Govan Law Centre Education Law Unit
Set up in 2002, Govan Law Centre’s Education Law Unit provides an expert legal resource in the field of school education, with a particular focus on tackling discrimination, promoting human rights and the rights of disabled pupils and pupils with additional support needs.
‘Govan Law Centre is seen as an excellent model for successful PLE delivery. The combination of the hard copy leaflets, a strong web strategy and a helpline is seen as a good PLE strategy. Specific needs have been met with the focused work done on bank charges‘ Quote from the Public Legal Education Seminar Report Edinburgh 2009
The Unit works in partnership with schools, education authorities, parents’ groups and charities across Scotland to make pupils’ rights and parents’ rights in education a reality. It produces a number of leaflets and booklets on various aspects of education law and pupils’ or parents’ rights.
Legal Education plays a big role in the work of the Unit so as well as providing legal representation in education law cases to parents or pupils, they also regularly deliver in-house training to advocacy groups, parents’ organisations, the voluntary sector, schools and other education professionals. Their policy work includes contributing to consultations for new legislation including the writing of policy guidances.
The Unit operates an Education Law Helpline which is available to anyone who has an enquiry about any aspect of education law in Scotland. Their education law website aims to provide a meaningful free resource for those with unmet legal needs and contains a wide range of practical and useful information for advisors and citizens alike.
The Unit is funded by the Scottish Government and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Legal Education at the Unit
The Law Centre believes that the primary purpose of their educational work is to alleviate poverty or social disadvantage in Glasgow.
‘This is achieved by “information cascade”, in other words by demystifying the law, we can make legal skills accessible to numerous advisors and individuals – and in so doing, ensure that more of Glasgow’s citizens become aware of their rights, remedies and legal responsibilities.’
Ideas for events come from a number of sources: in consequence of novel or test casework undertaken by the Law Centre; in response to local community need; and as a result of Westminster and Scottish Parliament law reform which impacts upon the Govan and wider Glasgow communities.
Raising Awareness of Rights
New legislation has given local authorities a duty to help all children and young people who need extra help at school or college. For example, to provide additional help for children with learning disabilities. Informing parents and children about their new rights under the Act has been an important part of the work of the Unit in recent years.
The Unit has continued to press for improvements in children’s rights. Changes were made in October 2008 when parents of ASN children were allowed to request that their child attend a school in another local authority, through an out of area placing request.
Young Carers Leaflet
‘Are you a Young Carer? These are your rights’ was launched at the first ever Scottish Young Carers Festival in 2008. The booklet is one of a range of leaflets and booklets produced by Govan Law Centre in Glasgow. This one explains young carers’ legal rights in school and at home and includes information about money issues and benefits. It specifically covers children affected by disability and has advice for young carers who have someone in their family with a disability.
The booklet was written in collaboration with the Scottish Child Law Centre and CPAG Scotland. The publication was funded by the Scottish Legal Education Trust.
Additional Support Needs (ASN) mediation is a new and developing field in Scotland. The law now requires education authorities to have in place arrangements for mediation, involving independent mediators.
Govan Law Centre’s Education Law Unit developed an independent additional support needs mediation service specifically designed for the Scottish education system. The Unit provides mediation services, training and advice to education authorities, voluntary mediators, advisers and parent groups.
Govan Law Centre was one of the first organisations to launch a website with template letters for people who were being asked to pay unfair bank charges.
The website was set up in 2006 after the Office of Fair Trading ruled that banks were not allowed to charge high penalties for breaking overdraft limits or for bounced payments. By April 2007, the Law Centre had helped more than one million people to take on the major banks.
The website was set up in response to a specific need and offered practical help for people wanting to know more about the ruling and wanted make a claim. The Law Centre offered information about the law and directed people through the process of making a claim.
This initiative is an example of how legal knowledge empowers – of how technology can enable people to assert their rights.
The Unit published a guide to setting up and developing ASN mediation services, ‘Setting up and delivering mediation services in the Scottish education system’ in 2004. Respect Mediation has five key values: fairness, empowerment, integrity, positivity and reliability.
Published: 21 June 2009