Douglas Silas Solicitors has a 'fantastic' education practice and is the market- leader in special education needs (SEN) and disability work. Led by founding partner Douglas Silas, who has over two decades of experience in this sector, the team advises parents and carers of children and young people with SEN on all matters relating to education provisions and school placements. On the contentious side, the firm has a strong track record in appeals to/from the Special Educational Needs & Disability Tribunal. The London-based team has a first-rate reputation nationally.
Education: individuals in London
‘Douglas Silas has an amazing in-depth knowledge of his field. He absolutely knows all aspects of Sen education inside out.’
‘Compared to customer service experience I encountered from larger and very reputable legal firms, when seeking legal representation in the area of SEN law, Douglas’s team were responsive, always polite and did what they promised to do within the time agreed – highly professional.’
‘The Douglas Silas team is small, therefore it feels very personable. Communication is precise and in every timely manner. The team are very knowledgeable and you feel very confident in their experience and advice. They are all very friendly and accommodating.’
‘Every team member, including Douglas himself, were approachable, responsive, compassionate, competent and professional in their abilities and attitudes. We are lucky to have received such exceptional services at times of urgent need.’
Doyle Clayton's 'impressive' education practice is singled out for its dual employment and education law expertise, and its ability to offer clients comprehensive advice on safeguarding, pastoral care issues and dismissals. The team is led by Simon Henthorn, who has over 15 years of experience in the sector, and is praised for 'cutting through the 'bluster' and bringing 'common sense to where it is lacking.' The group handles sensitive matters for headteachers, senior staff, and schools. Elizabeth Timmins specialises in providing immigration law advice to schools and colleges.
Other key lawyers:
‘Simon Henthorn, the Head of the Education team, is unparalleled. He knows the education sector like the back of his hand, he has a good strategic mind for a case and he is excellent with clients. He radiates decency and inspires confidence. I worked with him on a very complex case involving a client with significant health needs, and he went above and beyond for the client.’
‘Simon Henthorn has forensic attention to detail and exceptional work ethic which gets the best results for his clients. Innovative and courteous, he is a very capable lawyer.’
‘Simon Henthorn is a first-rate practitioner. He is a pleasure to work with and is experienced and dedicated.’
‘They are a strong team. Enthusiastic, resourceful, personable, and experienced.’
‘The education team at Doyle Clayton are true specialists in employment matters in the education sector, and they understand how education law interacts with the employment of academics and teachers. In my opinion, they are the go-to firm for professors, lecturers, and headteachers with employment disputes.’
- Representing Dr. Dronsfield, a former lecturer at Reading University, who was dismissed for scandalous and immoral conduct under the University statutes after he failed to report his sexual relationship with a mature student.
Irwin Mitchell, which is one of the 'best education firms in the UK', is a first port of call for many clients in SEN matters, disability discrimination claims and judicial reviews. Its work covers matters arising from school closures, reorganisations and transport policies, among other areas. The practice is led nationally by human rights specialist Yogi Amin in Sheffield. Cambridge-based Caroline Barrett is singled out for her expertise in health and social care, as well as her Court of Protection practice. Associate James Betts in Manchester acts for children across various areas of community care and has conducted a number of cases challenging local authority decisions. Former practice head Polly Sweeney left the firm along with two other individuals to form specialist education law firm Rook Irwin Sweeney LLP.
‘Irwin Mitchell is one the foremost and best education firms in the UK acting for individuals, and increasingly, for schools. The strength in depth in the team is outstanding with knowledge across the education sector, and also in related health and social care issues.’
‘The Education Team at Irwin Mitchell presents as an able efficient and exceptionally helpful group of individuals. It is always responsive to questions. It is a highly professional team.’
‘James Betts combines a first-class knowledge of education law with a warm and engaging personality. Clients love him for this. He has increasingly worked on major judicial review cases in the education sector, such as on SEN funding cuts.’
‘Caroline Barrett – Her education expertise is excellent, and is a real asset when combined with her expertise in health and social care. She is able to deliver excellent legal advice on complex issues involving overlap between areas.’
‘I appreciated Caroline Barrett’s calm manner, patience, and willingness to go the extra mile to ensure that we had everything we needed for our tribunal and that we understood the process.’
L – an infant
C – a young person over the age of 16
S – parent of a child under 16
- Represented Kirstine Drexler in judicial review proceedings in the Court of Appeal concerning whether a post 16 transport policy for young people with SEN was discriminatory.
