The education practice at Douglas Silas Solicitors stands out for its advice, which is 'tailored exclusively to the needs of the client'. The team is a top choice for SEN and disability work, with 'exceptional' knowledge of the field, and represents parents throughout the process, including handling appeals to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. The practice has longstanding experience acting for parents, assisting with schooling transfers and post 16-19 education and training issues. Founding partner Douglas Silas has an excellent track record in matters involving local authorities. While based in London, the firm operates a national practice.
Education: individuals in London
‘Douglas Silas is a specialist in SEN law and understands life from a disabled person’s perspective. His small team are also well versed in their niche sector and work together to fully support their clients. Douglas was patient and empathetic to our situation and allowed us to be very involved in the case which is what we wanted. Using Douglas and his team removed the logistical stresses surrounding the strict timeliness and processes enabling us to focus on our child’s story and requirements.’
‘The practice specialises in all areas of SEN, from general advice to full representation at the SEND Tribunal, and is run by Douglas Silas who has over twenty years experience in this sector. The team is small, and this is what makes it stand out from other firms practising in this area of law – clients expectations are met, if not exceeded. The service/advice provided is tailored exclusively to the needs of the client, and more importantly to the child. The team know who their clients are by name; the details of their case, what stage it’s at, deadlines etc; and you really feel as if you are the only client!’
‘Douglas Silas is very knowledgeable and honest, especially when advising his clients from the outset on their chances of success in the matter. He is extremely thorough and very professional too. He honestly tries to further the interest of his clients at all times.’
‘Their knowledge of the field of SEN law is exceptional. They are also extremely thorough with all the evidence that needs to be produced in order for the client to succeed in the matter.’
Doyle Clayton acts for parents, students, professors and teachers, and is recommended for its 'absolutely superb' handling of employment cases against universities and professional bodies, in particular forced retirement cases. Practice head Simon Henthorn is well known for advising individual education professionals, and 'compassionate and focused' senior associate Amara Ahmad focuses on SEN and discrimination law issues, with extensive expertise in community care and mental capacity mandates.
Other key lawyers:
Liz Timmins; Amara Ahmad
‘Absolutely superb ability to look into critical issues relating to employment matters in universities. Ready and professional ability to translate and explain succinctly matters of employment law to the specific case of employment in universities. Excellent case management throughout- even in the current circumstances.’
‘Very adept and skilled, with deep knowledge of the Education sector. Kept us updated for billing purposes and also was transparent throughout the process.’
‘Simon Henthorn has invaluable experience of working with both institutions and individuals which can be leveraged to his client’s advantage. Very strategic and commercial, while always offering a helpful ear.’
‘Reassuring and straight talking.’
‘I have worked professionally with Amara Ahmad. From my perspective, Ms Ahmad stands out, because of her listening skills, apt questioning, responsive /informed answers to queries, and generally positive manner.’
‘We were lucky to have chosen Amara Ahmad to represent us. She is a highly experienced, hard working, very diligent and straight forward professional. We won a case which seemed lost only due to her ability to persevere and find missing and incoherent detail. Her quiet and positive guidance strengthened our resolve to continue. Amara is a pleasure to work with; professional, compassionate, focused, with an excellent response time and a keen eye for detail.’
‘Doyle Clayton are highly professional in their response time. They are a very well connected practice which makes sure contact efforts or information submission gets passed on smoothly. We cherished their ability and willingness to work within a budget and set clear guidance as circumstances changed and the case became more complex.’
- Advised an academic in a claim for career losses against the University of Reading.
- Advising a teacher in TRA proceedings and claims in the Employment Tribunal against their school.
- Advising five Oxford professors in claims against Oxford University following their enforced retirement.
Irwin Mitchell‘s education law team acts in SEN and disability discrimination cases and judicial reviews, with experience in challenges against school transport policies, school closures and reorganisations. The group also advises on local authority funding issues relating to education costs for personal injury claims; the team has a strong track record in SEND appeals, securing specialist independent school placements and provisions for young people and children. Yogi Amin heads up the public law and human rights department, and has significant experience in cases concerning safeguarding, failure to provide education and SEN provisions. In September 2021 the firm made a notable hire with the addition of human rights and discrimination expert Angela Jackman.
Other key lawyers:
Erin Smart; Angela Jackman
‘Staff know the cases very well and have up to the minute knowledge of where details of the proceedings etc are up to. Excellent document organisation and secure and efficient systems for transfer of confidential information Excellent, efficient and caring administration staff providing back up for document sharing etc.’
‘Cheerful and positive attitudes at all time. Ongoing knowledge of cases. A genuine understanding of children’s educational special needs which means that on any given case they have an ability to understand the different priorities for a child or family and make good decisions about choice of professionals to act as expert witnesses.’
‘Irwin Mitchell is excellent. They have brilliant staff who will give you the best advice. They are well vested in the law and very honest. The lawyers are respectful and always available. I have used them successfully on two occasions and will always advise parents to use them. They are really first class. Not only will they win the case but will explain the law to you and give you some insight and knowledge regarding your case. Their billing is straight forward and sometimes reasonable. I will always go back to them after witnessing the excellent work done and great staff.’
