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Convicted mum wins home schooling appeal

Sophia Sotello (46) has home-schooled all of her three children, the older of which are now 20 and 17. She gave up her job as an office manager 15 years ago to educate the oldest herself as he reached school age and started to attend the local school. She held that “school is not the right fit for every child” and stated that she took her son out of school after he was repeatedly slapped on the wrist for touching a piano.Although there were no issues in the past relating to her older children, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, where she was resident, prosecuted her and she was convicted of failing to comply with a school attendance order for her youngest son, Gabriel. Sotello later appealed the conviction and won after the Borough did not contest the case.Judge Richard Hone, who led the appeal panel, stated that Gabriel’s attendance at Park Walk Primary School should be allowed to end, and dismissed Sotello’s former conviction. The judgment brought to an end a two-year legal battle.Sue Obeney, the Borough’s lawyer, commented that the case could have been avoided had Sotello engaged with officers 18 months earlier. She complained that Sotello had been evasive, and had tried to charge Obeney £5,000 to attend a meeting she was trying to arrange.
An educational psychologist has since visited Sotello’s home and provided a statement to confirm that the child is being provided with appropriate education. The decision by the council was particularly strange given her recognition in 2013 by Prime Minister David Cameron for her “brilliant” home schooling at a Big Society Gala.Commenting on the case, our education law specialist, Angela Sandhal, stated: “Whilst education is compulsory – school education is not. The right of parents to home educate their children has been enshrined in the Education Act 1996.  Although there is no requirement for parents to follow the National Curriculum, the education provided must be suitable; that does not appear to have been an issue in the present case.”  Have you been affected by a matter of public law? If you are a parent, student or school and need specialist education law advice – talk to us. We are experienced education and public law specialists and can give you the expert advice you need. Call 01302 320621 or email info@athertongodfrey.co.uk

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