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Mother Wins Tribunal Case Over School Place For Autistic Son

February 18, 2011

The parents of a child with autism have won the right to send him to the school of their choice, at an extra cost of £130,000 a year to the local authority.

Edinburgh City Council wanted 10-year-old Oscar Narine to stay at a school in the capital.

But his mother, Mary Narine, has won a 15-month battle to send him to Rudolph Steiner’s Camphill school in Aberdeen.

The Court of Session backed a previous finding that the extra costs were not unreasonable because of Oscar’s needs.

Camphill charges up to £156,360 a year, compared to an estimated £19,759 a year for Redhall School in Edinburgh.

However, Ms Narine insisted that Camphill would give her son a better chance in life.

Ms Narine went to the Additional Support Needs Tribunal for Scotland when Edinburgh Council turned down her request to let her son go to the Aberdeen school.

The tribunal found in her favour but the local authority took the case to the Court of Session in Edinburgh, asking appeal judges to overturn the Tribunal’s decision.

Lord Hamilton, sitting with Lady Paton and Lady Cosgrove, backed Ms Narine.

Edinburgh Council had asked the judges to consider their responsibility towards other children in the same position as Oscar.

But in the written ruling, Lord Hamilton said the Tribunal’s decisions could only deal with one child at a time.

The court heard that Oscar had learning problems and his behaviour had become more difficult to deal with as he had grown older.

The judges heard that Camphill school had a good track record for dealing with such children and there was “an appreciably better prospect” of Oscar’s needs being met there.

‘Full potential’

The tribunal stated: “In this case, the advantage of Camphill School being a residential school is that it enables Oscar to learn to exist and function as a social being and to learn to communicate and interact appropriately with others.”

The tribunal also argued that the extra costs were not unreasonable because “the development of Oscar’s personality, talents and abilities to their full potential was much more likely at Camphill than at Redhall.”

Edinburgh Council claimed it would be “an affront to common sense” to ignore the consequences of Oscar’s school bill for other children, including those with autism, in the local authority’s area.

They said the tribunal were wrong to say that “suitability always trumps cost.”

The judges said that, in law, the tribunal were right to consider Oscar’s case on its own merits and the consequences for other children was “irrelevant to the exercise.”

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