‘Erin Smart has a good reputation.’
‘Angela Jackman is one of the best public lawyers out there. A real expert in education.’
- Applied for judicial review of a matter concerning a challenge to the inability of the First Tier Tribunal to award compensation as a remedy in disability discrimination cases brought under the Equality Act 2010.
- Acted for the parents of a young person with profound and multiple learning disabilities and high medical needs including severe cerebral palsy, spastic quadriplegia and epilepsy, when they were notified by their local authority that they were ceasing to maintain the child’s EHCP at the end of the academic year as they deemed he no longer required continuation of his education and his needs could be met through alternative provision by visiting a day centre.
- Represented a client 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
Simpson Millar LLP's education team is best known for its work in the SEND Tribunal; the team is highly experienced in handling mandates for vulnerable individuals and parents of vulnerable children. 'Tactical genius' Dan Rosenberg has particular expertise in judicial reviews aimed at helping children who are out of school and not receiving education; he also regularly handles work relating to school exclusions. Public law group head Imogen Jolley has significant expertise in school admissions and exclusions cases, as well as diabetes SEND cases. Angela Jackman is noted for her experience in special educational needs and community care matters.
Imogen Jolley; Dan Rosenberg
Other key lawyers:
Angela Jackman; Beth Holbrook
‘Knowledge of the law, pragmatic and realistic advice with the client’s interests at the heart of it; good client care; great outcomes.’
‘Reputation as one of the best firms for parent education work.’
‘The best education law team out there. They have real strength and depth.’
‘Dan Rosenberg–a tactical genius. He has close ties with NGOs and other grass roots organisations so really knows what is happening on the front line. Excellent with clients–and great at achieving results. Angela Jackman–one of the best public lawyers out there. A real expert in education in particular. Imogen Jolley–expert in special educational needs law.’
‘Simpson Millar has the strongest education law credentials. Dan Rosenberg is probably the best education solicitor in the country. He comes with a strong team across the country, including people like Beth Holbrook, who have tremendous experience in this area of law.
6 individual A level students and the Good Law Project
The 'terrific' education practice at Sinclairslaw has extensive experience in acting for parents who have children with SEN, particularly in judicial reviews against unlawful decisions made by educational institutions. Admissions, exclusions and community care law are other areas of strength. The department's presence in Cardiff and Penarth as well as London means that is is excellently positioned to advise on the Welsh special educational needs system. Firm CEO Michael Charles regularly represents students in conflicts with universities, with matters including disputes over extenuating circumstances and fitness to practice cases. Senior associate Helen Gill and solicitor Louise Eardley are also key names to note.
Other key lawyers:
Helen Gill; Louise Eardley; John Ford
‘The practice clearly has a vast depth of experience within the education sector which enables them to review cases with great clarity, and advise accordingly. This is especially important to clients within this sector, as most will be private individuals who have no expert knowledge, but who will have a huge amount at stake.’
‘Excellent client care, knowledge of the law and sensitivity to difficult issues arising in the disability and education field.’
‘Helen Gill is a stand out lawyer at Sinclairs, with particular experience of education law and public law challenges generally. She has significant experience of judicial review, and has excellent tactical knowledge and client care skills.’
‘Our dealings were entirely with Louise Eardley. She handled our daughter’s case from start to finish. She consistently provided clear and detailed analysis combined with highly pragmatic strategies. She helped us feel as though we were always in control, despite it being a very stressful 6 months. Over and above her excellent legal advice, we were extremely impressed with her commitment and determination to achieve the right outcome for our daughter – she worked tirelessly throughout. We won our case, but whatever the outcome we would have been very impressed with Louise.’
‘Mike Charles – a legend.’
- Successfully acted for a client in an SEN Tribunal appeal by securing an agreement from the local authority that the client required a three-year out-of-borough residential placement to meet complex learning and care needs.
The education law team at Bindmans LLP regularly acts for children with SEN issues in judicial reviews and tribunals, and is known for its focus on cases concerning vulnerable children where there is an overlap between education and community care law. Other key areas of work include discrimination, safeguarding and free speech cases, as well as admissions, exclusions and education transport claims. The ‘fantastic, knowledgeable and compassionate‘ Karen May heads up the team; she specialises in judicial review cases, and has particular expertise in instructions concerning vulnerable children, and safeguarding and exclusion matters in the independent school sector.
Other key lawyers:
Emma Varley; John Halford
‘Karen May has been absolutely fantastic and made my harsh problems very easy to share. She has showed great passion and empathy.’
‘Karen May is absolutely brilliant, warm, knowledgeable.’
‘John Halford is a truly outstanding lawyer. His legal knowledge is second to none, as is his intellectual analysis. He’s tactically brilliant and at the same time really lovely to work with.’
