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LA won't pay fee increase for school named on DS' and DD's EHCPs. Where do I stand?

(7 Posts)
pannetone Mon 31-Oct-16 15:23:27

I had a thread about this before when the school (an independent mainstream) told me near the start of term that the LA were refusing to pay the annual fee increase - which is an increase of 3.5%.

Back then I thought it was because the LA were claiming they hadn't been given enough notice of the fee increase - but this is not the main issue, as the school bursar has offered to waive the fee increase for this term as less than a term's notice was given. Instead the LA (or more accurately a consortium which our LA is part of) are saying financial constraints mean they can't/won't pay the increase, and are even questioning if the fee increase is justified. So from next term the bursar is looking to us as parents to pay the fee shortfall for both DS and DD.

I am unsure where we stand on this. The school made us sign the usual parental contract before DS and DD were given a place. Having read all the small print again it says we have ultimate liability for the fees even if a third party, for example grandparents or an employer is paying. I am not sure if this still applies when the LA themselves have entered into a separate arrangement (but probably not a formal contract) to pay the fees.

I have not managed to get hold of DS' and DD's SEN caseworker at the LA, but I suspect she will say that funding issues are outside her remit.

Where do I stand on this? There isn't a nearer school (this one is out of county) or indeed any in our small county that can meet DS' and DD's needs.

SerendipityPhenomenon Mon 31-Oct-16 15:47:30

Tell the bursar it's the school's problem to sort out with the LA and you will not be paying any shortfall.

If the school is saying that it would have to withdraw the placement if full fees aren't paid, get that in writing from them and contact the LA to point out that they have a duty to place your children in the school named in their EHC Plans and asking them to confirm that they will sort this out with the school, otherwise you will have to bring judicial review proceedings. Refer them to section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014 which requires them to secure all the provision in the EHCP including the school placement; also section 63 which says that LAs must pay any fees payable where a school is named in the EHCP.

If that doesn't sort it out, see if you can get SOS SEN to do a formal pre-action letter.

pannetone Mon 31-Oct-16 21:20:24

Thank you Serendipity - that is very helpful.

The situation does make me feel 'twitchy' with the school having to threaten to withdraw the placements if full fees aren't paid - because DS and DD need to be there if they are to get an education. It seems 'easier' to stump up the shortfall, but DH is adamant we won't and I know we shouldn't set a precedent that we will make up any LA shortfall.

zzzzz Mon 31-Oct-16 21:30:11

I think a letter written by a solicitor to the LA would be wise.

I'm so sorry this is happening to you, what total arses they are sad

Melawati Wed 02-Nov-16 10:37:24

The LA really don't have a leg to stand on. Were they honestly expecting the cost of any placement to stay the same year after year?
I think zzzzz is right - solicitor's letter reminding them of their obligation to fund the placement named in the EHCP. And don't give them room to wriggle out by paying any shortfall in the meantime.
If it's the school I think it is, they have lots of experience dealing with a variety of LAs and should know exactly how to sort this out without involving parents (although it might be worth having a quiet word with other parents to find out if this type of game playing is common).

pannetone Wed 02-Nov-16 20:13:24

Thanks zzzzz and Melawati. I do know that my LA did exactly the same thing of refusing to pay the annual fee increase from one year to the next at DD's primary SS - the school bore the cost of the shortfall.

I don't think the school can be the one you're thinking of Melawati - this school only has 4 or maybe 5 pupils with EHCPs - and from what the bursar has said it is only my LA being difficult...

Melawati Wed 02-Nov-16 20:55:09

Sorry, I must have got mixed up. If your LA has form for doing this, definitely get legal advice. 3.5% seems like a small amount, but x2 fees going up every year at a similar rate could really add up.

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