The article about Lord McNally’s speech to the Legal Aid Practitioners’ Group brought memories flooding back to me.
Fifteen years ago we asked our local education authority for a statement of special educational needs for our second son, who suffers from dyslexia and who was getting nowhere at school. The LEA refused our request. We appealed to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal.
I am not a specialist education lawyer but I was a litigation solicitor and had access to the relevant material. We got a report from an educational psychologist and approached the special educational needs co-ordinators (SENCOs) of both the school that he was attending and his previous school.
I collated the witness statements, made the application, copied the relevant documentation, drew up an index for the bundles, prepared the bundles of documents, paginated them and presented the case to the tribunal on the day of the hearing. The SENCOs were fantastic and the chair of the tribunal clearly had extensive knowledge of her field. We won.
Victory brought an Aladdin’s cave. Our son started at the junior language unit at the LEA school run by two expert speech therapists. He was integrated into his primary school which provided the expert with extra help through the specialist teachers. Secondary school proved as fruitful and he received help at his sixth-form college. He got a good crop of GCSEs, A-levels and is now at university. We will be astonished if he does not make a full and substantial contribution to society and the economy.
The credit for this must go to the dedication and expertise of the staff as well as our son’s determination and hard work. However, there are two salient points to this letter. First, our son would never have got where he has without the specialist help and support. Second, he would never have got that support without the Special Educational Needs Tribunal order.
Those who suggest that disabled children ‘would not need a lawyer to get their special educational needs met’ should have their heads examined.
Neil Spurrier, address withheld