At the time of the High Court trial, in 2008, Romy was being educated at a state-funded special needs primary school in Hertfordshire. All the experts agreed that this was very likely to be unsuitable for her future needs. Romy’s parents objected to the proposed named school in the statement and wished to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDT).
At the trial, Mr Justice Penry-Davey awarded damages to Romy to allow her to appeal the statement and he adjourned the issue of her claim for the cost of future education in the following terms:
“Mr & Mrs Smith want the Claimant to attend Radlett Lodge School but the issue of funding is unlikely to be resolved before the outcome of two Tribunal Appeals... Because there are potentially large sums involved in my Judgment it is appropriate that I give liberty to the Claimant to apply for a future trial on the issue of damages for school, care and therapy fees to the age of 19 in the event of an appropriate Education Authority failing to meet the expenses of the appropriate school.”
In the event, Romy’s appeal to the SENDT was not successful. As a result it was necessary for Paul McNeil to seek to compel the Hospital Trust to pay the substantial costs of the Radlett Lodge School which has a pre-eminent reputation for successfully educating children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Indeed, by the time of the hearing Romy had started at the school and both Romy and her parents were extremely happy with the progress she was making.
A few days before the Education Hearing in February 2011, the defendants agreed to pay for Romy’s education at the Radlett School. The past school fees and expenses were paid by way of a lump sum and the future costs were paid by way of an Annual Payment Order which took account of future increases in school fees.
After the case Paul McNeil said:
"In many ways Romy’s case was novel. But in my view the principle is that she is entitled to opt for self-funding (and therefore choosing the best school for her needs) in preference to reliance on the statutory obligations of the Education Authority. This is particularly important when spending cuts are clearly affecting the public provision of education to those with cognitive, behavioral or physical disabilities who most need it."
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