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NORFOLK EXONERATED OVER EDUCATIONAL NEGLIGENCE CLAIMS

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A woman who claimed local authority failures to deal with her learning disability left her severely handicapped in ...
A woman who claimed local authority failures to deal with her learning disability left her severely handicapped in the labour market had her compensation claim thrown out by a judge.

Joanne Button from Tiptree, Colchester, claimed Norfolk CC had not properly dealt with the disability during the early part of her secondary education - leading to below-par GCSE results and the loss of her 'chance' to go on to further education.

Had the Local Education Authority addressed the problem at an earlier stage, she would have achieved better exam results, and 'thus have greater earning potential', her barrister, Dr David Wolfe, had argued.

Miss Button, he told the court, should have been referred to an educational psychologist immediately following a 1990 report highlighting her problems.

But Judge Jonathan Playford dismissed her claim, saying there was 'no reason' in 1990 for thinking that an educational psychologist would have added anything to the original report compiled by a specialist teacher.

Miss Button was a pupil at Thorpe St Andrew School, Norwich, from September 1989 until 1994. Dr Wolfe argued her problems could have been lessened had she been referred to an educational psychologist in 1990 instead of 1993.

Had her learning disability been diagnosed at an earlier stage, and her needs addressed, then her subsequent performance at school would have improved, he told the court.

He also claimed the failure to address the problems had led to low self-esteem, bullying and consequent under-performing in the classroom.

But, dismissing the damages claim and exonerating the council, Judge Playford said: 'The suggested involvement of an educational psychologist owes much, in my view, to hindsight.'

He said it was not his place to conduct a 'roving enquiry' into the conduct of the county council. His task was only to assess whether one employee had been negligent in not referring Miss Button to an educational psychologist after the 1990 report.

He added that Miss Button had a 'specific learning disability', in particular affecting the learning of maths. It seemed 'unreasonable' to suggest the provision of a laptop computer 'would have resulted in a material improvement'.

The judge concluded: 'It is clear to me that the passage of time has done little to assuage the grievance felt by Joanne and her family.

'A child has only one chance through the critical years 11 to 16 and, once the perception takes hold that that child's education, and with it a future full of promise, have been botched, it is not difficult to understand how a feeling of injustice may develop.'

STRAND NEWS SERVICE

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