Karen May

Karen May

Senior Associate Solicitor

Education law, Community Care, Public and Administrative Law, Court of Protection, Discrimination020 8800 6464London


Karen May has over 20 years’ experience in education law and community care.

Qualifying in 1997, Karen worked for a local authority before joining John Ford Solicitors in 1999 where she soon became Head of the Education Law Department and became particularly involved with children’s rights. In August 2018, John Ford Solicitors became part of the Sinclairslaw group.

Representing individuals, local authorities and schools, Karen specialises in judicial review cases, particularly concerning Community Care and Education Law. She has acted in many leading Education Law Judicial Review cases in the High Court and the Court of Appeal, concerning vulnerable children. Karen also acts for many parents of children attending independent schools in relation to safeguarding matters and exclusion issues.

Karen also provides advice and legal representation for many Court of Protection clients, obtaining positive results for the most vulnerable. Karen has recently gained the Law Society Accredited Legal Representative (“ALR”) status and been added to courts appointments list.

Directory Testimonials

“she is highly recommended by sources for her handling of matters involving secondary school-age children” – Chambers & Partner UK 2018

“very quick, tenacious and committed” – Chambers & Partner UK 2016

“pragmatic” – Legal 500 2016

“the very strong Karen May is head of education law at the firm and has great expertise in SEN, admissions and exclusion matters” – Chambers & Partner UK 2016

“commended for her ‘rapport with clients'” – Legal 500 2015

“extremely helpful, a pleasure to work with” and “has good specialist knowledge” – Chambers & Partner UK 2015

Notable Cases 

The Governing Body of C Girls’ Academy [2015]

Judicial review proceedings were issued when the Academy unlawfully sought to compel the complainant to complete the last two years of her education at a PRU type placement. Proceedings were settled with the Academy agreeing for the claimant to go back to resume her education in the usual way on the school site

R(on the application of JE) v Sheffield County Council [2014]
Public Law -Judicial Review concerning an overlap between special educational needs and community care law. The Claimant was extremely vulnerable having autism, ADHD and ODD as well as an attachment disorder. The case focused upon the failures in relation to the Statement of Special Educational Needs and the failures to produce a lawful care plan under section 17 of the Children act 1989.Excellent provision was secured for the Claimant at a specialist independent school as well as respite arrangements and a costs order in the Claimant’s favour.

R (on the application of JF) v LB Hackney [2014]

Court of Protection proceedings- This was a very complex case with a background of judicial review proceedings to obtain community care services where the President became concerned about the lack of progress.

G –v- West Herts College [2014]
This case involved disability discrimination against a young man with Downs Syndrome. Proceedings were issued and sensitive negotiations led to a settlement for damages.

R (DD) –v- Independent Appeal Panel of the L.B. Islington [2013] ELR 483.
(Admissions Infant Class Sizes). This case concerns the approach panels need to take where “future infant class size prejudice” is put forward by the admissions authority.

R (on the application of JF)-v-L B Hackney [2010] EWHC 3130
(Inadequacy of care plan) JF suffers from severe autism and the case concerned the legal requirements for a lawful care plan. The care plan was inadequate and lacked the degree of specificity required by case law.

R (LG) -v- Independent Appeal Panel for Tom Hood School and Others [2009] ELR 248
This case challenged the standard of proof in exclusion cases and focused upon Human Rights arguments.

Exclusion case)B -v- London Borough of Barnet [2009] EWHC 2842
(Community Care and section 19 of the Education Act)
This case concerned various breached of community care legislation in relation to a very vulnerable disabled child. This is a leading case regarding the local authority’s responsibility for putting in place alternative full time education when a child is without a suitable school place.

O v LB Hackney [2007] ELR 405
Duty to arrange school places in the local authorities’ area.

R (L) v London Borough of Waltham Forest & anor [2007] EWHC 2060 and R (JK) v Haringey London Borough Council [2009] EWHC 1393
Acted for the claimant in these two important cases regarding the confusion about LEA responsibilities towards children looked after by another authority.

R v LB Islington ex parte A [2000] Times, 20 October (Transport Judicial Review)

R on the Application of JG -v- CCG (2018)

This was a very concerning case regarding a young man with severe OCD who had been in hospital for a number of years without the specialist treatment he needed.  The proceedings led to the court granting permission and interim relief and progress in terms of assessments and a change in placement as well as the implementation of treatment.


Karen has had articles published in the Family Law Journal regarding the overlap between education law and family law. She is also co-author of ‘Education Law and Practice’ (3rd Edition, Jordans, January 2010) which remains the lead textbook in the area of education law.


Trained Hertfordshire County Council and qualified 1997; responsible for advising Hertfordshire LEA and schools. Joined John Ford Solicitors in 1999 as Associate Solicitor.


Education Law Association; Court of Protection: Accredited Legal Representative
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