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James wins battle to go to school

PUBLISHED: 13:44 14 August 2001 | UPDATED: 10:26 03 March 2010

GRANDPARENTS Richard and Janet Halls have won their long battle to get a school place for their disabled 15-year-old grandson.

The teenager has been out of the classroom for three-and-a-half years.

GRANDPARENTS Richard and Janet Halls have won their long battle to get a school place for their disabled 15-year-old grandson.

The teenager has been out of the classroom for three-and-a-half years. His grandparents, of Woodpecker Road, in Ipswich, threatened legal action, saying they felt totally let down by the education system.

But now, just weeks after The Evening Star reported their plight, the couple have been told that James can start in September at Bladen House, a residential school in Derbyshire which specialises in helping children with language difficulties.

Suffolk County Council's education department has agreed to fund the place at the school, which Mr and Mrs Halls say is ideally equipped to help with all their grandson's problems.

"We are very pleased for James's sake, but we have mixed feelings because we are going to miss him dreadfully," said Mrs Halls, 54.

"At last we have got everything that he is entitled to, but it has been an awfully long fight that we should never have had to go through."

The couple's solicitor, Roger Inman, is a partner specialising in education law at Thetford-based firm Cunningham John.

He paid tribute to the couple's determination, and said: "It is very unfortunate that James has lost out on so many years, but hopefully this school placement can now do something to rectify the situation and help him to make the most of his life."

He added: "I think special educational needs are an important area and it is very helpful that the Star is taking an interest, because these children quite often just disappear out of the system."

Mr Inman called for the education authority to work more closely together with social services and the health authority in future to prevent others suffering such long delays.

Mr and Mrs Halls, both disabled themselves, have parental responsibility for James, who is the oldest of six children and cannot live with his mother.

The youngster has severe language and communication problems and emotional difficulties, and has been assessed as functioning at the level of a six to eight-year-old. His grandparents care for him at their home 24 hours a day.

He briefly attended Chantry High School, but could not cope, and the family decided to withdraw him in February 1998 after what they describe as a "serious bullying incident".

Mr and Mrs Halls say the education authority offered a place at Parkside pupil referral unit in Ipswich for children with behavioural difficulties, but they felt this would be totally unsuitable.

James was assessed by a number of educational psychologists and other experts who said he needed residential education, and the couple were offered a place at Bladen House - but at first Suffolk County Council refused to fund this.

However, now the education authority has changed its mind and James will be able to start at the school in September. Bladen House can take youngsters until they are 19 and help them to find places in sheltered housing after that.

"We are hoping that James will be able to gain some form of independence and take some sort of place in society at the end of all this," said Mrs Halls.

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