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R v. East Sussex County Council ex parte Tandy

House of Lords, United Kingdom [1998] 2 All ER 769

Keywords: Adaptability, suitable education, resources, financial reasons not allowed to stand in way of statutory duty, disability, special educational needs

The judgement at paragraph 259 ‘To permit a local authority to avoid performing a statutory duty on the grounds that it prefers to spend money in other ways is to downgrade a statutory duty to a discretionary power.’ 
The claimant was a sick child unable to attend school.   Assistance had been provided under Section 298 of the Education Act 1993 which provided that each local education authority was required to make arrangements for the provision of suitable full-time or part-time education at school or otherwise than at school for those children of compulsory school age who, by reason of, amongst other things, illness, might not otherwise receive suitable education. According to Section 298, “‘suitable education,’ means efficient education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he may have....”

In October 1996 the education authority advised the claimant’s parents that, for financial reasons, the maximum number of hours of home tuition provided would be reduced from five hours per week to three hours per week. The Claimant sought judicial review of the decision because the decision should have been made solely with regard to section 298 not any financial reasons. 
The House of Lords held that there was nothing in Section 298 to indicate that the resources available were relevant. However, if there was more than one way of providing ‘suitable education,’ the education authority would be entitled to have regard to its resources in choosing between different ways of making such provision.

See the case of Governing Body of Mikro Primary School & Anor. v. The Western Cape Minister of Education & Others in the section of cases on language.

In this case, the decision of the education authority to reduce the hours of home tuition provided to the appellant for financial reasons was unlawful.