Last week the High Court rejected an appeal by 13-year old Joanne Spendiff, who has Down's syndrome, against a decision by her LEA not to allow her to continue in mainstream education. The special needs tribunal had already rejected Joanne's parents' argument.
Joanne had attended a mainstream Catholic primary since the age of four and was anxious to join her friends at the local secondary. But North Tyneside borough council argued that a special school was more suitable because of her "severe learning difficulties in most areas of the curriculum", adding that her presence might "disrupt and distract" the other children. Joanne's counsel, Mr Nicholas Bowen, told the court that "Joanne was more than capable of expressing her wishes", but neither the council nor the tribunal had ever asked her to express them.
Mr Justice Hidden said he realised it would be "a bitter pill to swallow . . . but . . . good medicine does not always have a pleasant taste". But he took the exceptional step of excusing Joanne's parents from legal costs. Much of the Pounds 20,000 bill will be paid by North Tyneside.
Special needs betrayal, TES2, page 18.