Boy’s education ‘impeded by layers of bureaucracy’

A JUDGE has questioned the “layers and layers of bureaucracy” which she says are preventing a child from getting an education appropriate to his needs.

The mother of the boy, who is not to be named by court order, is doing everything she can to get an education for her son, yet is being prosecuted by the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB) for failing to send him to school, noted Judge Catherine Staines at Tullamore District Court.

The 16 year old, who has oppositional defiance disorder, ADHD and dyslexia with a reading age of seven years, does not qualify for the Department of Education home tuition scheme because a special educational needs organiser (SENO) says there’s a place for him at his local school and because he doesn’t have one of the chronic illnesses accepted by the department.

Judge Staines noted the irony in being asked by the NEWB to prosecute the woman for failing to send her son to school, while she was doing everything possible to support her son and secure his education: “Surely the function of the Department of Education is to ensure that every child should be educated to the best possible level.”

The judge, who has heard evidence of how the boy copes in the school he refuses to attend, said that there had been no proper investigation by the SENO or the department into the school place which “clearly didn’t suit him”.

A report by a consultant psychologist advised that he cannot attend school full time. The boy’s tutor said she would continue to teach him. “He’s not on the street, he’s not a menace to society and I think we owe it to him to provide him with an education,” said the teacher, who is also trained to work with children with autism.

The judge said she cannot understand why he cannot be home-schooled.

“It won’t cost the state a penny more that an assistant in school, which clearly won’t work for this child,” she said, adjourning the case so a new home tuition application can be made.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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