Local authorities are struggling to fund school places for students with special educational needs and disablities from their tightened budgets, at the same time as recent changes to the law have expanded the scope of statutory provision.

The national news has recently highlighted the struggles of parents of children with special educational needs and disablities (SEND) to find and secure funding for suitable school places.

While local education education authorities have seen their budgets cut, the effect of the Children and Families Act 2014 and the accompanying code of practice have been to offer parental choice on the school a student attends and to let the student continue in education until the age of 25 if they so choose.

The law provides that the authority must continue funding a school or FE college for a young person up to age 25 or for as long as they require special educational provision. The recent SEND Tribunal decision in Buckinghamshire County Council v SJ [2016] UKUT 0254 (AAC) interprets that as meaning for as long as they will derive benefit from it.

Writing in the Education Law Journal, barrister Hannah Lynch says this decision expands the scope of the legislation beyond that which Parliament intended. Her interpretation is that provision should be maintained post-18 only in exceptional circumstances.

Our experience is that authorities will fund places post-18 under pressure, which suggests that they accept the decision in Buckinghamshire County Council v SJ. However, the authority have leave to take it to the Court of Appeal, which may yet clarify their obligations in this area.

If you need assistance with any issue relating to Special Educational Needs please contact James Matthews who has expertise in this area of law.