Simpson Millar LLP is an 'excellent' firm for advice on all matters relating to education. It advises clients on a number of specialist areas, such as SEND tribunals, discrimination matters and admissions. Led by public law expert Imogen Jolley, the practice is known for its high-profile judicial review work and it assists vulnerable clients and students with securing their education provisions. Sarah Woosey, who is singled out by clients for her expertise in community care law, heads up the team in Leeds. Elsewhere, Samantha Hale is expanding the Bristol team. Dan Rosenberg in London has specialist expertise in school exclusions. Angela Jackman is also recommended.
Other key lawyers:
‘Truly excellent team. Hugely capable. Brilliant at achieving positive outcomes for their clients. Show dedication and determination for their clients beyond many other firms. Really know their stuff. A delight to work for. Would also highly recommend them to anyone.’
I cannot praise Sarah Woosey highly enough, she knows SEND law inside out and is the consummate professional. She was at the time with Irwin Mitchell but she is so good it isn’t the firm she is with it is her and her knowledge and expertise that whichever firm she is with, we will follow.’
‘Sam Hale is dedicated and tenacious. Always goes the extra mile for her clients. A real star. Manages to find new ways to tackle and solve her client’s problems.’
‘Imogen Jolley is an excellent partner – a master of her subject area and an asset to any case and a joy to work with. Sarah Woosey is another absolute star. Again shows a real deviation to her clients. She is highly knowledgeable about the area of law and always manages to demonstrate this in the advice and services she provides.’
‘Sarah Woosey is absolutely wonderful. A real expert in the field and offered fantastic advice throughout. Feel really lucky we got Sarah.’
Mrs Julie Paterson
Ms Moyo Tobun
- Acted for a girl with ASD who had been subject to repeated isolation at school, and had attempted suicide because of the way that she was treated. Following the threat of judicial review against the school, it agreed to stop isolating the client and review its policies. It was important not only in respect of the impact of the successful case on the girl and other pupils at the school, but also in terms of the light that it shone on this practice.
- Handled a SEND Tribunal appeal, against Sections B, F and I, for J who is 4 years old. Assisted throughout the appeal process.
- Acted for a child with SEN who was not receiving adequate support in school and was in unsuitable school placement. Local Authority had breached statutory timeframes by not issuing a final EHCP earlier this year, which required a pre-action letter being sent by the department.
Sinclairslaw has 'one of the best teams nationally', which is noted for its wide education sector experience, and has a particular strength in the Welsh SEN system. Based in Penarth, the practice is led by Michael Charles and advises parents and carers on admissions, exclusions and appeals. It also has a higher education offering, acting for students on various academic appeals pertaining to extenuating circumstances. Marian Shaughnessy, who is the key contact on the community care side, is recommended for disputes against local authorities. Helen Gill has expertise in undertaking judicial reviews. John Ford is also recommended.
‘Sinclairslaw is one of the education firms at the forefront of the industry.’
‘Helen Gill – I almost always recommend Helen when someone asks for a recommended solicitor in a public law case. She is excellent with clients. Her first-class knowledge in education is combined with expertise in health and social care, so she is a rare find who can deal with complex cases cutting across legal areas with ease.’
‘Mike Charles – Mike has a huge social media presence and is very popular amongst clients. There are few solicitors more effective than Mike, and he will do all he can to assist any client. His knowledge in education, as well other areas, means he delivers very good legal advice.’
‘Sinclairslaw are particularly strong in education law – one of the best teams nationally.’
‘Helen Gill brings energy and enthusiasm. John Ford has unrivalled experience.’
- Established the burden of proof required in child exclusion cases
- Acknowledged the importance of Occupational Therapy and Speech and Language Therapy being regarded as educational needs.
Noted for its 'excellent reputation', the education team at Bindmans LLP is led by experienced practitioner Karen May, who joined from Sinclairslaw in 2019. The practice handles complex judicial reviews, community care matters and acts for vulnerable (often special educational needs/disabled) children. The team is able to leverage its public law offering to handle specialist policy challenges; Jamie Potter is a key contact here. 'Rising star' Emma Varley specialises in judicial review challenges involving public bodies.
‘Bindmans has a rapidly expanding education practice with renowned expertise in Karen May and the rising star Emma Varley. It primarily works for students and parents, across the spectrum of education law, including special educational needs, schools and universities.’
