Family will fight to get George a place

THE parents of a disabled boy have vowed to appeal against a decision to deny him his first choice school despite the fact he needs specialist support.

THE parents of a disabled boy have vowed to appeal against a decision to deny him his first choice school despite the fact he needs specialist support.

Richard and Lisa Buckland, of Jenner Road, Gorleston feel they have been badly let down after their four-year-old son George was told he could not attend Hillside Primary School because he lives outside the catchment area.

The toddler, who suffers from mobility problems, has been offered a place at Woodlands Primary School in Bradwell, which his parents have accepted. But they are hopeful he will still be able to stay within Hillside School, where he is currently in the nursery section, because the wrench of moving to new surroundings would affect his condition.

Prior to the Woodlands offer, Norfolk County Council's Children's Services department had told the family George could attend Herman Primary.

But his parents rejected this because the school is on two levels which would make it difficult for him even though there is a lift at the school.

George's sister Daisy also attends Hillside Primary despite living outside the catchment area. The family moved from their previous home in Bradwell because they wanted more space for the children and downstairs toilet facilities for George, which the Jenner Road property provided.

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His two disabilities- metatarsus varus and persistent femoral neck antiversion- cause his left foot to turn inwards and affect the mobility of his hips, so he often falls over while using stairs.

Teachers at the nursery called in assessors from the county council's early years support team to monitor George four months after he started in October 2006 because he was struggling to fit into his class and had temper tantrums.

The team found George had a maturity problem, but failed to pass the reports to the county council.

His parents have had to arrange subsequent medical tests, including one by speech and language therapist Ailsa Taylor in February which found their son was two years behind in his mental development.

But Mr Buckland said although the county council had not received the reports, the children's services department had been told of his disability on his application form to Hillside School.

However, he said council officers admitted they had ignored this fact at a meeting with the family on Monday, which is the reason for their decision to appeal under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

“This should have been flagged up two years ago then he would have gone to the school with the help he needed. We have got medical reports to say that he is two years behind,” Mr Buckland said.

A Statement of Special Needs could be done for George, who may also have Autistic Spectrum Disorder, which would help his case for a place at the primary school but this would take more then six months to complete and he will start at his new school in September.

“I believe a good education is worth fighting for and we are prepared to go all the way to appeal over this,” Mr Buckland said.

County council spokeswoman Kate Gooding said the council was committed to supporting disabled children in Norfolk and would consider a child's disability in the admissions process if it had been made aware of it.

She said Herman Primary was within the family's catchment area and 'was fully accessible, with lift access.'

“We are aware that George's family would like him to attend Hillside Primary but as he does not live in the catchment area and, as the school is over-subscribed, he has not been offered a place.

“His name has been added to the school's reserve list and we have informed his parents of the appeal process. An independent appeal process will now consider the decision.”