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Mum wins discrimination battle after son kicked out of primary school
A MOTHER whose son who was kicked out primary school because his teachers refused to accept he had a learning disability has said she has lost all faith in the system.
Sheila Marquand, of Putney Road, spent thousands of pounds fighting Capel Manor Primary School, in Bulllsmoor Lane, and Enfield Council at a tribunal after they forced her son Zak, now 8, out of school permanently without having him properly assessed.
Despite winning the case, the mother-of-three said the ordeal made it clear to her that parents were powerless against schools and local authorities.
As well as the expense of fighting lengthy legal battles, Mrs Marquand warned that parents could easily get lost in jargon and red tape and were often unaware of their rights.
She said: "I was threatened by a representative from Enfield Council's behaviour support service that if I didn't agree for Zak to be moved to a school of their choice, they would have the power to put him there with or without my permission. He said that if I didn't cooperate the local authority would take me to court for non-attendance.
"I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I felt utterly isolated. I then read in the guidance that parents couldn't be threatened with an exclusion if they didn't agree. I decided to complain to the Government ombudsman who said if it wasn't in writing he couldn't pursue it."
Mrs Marquand then took her case to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal (SENDIST) who ruled her son had been unfairly discriminated against.
They criticised the school for placing him at a "serious disadvantage" by depriving him of his education and by failing to have him assessed and provided with an official statement of his disability.
It was in 2008 that Zak first started getting sent home from school for being disruptive in class, after attempts to manage his behaviour failed.
He was later diagnosed by a hospital doctor with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) who wrote a letter to headteacher Karen Jaeggi warning her of his condition.
According to Mrs Marquand, Mrs Jaeggi promised to start an application to have him properly assessed in order to obtain an official statement of the disability, but never carried it through.
By April 2009, Zak was excluded on a temporary basis, and later permanently excluded by June 2009.
In its ruling, the tribunal said: "Bearing in mind the seriousness of Zak's behaviour at school, we believe he should have been considered by the school for emergency placement elsewhere and/or immediate referral for statutory assessment.
"It was not sufficient that Mrs Jaeggi took no initiative, merely on the basis that, as she told us at the hearing, she believed it to be highly likely that her request would be met with a negative response because it was outside the council's established criteria for considering referrals made by schools."
The school and Enfield Council were ordered to make a formal apology to the family, but no further action has been taken.
In a statement, Enfield Council said: "All parents have a right to appeal any decisions reached by the council in relation to the care and education of their children.
"It is not unusual for parents to appeal if they are not satisfied with a council decision. The Marquand case followed the process and once we received the tribunal order, we complied with the ruling and have met the children's needs accordingly."