Mother wins battle over son’s education

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A 12-year-old boy with a severe speech disorder has started at the specialist school his mother has fought for two years to get him into.

Fiona Chapple, from Buxhall, has battled long and hard with Suffolk County Council to get her son William the specialist education and help he needs.

After a two-year battle which saw several tribunals and hearings go against her, the 42-year-old mother has now won a Court of Appeal ruling which will see Suffolk County Council foot the bill to send William to the chosen school in East Sussex. The council has also been ordered to pay more than £40,000 in court costs.

William has a severe speech disorder which means he is unable to communicate through speech. Despite numerous tests, doctors have been unable to establish what caused it.

The problems began in 2009 after Fiona disagreed with the statement – a legally binding document which lays what help a child with special needs should receive – which said that Suffolk County Council could meet William’s needs within the county.

William was therefore sent to Thomas Wolsey School, in Ipswich, but his mother argued that the school could not meet his needs.

“The school did everything that they were able to do and he was very happy, but it just didn’t have the facilities to meet his needs,” she said.

She decided to go to a lower tier tribunal, in Bury St Edmunds, which ruled that Thomas Wolsey School could facilitate William.

Fiona went to the Royal Courts of Justice to appeal the decision and took the case to an upper tier tribunal, which also ruled against her.

She then went to the Court of Appeal, which held a trial on June 8 and ordered that William be sent to Fiona’s preferred school, which could meet his language and communication needs. Judges also ruled that Suffolk County Council must pay court costs, which are estimated to be more than £40,000.

“Suffolk could not, has never been able to and is not going to be able to meet William’s needs,” said Fiona.

“Too much money has been spent on not achieving anything and William hasn’t been getting what he needed. This is a fabulous result,” she said.

William started at St Mary’s School in Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, on Monday, where he will be boarding on a fortnightly basis.

“He has fitted in beautifully,” his mother said.

A spokesman from Suffolk County Council said: “Suffolk County Council has received the judgement and will be reviewing the findings.

“The most important thing now is that the young person in question gets the educational support they need and we will work with the school and family to ensure that happens.”