Aug 16 2012 by David Baker, Harrow Observer
A MOTHER has claimed a ‘victory for inclusion’ after winning a long battle with the council to get her profoundly disabled son into a mainstream school.
Angela Murphy, 49, of Hide Road, Harrow, was told her son’s needs were too extreme for what are referred to as maintained, mainstream schools, but after contesting the decision at a tribunal, Harrow Council has backtracked on its decision.
Her 11-year-old son Finn, who suffers from a rare condition called muscle eye brain disease, uses a wheelchair, is partially blind, has learning disabilities and cannot speak.
But his mother believed the best way to prepare him for adult life was to get him into a council-run mainstream school.
The mother-of-three said: “It was, of course, a stressful, costly experience and a lot of hard work, but I consider it all to be about my son Finn and I will go to any lengths to get him what he needs.
“He went to Woodlands (a special school based in Bransgrove Road, Edgware) and they were absolutely fantastic, but we want him to be in an environment that will best prepare him as an adult.
“There is always a lot of talk about social inclusion but the way we were treated shows it doesn’t exist in the way that people think it might.
“I think this is a victory for inclusion and potentially shows other parents that there is not just one option for them and their children, despite what they are being told.”
Although mainstream schools in Harrow do accept children with severe learning difficulties, parents or carers can contest inclusion on the grounds the child is ‘incompatible with the provision of efficient education for other children.’
In this tribunal, however, which was held last month and believed by Mrs Murphy’s legal representative to be an extremely rare case, those grounds were declared unfounded.
The decision means the council must now find Finn a mainstream secondary school with the guidelines that it should be within an hour and 15 minutes from his home.
The council has until the start of the next academic year in September to find him a place, although the school doesn’t have to be based in the borough.
The judgment could be appealed.
Harrow Council’s divisional director for special needs service, Roger Rickman, said: “The tribunal has given a direction and as with any tribunal decision the local authority is considering its next steps in response to this decision.”