Gove forced to withdraw illegal school transport guidance

The Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, has been forced to withdraw illegal Statutory Guidance on Home to School Transport after a Judicial Review application was filed by the charity IPSEA (Independent Parental Special Education Advice).

The previous Statutory Guidance issued in 2007 disappeared overnight in early March 2013 and was replaced by a very reduced version. For children with SEN and/ or a disability it no longer made it clear that local authorities must provide free and suitable home to school transport when children attend their nearest suitable school.

Despite the clear duty on the Government to consult widely on any revision of the guidance under the Education Act 1996 (which requires (508D Guidance etc in relation to sections 508B and 508C) 1. The Secretary of State must issue, and may from time to time revise, guidance in relation to the discharge by a local education authority of their functions under sections 508B and 508C. 2. Before issuing or revising guidance under subsection (1), the Secretary of State must consult such persons as he considers appropriate), no such consultation took place. IPSEA’s offers to work in partnership with the DfE to improve the Guidance were not taken up.

The new guidance has now been withdrawn and the 2007 Guidance re-instated. The DfE has also committed to consult with appropriate parties, including IPSEA, in the event that he decides to revise the Statutory Guidance.

IPSEA’s Chief Executive, Jane McConnell, said: “The provision of free and suitable home to school transport for children with SEN and/ or a disability has been one which has always been in the top three issues raised by parents wanting legal support and advice from IPSEA. Over the past year, with a rise in the financial pressure on LAs, we are increasingly aware that this transport is being withdrawn with LAs inventing additional criteria over which children need to hurdle to access transport. The need for Statutory Guidance to remain clear is even greater now than before. It is disappointing that it is left to a charity like IPSEA to ensure accountability within the process and that we had to go as far as to issue an application for Judicial Review to force a reconsideration of the decision made by the DfE.”

This Judicial Review application was made with the generous support of Eleanor Wright at Maxwell Gillot solicitors and IPSEA's honorary legal advisor David Wolfe QC from Matrix Chambers.
 
Eleanor Wright said; “This is a significant victory on behalf of children with SEN and disabilities who may be unable to get to school unless they receive the transport help to which they are entitled”
 
David Wolfe QC commented; "It is unfortunate that, in its rush to bring about changes, the Department for Education has not been following the legally required processes."
 

Click here to download IPSEA's full press release, including notes for editors

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