This case involved a placement for a child who had considerable hearing loss, deteriorating vision and low self-esteem, but was above average ability. Two schools were identified as potentially suitable for the child’s special educational needs: a visually impaired unit, which was the parent’s preference, and a visually impaired ‘cluster’ which was to be set up as part of another school, which the local authority (“LA”) had specified in the Statement. 

The First-tier Tribunal named the parent’s choice and the LA appealed its decision. The LA argued that it had not applied the correct test or given adequate reasons, and maintained its position that both schools were suitable but the greater expenditure involved in the parent’s preference meant it was not compatible with the efficient use of resources.

The High Court found that the First-tier Tribunal's decision left no room for doubt that it did not consider the LA’s choice to be suitable for the child’s special educational needs. The child’s confidence might be impaired if they were to go through the process of a school setting up a cluster, the deterioration of the child’s vision rendered it essential to make the best use of the time left and the cluster had no sixth form unit so further disruption was liable to occur if the child was placed there.

Because the LA’s choice was not suitable, it was irrelevant that the parent’s choice was more expensive. The High Court commented, however, that if both schools had been suitable, an LA would be justified in sending a child to a less expensive option:

“There is no question of Parliament having placed the local education authority under an obligation to provide a child with the best possible education ... or to educate him or her to his or her maximum potential.”

This has been confirmed as the correct position for those with EHC Plans in Devon County Council v OH [2016] UKUT 292.

No case report is available online.

For further information, see our sections on what your LA should do to help and choosing a school when you have an EHC plan.