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TRIBUNAL RAPPED FOR AMENDING STATEMENT OF SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS

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The parents of a disabled six-year-old boy today won a surprise victory in their long-running battle to have him ed...
The parents of a disabled six-year-old boy today won a surprise victory in their long-running battle to have him educated at the special school of their choice.

Peter Murphy of Chelmsford was born with cerebral palsy and is dependent on his parents, Christina and John, for all his needs.

But he is a bright boy and his parents say his full potential can only be realised by a full time regime of 'conductive' education - a technique pioneered by the world famous Peto Institute in Hungary.

They want him to go to Ingfield Manor School in Billinghurst, West Sussex - a leading British exponent of the conductive technique - but Essex CC is equally adamant that his needs can be met nearer his home at the Southview School in Witham, Essex.

The council's view was supported by the special educational needs tribunal in November last year, but that decision was today struck down as 'perverse' by a high court judge.

Mr justice Owen said the tribunal had taken it upon itself - without being asked to do so either by the council or Peter's parents - to amend Peter's statement of special educational needs.

The tribunal deleted the requirement that he should attend a school specialising in conductive education and said his needs could be met instead at a school - like Southview - where the curriculum includes 'the principles of a conductive education programme.'

The judge, sitting in London, said the tribunal's ruling amounted to a 'reversal of the proper approach' - instead of asking itself whether Southview met Peter's needs it tailored his statement of special needs to meet the provision made at the school.

The tribunal had not informed Peter's parents in advance of its intention to amend his statement and the judge remarked: 'The failure to do so was unfair and a clear breach of natural justice.'

The decision that Peter's needs could be met at Southview was, 'simply not justified on the evidence before the tribunal' and the judge described the tribunal's ruling as 'perverse'.

Mr Clive Lewis, for Peter, told the judge he he had spent the last year at Southview although it was 'plainly inappropriate' for his needs.

Asking the judge to cut short administrative processes by himself naming Ingfield Manor as the school Peter should attend, Mr Lewis said: 'There can now only be one result; there can only be Ingfield Manor.'

But Mr justice Owen refused that application and remitted the case for reconsideration by the tribunal in the light of any change in the situation there may have been since November last year.

Outside court, the family's solicitor, Mr Felix Moss, said: 'Obviously Peter's parents are delighted by the judgement, in particular the finding that Southview School cannot meet Peter's educational needs.

'In the light of the judge's ruling, we hope the local education authority will now agree to a placement for Peter at Ingfield Manor School without the need for another tribunal hearing.'

Despite Peter's acute physical disabilities, Mr Moss said of the youngster: 'He has got the same IQ as you or me'.

He added: 'It has been 12 months since the tribunal's decision and we are upset that Peter still remains in a school which has now been declared by a high court judge as inappropriate to meet his needs.'

STRAND NEWS SERVICE

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