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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 May 2006, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
School 'is failing my daughter'
Another report has highlighted problems schools have coping with children with special educational needs - and parents' struggle to have those needs met.

It is an issue with which Michelle Chambers is all too familiar: she feels her daughter's school is not coping.

She has been horrified to discover that, according to school records, six-year-old Jade has been physically restrained numerous times this year.

"They had kept indicating that she was difficult," she said.

On one occasion, Mrs Chambers said, the school offered to pay for torn trousers which had caught on the heel of her shoes.

"That was a big alarm bell."

Language problem

She called in the police, who, she says, concluded there had been no criminal intent.

And she is taking action through a disability discrimination tribunal.

Mrs Chambers's underlying complaint is that Jade needs help which the local authority - Bedfordshire - is not properly providing, even though her school has a specialist unit.

Jade has a severe language impairment. As her mother explains it, the part of her brain dealing with language does not function properly, so she finds it very hard to understand what people are saying.

It gives her a language age half her chronological age, but otherwise she is of average intelligence, so she gets frustrated.

That, combined with "quite a fiery nature", results in problems.

'Not complying'

Jade made headlines last year when she allegedly grabbed another five-year-old round the neck in the playground and the other child's parents called in the police.

Often, Mrs Chambers said, the restraint incidents in school arose because her daughter was simply hiding in the toilet, too "frightened" to come out.

Why should Jade's needs have an impact on every other child in her class?
Michelle Chambers
"Three quarters of the time it's not that she's a danger, it's that she's not complying," she said.

She would almost welcome Jade's exclusion from school - arguing that this would force the council to find more suitable provision.

"I sympathise with the school, but we have given them strategies to use which they haven't, such as telling her what she is expected to do and the consequence if she doesn't," she said.

The situation was unfair on the other pupils.

"To expect a whole class of children to have their language at Jade's level is not acceptable.

"Her language is at three years, theirs is at six. Why should Jade's needs have an impact on every other child in her class?"

'Appropriate setting'

Jade's school - described by Ofsted as having "very good" support for children with special needs - referred enquiries to the local authority.

Bedfordshire's cabinet member for education, Cllr Rita Drinkwater, said the council's main concern was that children with special educational needs get "the best possible education in the most appropriate setting".

"The vast majority of our parents are happy with the arrangements for their children," she said.

"Mrs Chambers has made us aware of her concerns. In line with our normal procedures these have been thoroughly investigated and we have responded to her.

"The county council is committed to providing her daughter with the most suitable form of education to meet her needs. An independent tribunal will agree what that should be."




SEE ALSO
School inclusion 'can be abuse'
16 May 06 |  Education
Police called after girls scuffle
28 Jul 05 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts

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