David Wolfe

David Wolfe is the lawyer who set up this blog.

I am a lawyer. I have specialised in public law, including education law, since 1992. I work as a barrister, advising, writing, training and acting in court on behalf of parents/children, schools and NGO’s around issues such as admissions, exclusions, SEN and school reorganisations. For several years, I was also a part-time chair of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.

Over the last 6 years, academies have been a particular focus of my work.

I have followed with great interest the legal shifts which have taken place as the approach of Governments (Labour and now the Coalition) to academies has altered over that period

I have appeared in most if not all of the major cases in the High Court and Court of Appeal dealing directly with academies.  But, as it happens, very few of the legal disputes about academies and free schools ever get to court. That is particularly so when it comes to parents and pupils trying to enforce their rights on things like admissions, exclusions and SEN issues. In my experience, academies are desparate not to end up being scrutinised in court. And the Department for Education seems particularly keen for that not to happen. So they often give in! That helps keep the lid on the ‘can of worms’ which is the law of academies and free schools.

Anyway, people regularly ask me questions about academies and free schools and the law. So I thought I’d put them all together in this blog and give my answers.

I will add to it over time. Let me know if there are issues which I have not covered and I will try and add them.

David Wolfe, Matrix, October 2011

  6 comments for “David Wolfe

  1. Natalie Steed
    March 6, 2012 at 12:27 am

    Thank you for setting up this blog. For me, a parent with a child with SEN trying to navigate a tricksy academies landscape this is invaluable. But everything is stacked against us really – all of this is so new and there’s hardly any information. Unless you are very rich legal advice is made up of blogs like yours. I can’t imagine how I’m going to draw together all the relevant detail and try and make things work for my child.

  2. DW
    March 7, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    I can only agree – by being so complicated, the system is stacked against parents. If there are particular legal issues of general interest and application relating to academies, I am happy to try and comment on them here.

  3. Just curious
    February 22, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    I’m trying to find out what the law is about changing an existing Academy sponsor. Does the school itself (staff, parents, students, community) have a say in what new sponsor is chosen?

    I’m worried that a school might decide to become an academy, thinking that the current sponsor is acceptable, but find that a few years down the line sponsorship is passed on to a different company/organization which they do not want to be involved in the education of their children.

    Is it possible that this could happen?

    Thank you!

  4. DW
    March 3, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    With the agreement of the Secretary of State (and possibly even without it), the sponsor of an academy could transfer its obligations to someone else (i.e. in effect a new sponsor) without parents/etc even knowing, let alone having any influence. So the risk of a sponsor who is seen as acceptable being replaced to parents etc being replaced is a real one.

    I understand that some of the academies initially sponsored by the Emmanuel Foundation were indeed transferred to ULT (Andrew Adonis mentions it in his ‘Education, Education, Education’ book). But I don’t have any details.

  5. J Miles
    December 14, 2013 at 7:33 am

    Dear David,
    I found your consultation section very useful in responding to my council’s proposal to change my terms and conditions (my job is to support student’s with SEND needs). This is perhaps not the use you imaged it would be put to. I adapted it to suit the circumstances and was able to quote ten of the case history you used with confidence knowing I had the brain power of a brilliant barrister behind me. I am pleased to say the council have withdrawn the one proposal, extended the consultation period and are thinking again. You are generous to share your experience and knowledge freely and are clearly committed to the fairness and equality of others. This is indeed rare and heartening. I would have liked to have written to you directly, however, if you do see this and have a moment, I hope you can find time to acknowledge it. Thank you David.

  6. Helen Harrison
    January 21, 2014 at 11:39 am

    Dear David,
    My daughter has Aspergers and her school became an academy last sept.
    She found the new uniform uncomfortable as she is tactile defensive. She is unable to wear the top button done up on the shirt and the school now has a policy to say every student needs to have their top button fastened. We worked with the school to try and find a suitable shirt but the school continued to pick my daughter up almost daily which caused her extreme anxiety and needed intervention from CAMHS.
    The school did then allow her a shirt with a softer collar and a button that was a bit further down, she was happy to wear this but the school continued to pick her up accusing her of being dishevelled and untidy. It all came to a head 3 weeks ago on the first day back she was sent to the vice principle due to her shirt. This caused her to have a major panic attack and I decided to take her out of school. We tried mediation last week and my daughter spoke eloquently about her Aspergers but the school say they have made reasonable adjustments and they operate a zero tolerance towards uniform, and that she was often dishevelled. They also said that they found my daughters accounts of the situations she has been in we’re “hard to believe” when I told them that my daughter cannot lie, (everything is black or white in her world and she unable to fabricate anything) the head then said in her experience lots of young people with Aspergers were pathological liars. I ended the meeting as I felt it was detrimental for my daughter to hear such things. I am sure that the school have breeched the equality act and are discriminating against my daughter. I would value your feedback as I now have to move my daughter to a different school.

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