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January 2011



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Family wins disability tribunal against school

A FAMILY have won a disability tribunal against their daughter’s former school who barred the autistic eight-year-old from the school prom.


Pretty Tamzin Mattless-Blower was devastated when she was told she couldn’t attend the end-of-year prom at Beaupre School in Outwell.


She even had a new pink dress with a matching bag and shoes, costing £60, for the special occasion, an extra-special treat for having her tonsils out the previous April.


Emma Blower, Tamzin’s mum, said: “Tamzin was really looking forward to it. She was devastated that she couldn’t go.

“She just couldn’t understand why, she thought she had been naughty.”


To make it up to her, Emma and her husband Richard gave Tamzin her own little prom the following week, so she got a chance to wear her new outfit, but it did not make up for missing the real thing.


The tribunal found that Beaupre discriminated against Tamzin by failing to make reasonable adjustments for her to attend a field trip and the school prom in July last year and that she received unfavourable treatment in connection with her attendance at those events.


A Cambs County Council spokesperson, on behalf of Beaupre, said: “We are an inclusive school and are disappointed with the tribunal’s decision. The school has currently lodged an appeal against the decision and it would be inappropriate to comment further on the case until it is determined.”


The appeal to the Upper Tribunal has not yet been heard but was rejected by the judge who originally heard the case.


The Upwell family have mixed feelings about the ruling.
Mrs Blower said: “We are pleased we won the tribunal but it’s hard to explain how we feel.


“We put our trust in the school and it’s heart-breaking.”


The Blowers had been concerned about Tamzin for several months before they made formal complaints to the chair of governors at Beaupre, Ofsted and Cambridgeshire County Council in July.


Tamzin had been displaying worrying behaviour, such as banging her head on the wall and trying to pull her hair out, as well as being physically aggressive.


“It was like a switch had been flicked and we had a different child, then that switch would get switched back and we would have a very emotional child, totally oblivious to what she had just done,” Mrs Blower said.


After not getting anywhere with their complaints, the Blowers initiated a first tier special educational needs and disability tribunal.


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Council criticised for prosecution over boy with ‘school phobia’


A council has been criticised by a judge prosecuting a couple who allowed their son to skip lessons as he had a “school phobia”.


Published: 9:10AM BST 09 Jun 2010


Suffolk County Council was criticised after it appealed against an earlier ruling that it had discriminated against the boy by taking his parents to court.


The parents had faced a jail term or fine of up to £2,500 after they were charged with failing to ensure he attended his high school in east Suffolk.


They were cleared by magistrates after a psychologist diagnosed the youth as having school phobia, a condition described as an irrational fear of going to school


Last November a Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal ruled that the prosecution amounted to discrimination against the boy.


Suffolk County Council has now lost its appeal against the ruling and must send letters of apology to the boy, now aged 16 and his parents who cannot be named.


Upper Tribunal Judge Ward blasted the authority, saying it “proceeded obdurately” with the prosecution at South East Suffolk magistrates court last June.


The judge said the council had “closed its mind” by continuing with the prosecution, despite a GP and a child psychologist advising that the boy had mental health problems which affected his attendance at school


Judge Ward also warned that this case should cause the council to “revisit its approach to such prosecutions”.


He added said that schools in similar situations in the future should “carefully consider” how they deal with such cases.


The judge ordered the council to send written apologies to the boy and his parents by June 18, signed by council chairman Eddy Alcock.


He also ruled that the school would not have been able to influence the council’s decision to bring the prosecution.


But the school is still required to send a letter of apology as it did not appeal against the tribunal decision which found it had discriminated against the boy by failing to make reasonable adjustments to his education.


The boy’s father who is a school governor said: “This decision means that after all the heartache we have gone through, it might change the county council and the schools and the way that people like our son are dealt with from now on.


“Hopefully the council will have been shaken up so that it will not keep prosecuting parents of children with these sorts of disabilities.


“We have a son who needed help and all they could do was go through their silly procedures and instead of giving us help they made our lives very difficult.”


A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “Naturally the council was disappointed not to be successful in the appeal in this case. We have accepted the outcome of the Tribunal and will comply with its decision.”


The boy missed months of education after developing his phobia following time off school due to a viral illness.


He claimed staff made sarcastic remarks when he tried to attend classes, with one saying ‘on a chair’ when he asked where he should sit.


The council continued with the prosecution of his parents, despite a child psychologist’s ruling that it was worsening the boy’s health.


Magistrates ruled after a one day trial that education bosses had failed to take proper account of the boy’s mental health.


The court heard how the boy would often refuse to leave the house and suffer panic attacks which would result in him rocking backward and forward and clutching his knuckles.

It also led to him distancing himself from friends and social situations.


His GP had told magistrates that attending school was “highly anxiety-provoking” for him.




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