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Tribunal rulings

Some recent rulings by the Special Education Needs Tribunal.

* An assessment requested for a 10- year- old dyslexic boy by his mother and her partner was refused by their local authority. When the boy's father appealed to the Tribunal against the decision, the LEA attempted to dismiss the appeal because he had not made the original request. The Tribunal determined that while the father hadn't been mentioned in the original letter to the LEA, it had been sent as a joint request from him and the mother and her partner. In those circumstances, the Tribunal dismissed the LEA's application to strike out the appeal.

* A musically gifted girl of seven with specific learning difficulties and of average ability showed low results in assessments for reading but much higher scores for spelling and number work. The Tribunal found that while it would not normally have considered her difficulties severe enough to warrant a statement, the LEA should be required to award one to her. The unusual discrepancy between her test results and her achievements indicated that she was not being given the education that she needed to progress with her literacy skills.

* The Tribunal upheld an LEA's decision that a child who had been traumatised as a result of sexual abuse and who had improved after switching to an independent Islamic school, did not require an assessment. The 10-year-old girl, who was receiving counselling, underwent psychological reports that indicated that she was achieving at A-level in line with her abilities. Although her mother wanted her to remain at the Islamic school, she could only do so if the LEA paid her fees. The LEA refused to assess the child on the grounds that she didn't have special educational needs.

* An 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish boy whose first language was Yiddish has been refused specialist Yiddish language provision, despite having difficulties in learning, language, communication skills and the use of English. His mother wanted him to attend a voluntary aided orthodox Jewish school, where most of the teaching is conducted in Yiddish, with support from a Yiddish speaking speech and language therapist. The LEA considered that the boy should attend a mainstream LEA maintained school with help from a Yiddish speaking special needs assistant. When the Tribunal reconvened after adjourning because of the lateness of the hour, it made an order in which there was no reference to Yiddish language provision.

* Concern that a child with multiple special needs could become too reliant on an education care officer led the Tribunal to back an LEA's decision to award her five hours a week of extra support instead of the 15 that her mother felt she needed. The 10-year-old girl who has Turner's Syndrome, a chromosomal disorder, was also recently diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and specific difficulties with maths. Although her mother and the LEA agreed on a number of amendments to her statement, they disagreed on how much time she required with an education care officer.

The Tribunal backed the LEA's view on the grounds that too much extra support would hamper the girl's progress towards independence.

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