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Parents criticised for approach to Equality Act in case over education of daughter

A judge has criticised two parents for their use of the Equality Act 2010 in a series of legal cases brought over their daughter’s education.

The case of C and C v The Governing Body of a School (SEN) (Equality Act) [2018] UKUT 61 (AAC) has been over three years to both the First-tier and Upper Tribunals and the Court of Appeal, with additional cases brought against a previous school and local authority.

Mr E Mitchell, a judge of the Upper Tribunal, said the First Tier Tribunal’s 2015 decision did not involve a material error on a point of law and dismissed the parents’ appeal.

He said: “No one could argue that the appellants are unwilling to fight to secure a decent education for their daughter. However, I am going to ask them to reflect on whether it is helpful to expend so much effort on challenging their daughter’s school’s attempts to educate her.”

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The judge said the school involved had made significant efforts to understand and deal with the parents’ concerns about how child L’s special educational needs were met.

“These efforts were met with complaint after complaint,” he said. “I cannot help but think that, if as much effort had been put into seeking to co-operate with the school as was put into challenging it, the daughter’s education would have been enhanced.”

The judge was particularly concerned by the use in the case of the Equality Act 2010, which he described as “a vitally important piece of legislation for disabled pupils”.

He though added: “It is not, however, some kind of special complaints procedure for parents who are dissatisfied with their child’s education.

“To treat it as such is to misuse the hard-won rights conferred by the 2010 Act. Mr & Mrs C’s conduct of this ultimately unsuccessful litigation has rarely taken the form of focussed arguments constructed by reference to the provisions of the 2010 Act. The effort that must have expended by the school in responding to Mr & Mrs C’s claim, to say nothing of the worry caused to staff, has caused me concern.”

The dispute centred on the school’s use of ‘Pivats’, a system developed to monitor pupils whose performance is outside national expectations irrespective of their ages. “It cannot, in my view, be disputed that Pivats’…was generally accepted by the teaching profession as an effective method of tracking the progress of [such] pupils,” the judge said.

“There were no facts on which the tribunal could have decided the school’s use of Pivats contravened a provision of the Equality Act 2010, nor was it even arguable that there were such facts.”

Mark Smulian

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