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Tuesday, August 25, 1998 Published at 17:47 GMT 18:47 UK


Dyslexic boy loses legal battle

A disappointed Alexander Faludy outside the High Court

A severely dyslexic boy who won a place at Cambridge University at the age of 14 has failed to overturn a decision to refuse him financial support for his degree course.

Family solicitor Samantha Chambers: "Where on earth is he to get the money from?"
Alexander Faludy, now 15, was unable to convince a High Court judge that his local council had acted unfairly.

His lawyers had argued that the council should use money set aside to help young people with special educational needs to fund his course in theology and the history of art.

But the judge ruled that the council was correct in deciding that it had no duty to assess the boy for special education needs or to provide extra financial support for his degree.

Mr Justice Tucker said his decision was bound to be a disappointment for the boy, who is described as having an IQ "off the normal scale", but he hoped Alexander would have a "very happy, satisfying and successful time" at Cambridge.

Barry Smith of Portsmouth City Council: "We had no choice"
The son of two teachers in the Portsmouth area, Alexander was accepted as an undergraduate by Peterhouse College after he dictated essays on the rationalist argument for the existence of God and the influence of classicism on the work of the 16th century Italian architect Andrea Palladio.

He told the judge at a hearing on Monday that although he planned to take up his place at the college in October, he can write only two illegible words a minute and also suffers from dyspraxia - "clumsy child syndrome".

To overcome his difficulties, Alexander said he needed special equipment to read books and write his essays, but Portsmouth City Council had refused him any extra money.

Alexander's parents say their son's place at Cambridge may now be threatened.

The family's solicitor, Samantha Chambers, said outside court: "Alex and his parents are obviously very disappointed by the decision of the court.

"It would be very sad indeed if at this stage in his development, Alexander's place at Cambridge could be threatened by a lack of funding."

'Moral case'

The British Dyslexic Association said there was a moral case for support to be made available to Alexander and others like him.

And it called for education targets be set for dyslexic children.

The association's Chief Executive, Joanne Rule, said: "Regardless of the technical issues, there is a simple moral case for Alexander Faludy to be given the support he needs to reach his full potential.

"Alexander Faludy is exceptional, a truly gifted child. But there are many other dyslexic children whose ordinary school careers are equally unhappy, stuck in lower-stream groups regardless of their ability and afraid of being bullied.

"The government must signal its determination that schools have higher expectations of pupils with special educational needs by setting targets for their performance."

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