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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 71042
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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My son attended a primary school in Essex for 4 full years.

Customer Question

My son attended a primary school in Essex for 4 full years. His literacy was extremely poor and although he received some resource, the school insisted that he did not have any specific issues, just that he was a late developer. He was naturally good at maths but as the years moved on, the literacy started to hold him back because he was unable to comprehend the wordier way that the questions were set. One teacher in a parent teacher meeting even implied that it was difficult to understand what he was saying sometimes because we, his parents are Irish. Children were also graded - made to sit at tables of different colour according to their ability, from day one, our son was seated at the lowest grade of table. Lots of children started to leave the school and it received a poor Ofsted report in c.2007 having being cited as excellent before then. The majority of my sons class left the school as did teachers, including the Head, who started in 2006, the same year my son started, pupils left from other classes and still continue to leave. The lack of progress that my son was making caused us to make a very difficult decision which was to move him to a school in Ireland and I, his mother have to live here with him to facilitate this. My husband continues to live in the UK, there is no work in Ireland, we have a mortgage to pay in UK and cannot sell house due to recession there as well. The good news is that our son was diagnosed within 6 months of arrival at his new school in Ireland with Developmental Co-ordination Disorder/Dyspraxia and his literacy has improved so much and this helps him to develop with his other subjects. However, he is very lacking in confidence, at 11 is starting to show psychological issues and "pretends" not to remember anything about this old school or the people he knew there, like he has to block it out to cope. We have spent a huge amount of money having him diagnosed privately and getting reports etc as the public health system here is cut due to recession although he was initially assessed by the State National Educational Psychology Service but the Health Board here would have taken 18 months to give our son an appointment for formal diagnosis so we paid for this and for the Occupational Therapy that he needs but his needs are ongoing and we are really concerned about why his school in Essex failed to recognise his now diagnosed special needs. As our son has an ongoing need for help which will have to be paid for, his father is working in the UK still to meet our bills and this is purely because my son and I would never have had to move to Ireland in the first place if the school in Essex had met its obligations. Basically, I wish to know if we are entitled to sue the Essex Education Authority in light of our sons ongoing need as a result of his diagnosed DCD/Dyspraxia? Thank you. Geraldine Burke
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for your question. My name is Jo and I will try to help with this.

Would you mind summarising your question and I will try to help?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

For Jo C


To summarise, what are our rights re our son being in a school for 4 years and teachers faillng to acknowledge that he may need further investigation assessment as severe literacy issues, on changing schools, he was diagnosed within 6 months with DCD/Dyspraxia and has made enormous progress, ie., advanced more in 2 years in this school than he had in 4 in previous but I have had to go live in another country with him to achieve this whilst his father has to stay in UK for work. Ongoing confidence problems from him being placed at coloured table indicating his lack of academic prowess in first school.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.
What loss has he suffered if a financial nature please?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Financial and Personal & Emotional Loss, main one being complete disruption of our family life, my child has been separated from his father since August 2010 to date and I have no day to day support with family life from my husband who is having to stay to work in UK to support us as no work here in Ireland, it is having a detrimental effect on the child's emotional and phychological well-being, the burden of paying for travel costs between here and UK, flights. I have been ill this year and hospitalised with stress related anaemia from trying to cope with everything on my own. We have had to pay for private assessments here as public system cut due to recession, pay for private occupational therapy for same reason, find new accommodation in Ireland when we have a perfectly good house and life, otherwise, in England as it was our plan to stay in permanently as we had lived in UK since 1989 until "forced" to leave for this reason in August 2010 so child could start school in Ireland September 2010. Our child was made to feel to "different" in a small, Essex rural village, his red hair pointed out, the constant references to our ethnic origin as a "reason" for his slowness at school, the dismissive approach and complete denial that there was something "deeper" going on as a reason for his literacy problems, the coloured table system thrashed his self-esteem and it has not recovered and the effects of it are becoming more prevalent now as he is gettiing older, now 11. Teachers here are noticing that whilst he has come on very well with his literacy, he seems down and depressed, this is due to the embedded damage done to his self-esteem in his formative years and having to suffer the ongoing separation from his father which we simply cannot do anything about, there is a big mortgage on house in UK to fund finding new housing for us here in Ireland and my husband has to keep working 7 days a week in UK to service our debts. The financial and emotional costs are huge.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.
Thank you.

Yes, you do have a claim. You could argue that they were negligent in not spotting this earlier and that you were caused loss. If it went to court though, I suspect it would be 50-50.

You could certainly complain to the local authority. There's no harm in that.

If you are hoping to sue for money compensation then you will need to show loss. I suppose you could argue having to move away amounts to financial loss but sadly I suspect a Judge would say that was too remote from the wrongful act.

The other points you mention, while I can see why you attribute them to this issue, are unconnected to the negligent act. The school are not really responsible for the fact that his peers refer to his red hair and arguably not for their other conduct.

The coloured table scheme is essentially a method of breaking up into performance groups which is widespread in the UK and sadly not likely to be actionable I'm afraid.

Can I clarify anything for you?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

For Jo C


Thank you, just to clarify, it was not his peers that referred to his physical appearance, it was his Class 3 Teacher.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.
I suppose you could argue that they are vicariously liable for a teacher but obviously it depends on the context.