David Lawson

Call 2000


David has appeared in many key education law cases at all levels. He has experience in all aspects of education law from nursery provision to post-graduate and individual rights to national policy. He is widely recognised as a leading practitioner in the field.

“He is really good with clients and makes them feel at ease – he really takes the time to explain what is happening and what he is doing.”
Chambers & Partners

David Lawson and Emma Sutton KC speak at the ELAS annual conference 2023. David provided the annual legal update for SEN and education law.

Experience & expertise

David’s expertise covers the full gamut of education law, from nursery provision to post-graduate and individual rights to national policy. He is recognised by both of the main legal directories as a leading expert in education law.

He is chair of the Education Law Association (the main practitioner body), a past editor of the Education Law Monitor and talks and writes extensively on his areas of practice.

Cases & Work of note

David has appeared in over 20 reported cases in education law and his practice regularly involves complex legal questions. He has been told that several of these cases have already made their way onto university reading lists. David has also appeared in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and worked on internal inquiries by schools.

University cases:

  • R (K) v Secretary of State for Education [2022] ELR 93: represented the claimant in a judicial review concerning access to university for an overseas national married to a British citizen. The case concerned EU and human rights law, and touched on the difficult issue of so-called ‘reverse discrimination’, in that the student would have been entitled to a favourable decision had her husband been from a different EU State (other than the UK) , or if she had not been eventually entitled to attend university under other legislation.
  • R (Z) v University of Manchester [2017] All ER (D) 105: considers the integration of judicial review claims against universities with complaints to the University ombudsman, the OIA.
  • R (AC) v OIA [2017] EWHC: decides the interpretation of OIA rules about the extent of its jurisdiction.
  • R (G) v OIA [2015] ELR 190: the court considers the proper approach to errors by university panels.
  • R (ota M) v OIA [2013] ELR 446: decides on the meaning of the often contested phrase in higher education cases “academic judgement”.

Schools cases:

  • GP v The Lime Trust [2023] UKUT 77: represented the school in an Upper Tribunal appeal against an FTT decision that the school had not discriminated against a pupil on the grounds of his disability in decisions about gradual re-opening after the first COVID-19 school closures. The appellant contended that the FTT had to consider the public sector equality duty before determining claims for disability discrimination, a point the Upper Tribunal dismissed.
  • Coombs v Information Commissioner and The Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools [2023] UKUT 157: represented a party seeking information about the 11+  in a year where errors in the test led to adjustments being made to the scores.  The appellant sought information about the reliability of the tests and the appeal considers the confidentiality and commercial interest exceptions to disclosure.
  • R (ota Swalcliffe Park) v. Wokingham BC [2023] EWHC 151: one of the few successful challenges to a decision by a local authority to specify a school in an EHC plan.
  • NS v. Kent [2021] UKUT 311: leading case on costs in the First tier Tribunal.
  • AT and BT v. Barnet [2019] EWHC 3404: represented the claimants in this challenge to a decision by a local authority to refuse to follow a Tribunal recommendation on social care
  • East Sussex CC v. KS [2018] ELR 1: represented the local authority in a case on the boundary between education and health care, in particular the provision of nursing by local authorities.
  • TW v ESCC [2017] ELR 119: was the first appeal considering the Children and Families Act 2014 and the integration of social care and education for people over 19 with an EHC plan.
  • TB v Essex County Council [2014] ELR 46: considered the meaning of the word ‘school’ in the education acts.
  • ML v Kent County Council [2013] ELR 364: a leading case on the extent of reasonable adjustments required in public exams.
  • The Independent Schools Council v The Charity Commission for England & Wales [2012] 2 WLR 100: the leading case deciding whether independent schools meet the criteria for charitable status.  The court decided the meaning of the phrase ‘public benefit’ in Charity Commission guidance.


“David has an excellent legal mind in public and administrative law. He is exceptionally clever and good at finding unique points.”
Chambers and Partners

“He is very responsive and provides meticulous, methodical and clear advice.”
Chambers and Partners

“David is a star in the field and he is exceptionally able.”
Chambers and Partners

“David is probably the best barrister those who instruct him have ever worked with. He works incredibly hard and sees details in a case that most people would miss.”
The Legal 500

“David is outstanding. He is careful in his approach, thinks very deeply about his cases and finds novel legal points.”
Chambers and Partners

“David has an outstanding critical mind with an excellent eye for detail in education and public law.”
Chambers and Partners

‘David is an accomplished advocate with a very persuasive style. He is calm, clear and very approachable.’
The Legal 500

“He is excellent – very hard-working and knows everything there is to know about education.”
Chambers and Partners