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Public law and Regulation

Case reports and guidance on public law and professional regulation issues

03 MAY 2013

R (on the application of M and Another) v London Borough of Hounslow [2013] EWHC 579 (Admin); (2013) PLLR 051

Community Care - Education - Travel - Education Act

The Defendant was not obliged to provide transport directly between an eligible child's home and school and could, as an alternative, designate pick-up points a reasonable distance from the Claimant's home.

15 March 2013

Administrative Court

Sales J

(1)        The two Claimant children brought these proceedings by their litigation friend mothers. The application sought review of the Defendant's approach adopted in relation to travel arrangements made for children to get between their homes and school pursuant to section 508B of the Education Act 1996 (‘the 1996 Act'). Eligible children are defined in Schedule 35B of the 1996 Act and include children with disabilities and special educational needs.

(2)        The dispute concerned the extent of the Defendant's obligation under section 508B, in particular, whether the Defendant was obliged to make travel arrangements for the Claimants all the way from their respective homes to school and back again, or instead (as contended for by the Defendant), if in an appropriate case transport could be provided from a pick-up point a reasonable distance from a child's home.

(3)        The Claimant made the following submissions

(a)        Under section 508B, does the phrase ‘home to school travel arrangements' require, in every case, the provision of transport between the child's home and school?

(b)        In the alternative, if the designation of pick-up points is permitted by section 508B, does it permit the Defendant to designate pick-up points which are imposed rather than consented to by the child's parents?

(4)        The Defendant contended that the Claimants and their parents should have exercised their appeal to the Secretary of State to invite him to exercise his general default powers under section 497 of the 1996 Act. This allowed the Secretary of State to make an order declaring a local education authority to be in default of any duty imposed on it under the 1996 Act, and give directions to enforce the performance of that duty. The Defendant thus invited the Court not to consider the questions put to it.

(5)        HELD: The Court rejected this submission for three reasons. First, from the guidance issued by the Secretary of State, it appeared that he would not interfere with the Defendant's decision. The Court stated that where an appeal would be to a person who had already expressed a firm view on the question to be determined, the Court would not treat this procedure as precluding consideration of the case. Secondly, the issues raised were issues of law and interpretation of statute and, as such, the Court was the most appropriate body to determine those issues. Thirdly, due to the proceedings being of a general significance for a wide range of cases, a general ruling on the law was likely to be a more efficient way to resolve the issues.

(6)        On a straightforward reading of the statute, the term ‘suitable' in ‘suitable home to school travel arrangements' referred not only to the mode of transport, but also to the extent of travel arrangements to be provided.

(7)        The Court concluded that the Defendant was not, in every case, obliged to arrange direct transport for an eligible child from their home to their school. It was potentially lawful for a local authority to arrange for transport via a pick-up point from a reasonable distance from the child's home. In light of this the Claimant's alternative submission was also held not to be able to succeed.

(8)        The Court thus concluded that the phrase ‘home to school travel arrangements' did not always require transport between the home and school. Further, the Defendant was permitted to designate pick-up points that were not consented to by the child's parents. As such, the application for judicial review failed.

Claim failed

Key Paragraphs

[10] - Not preclude consideration.

[11] - Court appropriate body.

[12] - General ruling.

[21] - Lawful pick-up points.

[24] - Alternative submission.

[26]-[27] - Conclusion.

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