'Failed' by the system;Interview;Rachel Pearson

30th April 1999 at 01:00
As an inquiry by MPs grapples with the problem of gifted children Frances Rafferty meets a mother who broke the law for her son

RACHEL Pearson believes the British education system has failed her able son, Jonathan.

She said his teachers did not understand his needs and schools did not have the resources to deal with him. He left a school when the head said they could not do anything for him. "He became very depressed and stressed, because he was bored and frustrated," she said.

The family, from Bromsgrove, Worcester, withdrew him from his first school, and taught him at home. When he was nine he started at the middle school but that proved unsatisfactory.

Mrs Pearson said: "When he was asked to leave (middle school), he thought he had been expelled for something he had done. We had him assessed when he was nine and found his reading and maths similar to a 14-year-old. Five months later he was at the level of a 16-year-old."

Jonathan was placed in secondary school ahead of his peers but has now been removed by his parents. Mrs Pearson said:"I know we are breaking the law, because we can't teach him from home - he has overtaken me."

Jonathan, 11, has just had a trial at the private Richmond College, Birmingham, where he studies with 16-year-olds. The annual fees are pound;3,000. Mrs Pearson, who has taken part-time work to raise the money, said:

"For the first time he is happy. He finds it challenging, but loves it."

However, Dr Richard Bentley, a principal inspector for Hereford and Worcester, said the council had supported Jonathan, and added it hoped to have better success with other highly-able children in its care.

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