Sharon has welcomed a letter of response from the Minister of State for Education, Edward Timpson MP, following the letter she wrote to him regarding the comments on social media by Baker Small Law Firm on SEND Tribunal cases. Parts of Sharon's letter can be read here.
In his letter to Sharon Hodgson MP, the Minister wrote that he shares the view that the actions of Baker Small were: “not a helpful action for a law firm to take, nor did it have the best interests of the child and their parents at its heart.”
This also backs up what the Minister said on the floor of the House of Commons during Education Questions on 4th July, when Sharon asked him to look into the matter of Baker Small further, and he said practices such as those of Baker Small are: “totally unacceptable” and he would “continue to watch carefully how matters develop”.
Further in his letter, the Minister mentions a research project being undertaken by the Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal and Research (CEDAR) at Warwick University which is looking in-depth at the new system of disagreement resolution, which includes mediation and the Tribunal.
Sharon has welcomed this research project and is calling on parents of children with SEND to engage with the project, and said:
“It is welcome to see both in writing and during the last Education Questions that the Minister agreed with me that the practices of Baker Small law firm’s involvement in SEND Tribunals was completely unacceptable. As we both said during the passing of the Children and Families Act 2014, the system needed to be less adversarial – however, Baker Small didn’t seem to get the memo.
“The minister’s letter in response to my concerns is welcome, and I am glad to see that CEDAR are undertaking research into this area to fully understand what is going on within the tribunal system. I hope as many parents who have experiences of the SEND system as possible will get involved and engage with this vitally important research by CEDAR.”
This information also comes after Sharon Hodgson MP wrote to all 153 local authorities with responsibility for children’s services and received responses from 8 saying they had suspended all activity with Baker Small law firm, including Barnet, Cambridgeshire, Dudley, Essex, Slough, Southend-on-Sea, Westminster & Croydon councils, and over a third of councils who responded said they would never use Baker Small after the comments they made on social media.
You can read the letter from the Minister of State for Education here.
For more information regarding CEDAR's research project, please follow click here.