Disabled boy's year of misery

19th December 2003 at 00:00
What a difference a year has made for six-year-old Lee Buniak.

Last Christmas, Lee, who suffers from learning and communication disabilities, was taught in isolation, excluded from the school play and was the only one of his class not to make a card to take home.

He joined classmates for just two hours a day because Jenny Hammond primary in Leytonstone, north east London, failed to employ a full-time support worker, despite receiving funding to do exactly that. His mother Helen calculated that he missed out on 920 hours of support.

This year Lee is in the play at his new school, Whittingham primary in Walthamstow, and will be taking home a handmade card.

Jenny Hammond was this week ordered to apologise to Lee and his mother for excluding him from activities that included the class photograph and school disco.

The special educational needs and disabililty tribunal ruled that Lee had been unlawfully discriminated against and said staff at the school should be given disability equality training. The school will also be expected to revise its policy towards disabled pupils. Sally Labern, chair of governors, said that Jenny Hammond was working to make necessary changes.

Mrs Buniak said: "It was a year of trauma for Lee. Before he started at school he was happy and chatty but he became upset and frustrated because of the lack of support. Lee was forced to miss so many normal school activities and he could not understand why he was not allowed to join in."

His case was backed by the Disability Rights Commission, an independent body set up to enforce the rights of the disabled.

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