‘Karen May: she has vast experience and in depth knowledge of the education sector. She is astute and knows what points will work. Excellent emotional intelligence in dealing with clients on sensitive topics. Emma Varley: Rapidly developing a reputation in the education and public law sector. She has excellent analytical skills and quickly spots the best points.’
‘Karen May brings real humanity and empathy as well as legal expertise to her cases.’
- Acted for a blind and black postgraduate student who was forced to leave the Oxford Union’s debating chamber by security staff, and then subjected to disciplinary action for alleged violent misconduct.
- Acted for a 13-year-old boy with autism and severe learning difficulties in a case concerning the legality of a special school adopting arrangements for a phased return in September 2020.
- Acted for a 13-year-old boy with special educational needs in a case concerning the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s responsibilities in terms of his EHC Plan under the Children & Families Act 2014 and his Child in Need Plan under s.17 of the Children Act 1989.
Payne Hicks Beach LLP has a growing specialist practice representing individuals, including students, parents and teachers. Key areas of work include admissions arrangements and appeals, school exclusions, discrimination claims and advice concerning examinations. The team recently advised several students on appeals and complaints arising from 2020's Covid-affected A-level and GCSE regime. Group head Ane Vernon, who 'fights hard for her client's position', regularly advises on exclusions, suspensions, allegations of bullying and allegations of a criminal nature, while Dominic Crossley has specialist expertise in the management of sensitive privacy and reputation issues.
Other key lawyers:
‘Professionalism, high expert level, collaboration.’
‘Excellent on strategy, particularly on unusual cases.’
‘The team is strong in its depth and quality of knowledge, the tailored strategic advice it is able to provide and its close understanding of the very technical aspects of dispute resolution when it comes to the education sector.’
‘Ane Vernon is a stand out member of the team. Completely forensic in her attention to detail, she excels at grappling with the key issues and finding pragmatic solutions to complex problems.’
‘The best team for advising parents on school disputes, particularly those involving the private sector.’
‘Ane Vernon–brilliant with clients. She gives sensible advice but fights hard for her client’s position.’
Russell-Cooke LLP is best known for its work on behalf of children who are marginalised by protected characteristics including disability, race or gender identity issues. The group has particular specialism in matters involving clients with neurodiversities, including autism and ADHD, and cases brought on behalf of children requiring education outside school. During the pandemic, the department has challenged schools which refused to admit vulnerable children entitled to attend, and challenged GCSE and A-level results awarded without standardised exams. Eva Akins heads up the education law practice, while Samantha Little leads the children's law team.
Eva Akins; Samantha Little
‘A very good understanding of the education legal area. A practice which is clear in their advice and very realistic.’
‘Eva Atkins, excellent lawyer, she knew exactly how to get us to our end destination. Quick and efficient.’
‘Highly professional and experienced in the area of Special Educational Needs and the complexities of ensuring that vulnerable children receive the right support and education in their Education and Health Care Plans. The Education team has extensive and practical knowledge of managing the crucial interactions with Local Authorities, schools and diverse professionals to achieve positive outcomes in school placements and receiving appropriate educational and therapeutic support.’
‘We have been dealing with Eva Akins, who from the very start has shown incredible insight into our case, and has given us confidence from the very start. Every time we’ve needed help to understand something, she has been invaluable. She has a calm way of discussing our case, and seems to have a unique understanding of the problems we have encountered with an autistic child.’
‘Eva Akins is a very well known lawyer in education. She is a go to for parents, and can provide clear and pragmatic advice and is able to mould the best possible legal case.’
SEN Legal provides a 'personal, compassionate and highly professional service' exclusively in relation to special educational needs and disabilities as they relate to education law. The 'outstanding' Haley Mason is an 'excellent negotiator'; she jointly heads up the firm, which acts for clients throughout England and Wales, with founding partner Melinda Nettleton.
Hayley Mason; Melinda Nettleton
Other key lawyers:
‘SEN Legal are the best EHC Plan lawyers out there. Their cases are impeccably well run. If I had a disabled child needing help with their EHC Plan, this would be the firm I would use. They have access to the best experts and the best knowledge of SEN out of any firm in the country.’
‘Hayley Mason is outstanding. She exudes confidence in her work, and rightly so, because she pretty much always wins.’
‘Hayley and her team have been amazing. They have supported us through the daunting, frustrating EHCP process. They are incredibly knowledgeable about SEN and have guided us expertly through the maze.’
‘Honest, personable and real. Hayley was a great listener and explained the process clearly followed with written process to refer to!’
‘We worked with Melinda Nettleton for the first 15 years of our time being supported by SEN Legal and she was our solicitor during our successful Educational Tribunal process to secure a place at a residential college for our severely autistic son. Melinda is highly knowledgeable and uses her many years of experience to give advice which is clear and, in our situation, helped us make good decisions for our son. As a legal representative she is robust and direct which gave us confidence at a time when we were feeling quite helpless. She is a powerful ally to have when facing the substantial resources of a Local Authority.’