A child, C, attended a maintained special school near to her home. Her mother reported that the child was unhappy and not progressing there, and requested that the Statement be amended to name a different maintained special school.

The LA argued that it would cost between £2,000 and £4,000 to transport C to the proposed school, which it said would be an inefficient use of resources, meaning it was not necessary to comply with the parental choice. The First-tier Tribunal found in favour of the parent, stating that the price difference was not incompatible with the efficient use of resources. The LA appealed, arguing in particular that the First-tier Tribunal had failed to consider or analyse the educational advantages of one school as compared with the other.

It was not in dispute that the parent’s choice was a suitable school for C – the LA’s only objection was on grounds of cost. The High Court confirmed:

a two-stage test must be applied; that is, unless it can be shown that one of the exceptions [now in section 39(4) Children and Families Act 2014] applies, parental wishes must be followed. Only if one or more exceptions do apply should the local education authority or the Tribunal, in the case of an appeal, carry out the sort of broad balancing exercise which would weigh the amount of resources involved in maintaining the child at a particular school, the relative merits of possible schools for the child and a broad range of relevant educational factors.

For the first stage of that test, the LA or the First-tier Tribunal must reach a judgment about whether any extra expense in fulfilling parental wishes is disproportionate. The Upper Tribunal upheld the First-tier Tribunal’s judgment that the cost difference (between £2,000 and £4,000) was not incompatible with the efficient use of resources, and therefore it had not been necessary for them to carry out the balancing exercise described above.

For more information, see our sections on choosing a school when you have an EHC plan and on home-to-school transport.