Chelmsford head teacher defies special educational needs ruling

An Essex head teacher says he will continue to educate pupils with special educational needs who are aged over 19, despite a recent test case ruling.

State-funded education for children with a disability currently ends at 19.

Last week the Court of Appeal ruled a 22-year-old pupil at Columbus School and College in Chelmsford could not continue to be funded at the school.

The school's chief executive Malcolm Reeve said it would still teach 11 pupils who are over the permitted age.

He explained options for students with "greatest disabilities" once they reached 19 included mainstream or residential colleges.

He said: "I'm not particularly interested in breaking the law, but trying to provide an ongoing service to people who [would] otherwise fall off the end of education.

"I think it's about creating another option for those who are most vulnerable, the most disabled students, in order to keep them closer to home.

"There should be those services available, but most of us who work in the profession say these facilities are not available, so what we're trying to do is create one."

Mr Reeve explained the school was looking into additional funding to continue the pupils' education.

'Budgetary implications'

He believed the issue of post-19 education was a national one, rather than something specific to Essex, and welcomed the government's green paper on the subject earlier this year.

Last week the Court of Appeal decided in favour of Essex County Council regarding the ceasing of Maria Williams' educational statement once she became 19.

The parents of Miss Williams, who has Down's syndrome, have spent the past three years fighting to allow their daughter to remain at the school.

Essex County Council said whilst it was "sympathetic" to the parents of Miss Williams, it was pleased it had been made clear that funding should cease when a child legally became an adult at 19.

In a statement it said: "To extend this provision would have had far-reaching budgetary implications, as well as raising safeguarding concerns around teaching adults alongside children."

It added there was still a mechanism for parents to receive funding for post-19 education, via the Young People's Learning Agency.

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