Family wins legal battle for disabled child at Dungannon school

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A local family has won a two-year legal battle to make the education board pay for the cost of their disabled child at a Dungannon special needs school.

In spite of the parents’ wish to have their child, who suffers from cerebral palsy, educated at the Buddy Bear School, the education board had refused to fund the placement, and said it would not be referring children to the school, even though the most recent inspection report had described it as ‘outstanding’.

However, the couple, who did not want their names mentioned, fought the board’s decision and endured the long legal battle to reverse the decision.

Speaking about the victory, Brendan McConville, Chairman of the Buddy Bear Trust, criticised the behaviour of the education board.

“They have done everything in their power to stop these parents sending their child to the school of their choice”, he said. “They sent a legal team of up to ten people to the appeals tribunal and fought the case with a barrister and solicitor. 
“We had to provide a legal team and get a psychologist to give evidence for our case. The board went on to lose the case, and my question is how much did defending their decision cost the taxpayer?”

He also accused the government of failing children with cerebral palsy in the areas of health and education. “These children have been adversely affected by late diagnosis, late assessments and inappropriate placements”, he said. “The problem is that so-called experts don’t listen to the parents, who know their children the best.”

The education department has approved the school as suitable for special needs education.