Court orders rethink on boy's school

PAUL HILL The parents of an 11-year-old boy who cannot read and write won the right in the High Court yesterday to ask an education tribunal to think again about whether the state should pay for him to attend a private special school.

PAUL HILL

The parents of an 11-year-old boy who cannot read and write won the right in the High Court yesterday to ask an education tribunal to think again about whether the state should pay for him to attend a private special school.

Emma Jones and her husband Ian, who is chaplain at Wymondham College, believe their son Evan needs specialist teaching at a £19,000-a-year special school to overcome his severe dyslexia, dyspraxia and behavioural problems.

But Norfolk County Council argues that Evan should be taught, with extra support, at a mainstream village primary school.

Yesterday, the High Court in London ruled that an independent tribunal - which had considered the boy's case and had decided in the county council's favour - had “wholly failed” to take account of expert evidence on the family's behalf.

The ruling means that

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an independent Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal will now reconsider the case.

The Jones family believes that a place at the private

Old Rectory School special school at Brettenham in Suffolk would be the best way for Evan to overcome his learning problems and return eventually to mainstream education.

Last night, Mrs Jones said: “My solicitor and barrister are both very confident that we will win when the tribunal meets again, but I won't be confident until I see Evan walk into the school after everything we've been through.

“But we are very pleased about the High Court decision - it's a definite victory.”

Norfolk County Council was ordered to pay three-quarters of the Jones family's legal costs.

It had offered Evan a place at Wicklewood Primary School, near Wymondham, where he would receive extra help in the classroom.

The judge at yesterday's hearing, Mr Justice Crane, said the independent tribunal had concluded that the couple's objections to sending Evan to the village primary were “more ideologically than educationally-based”.

He added: “The tribunal also concluded that the difference in cost would give rise to unreasonable public expen-diture when Evan's needs could appropriately be met at Wicklewood”.

But the judge concluded that the tribunal had failed wholly to refer to the opinions and reasoning of a paediatric psychiatrist and two educat-ional psychologists who gave evidence about the boy's condition on the family's behalf.

The county council welcomed the High Court's conclusion that it had prop-erly determined the necessary provision for Evan's educat-ional needs, even if fault had been with the independent tribunal.

A spokesman said. “Norfolk County Council takes its statutory duties to assess and provide for children with special educational needs seriously and is fully committed to doing all it can to ensure that each child is given the provision that he or she needs in a suitable school that is fully able to make that provision.

“We would also like to stress that this decision relates to way the case was handled by an independent tribunal and not by Norfolk County Council.

“The tribunal will now have to look again at whether the tribunal was correct in agreeing with us that Evan can be properly educated in a mainstream school.”

After the hearing, Melinda Nettleton, from the Jones family's solicitors, SEN Legal - a service that specialises in special educational needs cases - said the council faced a bill of more than £18,000 in legal costs.

“This case bears out the House of Commons Education and Skills Select Committee finding last week that the current system for dealing with special educational needs cases is deeply unfair to parents and their children,” she said.

“The tribunal's decision

was obviously flawed and should have been set aside,

but the council decided

to use its financial muscle to fight it.

“The court has given an excellent decision, and there is now a good prospect at the re-hearing of winning a placement at the specialist school.”