 2014.