Associate Partner, Kelly Darlington, acted for Andrew Evans, 21 from Cornwall who has recently received significant damages in his claim against Cornwall Council and his case has attracted media coverage in Cornwall this week with the BBC Radio Cornwall doing an interesting feature yesterday. Kelly was asked to talk to them about the significance of Andrew’s case and hopes that this piece highlights it’s importance.

A failure to educate claim was brought in the High Court for damages in assault, negligence, misfeasance in public office and pursuant to the Human Rights Act 1998.

Cornwall Council was responsible for providing Andrew’s education when his family moved from Devon to Cornwall in 2002. Whilst he was at school he was diagnosed with ADHD, autistic spectrum disorder, epilepsy and dyspraxia, which meant he had a range of special educational needs from the beginning of his statutory education that required understanding and support from those teaching him.

Andrew was enrolled as a year 2 pupil at Fowey Primary School in April 2002 aged six and a half. He was referred by the School SENCO for speech and language therapy. By the end of the academic year the school and the local authority were aware of his special educational needs. In the years that followed, a number of concerns were raised by Andrew’s mother around the lack of assessments and support for Andrew at the school. Andrew felt he was bullied and unfairly labelled as a naughty child. By 2005, he was exhibiting signs of serious emotional and behavioural issues and had been subjected to various disciplinary incidents. His mother requested that the School provide him with a statement of his special educational needs. In the months that followed, Andrew describes being restrained by staff and being placed in a headlock in the school playground. The head teacher led a school assembly about Andrew to make an example of him. Andrew’s special educational needs had still not been addressed.

Andrew was finally assessed towards the end of 2006 by a Consultant Psychiatrist and a part of the local authority’s advice obtained during the statutory assessment a report was obtained from their Principal Educational Psychologist. A Senior Educational Psychologist produced a report concluding that Andrew’s extremes of behaviour were not deliberate acts of disobedience or aggression, but was likely to be very basic strategies for coping with panic or distress. A draft SEN statement was issued but not finalised until a number of months after. At this time, Andrew was excluded from school and it was alleged as part of his claim that this amounted to an unlawful exclusion. The school disagreed with their own local authority’s advice and the SEN statement and refused to allow him back to school. The local authority agreed to provide home tuition hours, but records suggested that this was never properly delivered.

As a result of Andrew’s unlawful exclusion between October 2006 and the end of the academic year 2007 he received no adequate/effective education which meant that he was not educated for the entirety of what was to have been his final primary year of primary education (Year 6). When Andrew moved on to secondary school at Fowey Community College he was still labelled as a naughty child and a “zero tolerance” behaviour policy resulted in him being sent home on multiple occasions. It was alleged that this was negligent, discriminatory and wholly inappropriate and no reasonable head teacher would have applied this to a disabled pupil.

In support of Andrew’s claim, reports were commissioned from a number of disciplines including an educational psychologist, expert head teacher and psychiatrists to address the long term effects and consequences of the Defendant’s breaches of duty. This evidence revealed that these breaches had generated a complex post traumatic stress disorder which now grossly impairs Andrew’s lifestyle and ability to work and enjoy his life. His lack of basic education has left him poorly skilled academically and socially which has impaired the development of a normal adult life. The loss of his year 6 academic programme resulted in his attainment levels being below those expected despite him being of average cognitive ability.

Kelly commented,

“Every child deserves to be educated to an appropriate standard. The level of support they receive is even more important in cases such as this where the child has a range of special educational needs. I hope that cases like Andrew’s, which are extremely complex and difficult cases to challenge, will raise awareness of the importance of the issues that can arise for both parents and children in need of additional educational support.”

Nicholas Bowen QC and Louise Price of Doughty Street Chambers were instructed to represent the Claimant.

More information about this case can be found here.