‘Karen May is extremely well known in the field, very down to earth, who gives practical, clear and well thought through advice. Emma Varley – A rising star who is excellent at building relationships with clients. She has an in depth knowledge of education law and uses it to give extremely good advice.’
‘Bindmans is a firm with an excellent reputation for public law work in a number of areas. More recently they have recruited an individual that puts them on the map for education work in a way which was not the case previously. The combination of this individual expertise and brand reputation is an extremely promising development for education law at Bindmans.’
‘The strength of the team lies in its cross-over expertise and knowledge, and its strong place in the market in the field of civil liberties and human rights generally.’
‘Karen May is a fairly recent addition at Bindmans. She moved from John Ford Solicitors. Karen moved to Bindmans taking with her years of experience of acting for individuals in education and public law cases. She is essentially carrying out the same work, focussing on claims brought by individuals against schools, universities, and public bodies. She also takes on Court of Protection work.’
‘Karen May is one of the most experienced education lawyers in the country.’
Dawat-e-Hadiyah Trust / Dawoodi Bohra Islamic Community
RD on behalf of his litigation friend & others (Clients are four children with SEND in Worcestershire)
JW. This is anonymised as the client is a minor, acting by his mother and proposed litigation friend.
JC This is anonymised as the client is a minor.
- Granted permission for Judicial Review in respect of suitable educational provision for a vulnerable autistic student with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. The case settled before final hearing and the defendant was ordered to make arrangements for the education of the claimant, suitable to his needs and compliant with section 19 of the Education Act 1996.
- Advising the client through father and potential litigation friend in relation to ‘out of county’ Special Educational Needs and Disability educational provision for a family belonging to the Traveller community.
- Jamie Potter and Jessie Brennan represent four children with SEND in a successful judicial review challenge to the decision of Worcestershire County Council to remove Portage services without adequate transitional arrangements or alternative arrangements being put in place. Portage is a home visiting service which provides regular bespoke support to families with children who have SEN.
Payne Hicks Beach education team is led by the 'fantastic' Ane Vernon and is skilled in a variety of matters. Its work includes admissions, exclusions and appeals, as well as a wide range of compliance issues. Dominic Crossley's extensive expertise in privacy and media law makes the firm a strong choice for advice on reputationally-sensitive issues. The group also has notable litigation experience.
Other key lawyers:
‘Ane Vernon is a very astute operator. She is sensitive to client needs and clear in her legal analysis.’
‘Ane Vernon is a fantastic solicitor in this area.’
‘In my experience, Ane Vernon forms excellent relationships with clients and takes an intelligent interest in the wider context of the case. She is very well informed on the education sector in general and at the same time receptive to the peculiarities of a particular institution.’
Russell-Cooke LLP acts for SEN clients on education provision matters and also has a strong capability representing transgender and non-binary pupils in discrimination claims. The team is led by recently promoted partner Eva Akins, who is described by clients as 'excellent'. She has notable experience of Equality Act claims against schools involving discrimination over access to school facilities. Samantha Little, who leads the children and education law team, acts for children, parents and carers.
‘Eva Akins is an excellent solicitor.’
‘Tightly managed team led by star counsel Eva. Incredibly dedicated, professional and passionate individual. She singlehandedly changed my life when she took over our support’
SEN Legal is a specialist SEN and disability firm that advises parents and carers on a myriad of issues relating to education provisions for children. Melinda Nettleton heads up the team, which has over two decades of experience of special education needs work and handles various Court of Protection and discrimination matters. It acts for clients from throughout England and Wales. Haley Mason is recommended for her expertise in SEND tribunal matters.
- Successfully acted for a client on a complex Court of Protection/Social Care/Education litigation matter against their Local Authority and Clinical Commissioning Group, whereby a care plan was extremely lacking in support for the young adult.
- Acted for a client in complex litigation against their Local Authority to achieve an extremely rare 40hr per week full ABA programme at home and at school and 60 hours of ABA during the school holidays, fully funded by the Local Authority as educational provision.
- Acted for a client in disability discrimination proceedings, against her nationally known fee-paying college, who has a long term medical condition that did not enable her to work extended hours and required a suspension of placement until medically deemed fit to work again. The client was being refused reasonable adjustments by her specialist college to enable her to complete her practical New Qualified year and therefore qualify.