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  1. Education: individuals
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Boutique firm Douglas Silas Solicitors, led by the renowned name partner Douglas Silas, specialises exclusively in Special Educational Needs (SEN) cases and attracts praise for its ‘excellent level of service’ and ‘prompt and efficient’ approach. The firm represents parents, children and young people with conditions ranging from autism, ADHD and dyslexia through to cerebral palsy and developmental delay in complex proceedings and appeals pertaining to education, health and care (EHC) assessments, EHC plans and school placements. Although based in London, the group has a national reputation and is at the forefront of advice to individuals with disabilities.

Irwin Mitchell’s team houses ‘sector experts, who frequently take on difficult cases’ and acts for children and young people with complex disabilities and their parents in SEN and discrimination-related cases, as well as handling judicial review proceedings and tribunal appeals against decisions issued by local authorities. Bristol-based practice head Polly Sweeney successfully represented a child, acting through her mother as litigation friend, in a judicial review challenging the decision to close a specialist medical education unit in Worcestershire without consultation. Sweeney, supported by assistant solicitor Sarah Woosey, also challenged Trafford Council’s refusal to provide school transport for an 18-year-old and is acting for parents of an autistic child in a disability discrimination claim arising from a school exclusion in the SEN tribunal. The team is acting for the parents of children suffering from cerebral palsy in claims ranging from an attempt to secure a specialist placement at the National Institute for Conductive Education to tribunal proceedings involving claims for amendment of EHC plans. Associate Alastair Wallace is representing community groups in disputes arising from the redevelopment plans that entail relocating existing schools to remote areas to release the land for housing developments. Caroline Barrett is another name to note.

Match Solicitors’ ‘superb’ team ‘combines tenacity with unrivalled experience and outstanding knowledge’ to ‘excel in the area and deliver consistently excellent results, often out of court’. The group specialises in challenging the decisions of higher education institutions as well as independent and maintained schools. Anita Chopra leads the schools and children department and acts for the parents of children with special educational needs, on matters pertaining to access to educational support, admissions, exclusions, regulatory matters and discrimination. Chopra and ‘astute’ further and higher education specialist Salima Mawjiinspire confidence and fight fearlessly for clients’. ‘Rising star’, associate Nicole Henham is ‘calm and responsive’ and stands out for her ‘forensic and analytical’ approach. Associate Chris Barnettknows education law inside out’ and is ‘someone clients definitely want in their corner’. Highlights included challenging a university’s decision to exclude a student from a postgraduate course, handling an academic appeal arising from a failed exam and filing a successful complaint against the client’s degree classification. The group also represented a teacher in challenging a prohibition order issued by the Secretary of State for Education and acted for the parents in pursuing a claim for the revision of their daughter’s EHC plan.

Simpson Millar LLP’s team includes Angela Jackman, who has ‘unparalleled expertise in SEN cases’ and ‘super public lawyer’ Dan Rosenberg, who is ‘brilliant at negotiating a sensible solution for the client’. The group specialises in cases ranging from school exclusion and admission claims to claims against local authorities involving inadequate provision of transport and funding. SEN tribunal appeals are also an area of expertise.

At employment boutique Doyle Clayton, the ‘strong, client-focused and thorough’ team provides ‘consistently excellent, pragmatic advice’. The group represents university lecturers in employment-related disputes and assists staff members with departures from maintained and independent schools and academies. The group’s caseload also includes matters pertaining to reasonable adjustment, SEN and safeguarding issues, as well as fee disputes and expulsion challenges. Engaging and thoughtful’ practice head Simon Henthorncombines an impressive attention to detail with a thorough grasp of the issues and a confident approach to litigation to secure the best results for his clients’. ‘Calm, clear and smart’ associate Elizabeth Timmins ‘finds the killer point and utilises it for the benefit of her clients’. Henthorn and Timmins are representing a lecturer in a dispute with the University of Reading pertaining to a dismissal arising from the claimant’s failure to disclose a relationship with a student.

John Ford Solicitors’ ‘confident, convincing and passionate’ team stands out for its ‘attention to detail’, has ‘a deep understanding of the intricacies of the regulatory framework’ and ‘focuses on the goal to win’. Its caseload includes challenges to the decisions of local authorities and schools through judicial review proceedings and cases pertaining to local authorities’ nonconformity with statements of SEN in the SEND tribunal. Practice head Karen May specialises in education matters involving community care and child protection law. Marian Shaughnessy acts for parents in judicial reviews of local authorities’ decisions and represents clients in pursuing disability discrimination claims. Name partner John Ford and Helen Gill, who is an expert in actions against public bodies, are also noted.

Russell-Cooke LLP’s ‘outstanding’ team ‘knows the law and the subject matter inside out’. ‘Compassionate and understanding’ team leader Eva Akins is ‘passionately devoted to the area of work and really goes the extra mile to get results for her clients'. The group acts for clients in matters ranging from reviews of ENC plans to disability discrimination claims under the Equality Act 2010, claims for failure to provide reasonable adjustment and disputes with schools and local authorities arising from insufficient SEN support. Cases involving neurodevelopmental conditions and dual exceptionality are other core strengths.

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Legal Developments in London for Education: individuals

  • TRANSFER OF UNDERTAKINGS (PROTECTION OF EMPLOYMENT) AND AGE DISCRIMINATION

    I have been asked to cover the topic of Employment law within my half an hour speaking slot today. I have narrowed my subject down to Transfer of Undertakings and Discrimination, with the focus on providing an update on the recent spate of cases on service provision change and on the important developments in the law of age discrimination. Needless to say, in my presentation I shall not be able to cover the level of detail which is contained in my written paper, which I will leave you to read.
    - 11KBW

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