Growing pain of closed doors

16th June 2006 at 01:00
Jade Chambers has severe language impairments and needs full-time help to understand classroom instructions. But while there are specialist language units in nearby counties, Bedfordshire council will only offer six-year-old Jade a place within the county either at Heathwood lower school, a mainstream primary with language facilities, or at a specialist unit 40 miles away.

"They're giving me a choice of the schools they have, not the schools she needs," said her mother, Michelle Chambers. "I'm not asking for the best.

I'm just asking for what's appropriate."

Jade initially attended Heathwood, but her difficulties with instructions affected her behaviour. When she lashed out at a governor's daughter in the school playground, her mother received a phone call from the police.

The school decided that Jade could not safely be taught with other pupils.

They placed her in a special unit on her own, where she was taught by two nursery nurses. Since Easter, she has been taught at home while her mother takes the case to a tribunal. Mrs Chambers has already spent pound;5,000 on the reports and specialist witnesses needed.

"Jade's a round circle in a square hole," she said. "The system has failed her. If I send her back to school, it's got to be an appropriate one."

Rita Drinkwater, Bedfordshire cabinet member for education, said: "Our primary concern is that children with special needs get the best possible education in the best possible setting. An independent tribunal will decide the best option for Jade."

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