Award-winning children’s charity Just for Kids Law has teamed up with leading European law firm Fieldfisher to offer free legal assistance to families challenging unfair school exclusions in Birmingham and Manchester, where the firm has regional offices.
The new legal clinics represent the first time the London-based charity has expanded its unique child-centred legal services for children excluded from school beyond the capital.
Latest figures from the Department for Education show that in the 2017-18 academic year there were:
758 permanent exclusions in the West Midlands Conurbation, while 13,141 pupils received at least one fixed-term exclusion.
655 permanent exclusions in Greater Manchester, while 11,138 pupils received at least one fixed-term exclusion.
The number of school exclusions has seen a marked increase in recent years and has been linked with social trends including knife crime.
In May 2019, the government published a long-awaited review of school exclusions by the former children's minister Edward Timpson, which found that exclusions disproportionately affect children from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, and those with special educational needs and disabilities.
Just for Kids Law operates a unique casework model that puts the wishes and feelings of children at the centre.
Expert solicitors will coordinate work from the charity’s London headquarters, while services will be delivered by lawyers based in Fieldfisher’s Birmingham and Manchester offices.
Ian Austin, Managing Partner of Fieldfisher Manchester, said:
"We are proud to be supporting this initiative with Just for Kids Law. As head of Fieldfisher's Manchester office, I am very pleased that the charity has expanded its highly worthwhile work to the city, as well as Birmingham.
"Fieldfisher's charity partnerships are central to the firm's identity and we look forward to deepening our relationship with Just for Kids Law."
Aika Stephenson, Founder and Legal Director at Just for Kids Law, said:
"We are delighted to take this exciting first step in expanding our unique legal services for children excluded from school beyond London.
"These children often end up struggling to access the education they need to progress in their lives, with too many falling prey to criminal exploitation and getting funnelled into a life of crime. It is vital that all families have access to the legal advice and representation they need to ensure their voices are heard and their rights respected in appeal hearings.
"We are delighted to be working in partnership with Fieldfisher enabling us to support children and their families in Birmingham and Manchester."
Fieldfisher is a European law firm with market leading practices in many of the world's most dynamic sectors.
Fieldfisher is an exciting, forward-thinking organisation with a particular focus on energy & natural resources, technology, finance & financial services, life sciences and media.
The firm’s network has more than 1,550 people working across 25 offices, with UK sites in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Belfast.
Fieldfisher’s lawyers are passionate about using their expertise and skills to help people in need, improve access to justice, build capacity for civil society organisations and serve the greater interests of the community.
Involvement in community projects is open to everyone in the firm, whether providing free legal advice to members of the public and community organisations, mentoring children in local schools, or helping young social enterprises grow.
About Just for Kids Law
Just for Kids Law is a UK charity that works with and for children and young people to hold those with power to account and fight for wider reform by providing legal representation and advice, direct advocacy and support, and campaigning to ensure children and young people in the UK have their legal rights and entitlements respected and promoted and their voices heard and valued.
Referrals to the legal clinics can be made by filling in the online referral form at www.justforkidslaw.org/refer.
Statistics on exclusions in the West Midlands Conurbation and Greater Manchester are based on data published for the Department for Education: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/statistics-exclusions.
Figures were calculated by adding figures for the 8 local authorities in the West Midlands Conurbation and the 10 local authorities in Greater Manchester, respectively.
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