Mum wins fight for daughter’s education

NAWN 1807181AM1 Francesca Adam-Smith with her mum Rachel.(1807181AM1)
NAWN 1807181AM1 Francesca Adam-Smith with her mum Rachel.(1807181AM1)

A Boston Spa mum has won the right for her special needs daughter to continue with post-16 education for a full five days.

Leeds City Council has accepted that it has a duty to fund a full five day programme for 15-year-old Francesca Adam-Smith, who was represented by Public Law Project.

Francesca’s mother, Rachel Adam-Smith, said: “A reduction in Francesca’s education, at a critical stage of her life, would have limited her ability to reach her potential, isolated her from society and her peers, and increased her frustration.

“Given the complexity of Francesca’s needs, the provision required in her education, health and care plan would not have been met in those three days.

“She is non-verbal, uses Makaton to communicate and requires constant support.

“She has input weekly from speech therapy, physiotherapy and occupational therapy.”

Rachel, who is in her third year studying law at the University of York, added: “I urge other parents to challenge these discriminatory cuts.”

Francesca, who has a rare genetic condition, is a student at West Oaks Specialist School and College in Boston Spa. She had earlier spent 15 months at Primrose Hill Primary.

In March 2017, Rachel was informed that from September 2018 post-16 education provision would be reduced to three days per week.

Leeds City Council confirmed that on the basis of the funding it receives from the Department for Education, it would only be funding for a three day per week post-16 programme for children with special educational needs.

With legal aid funding, Francesca brought a judicial review of Leeds’ education funding policy.

Leeds City Council conceded prior to a hearing that it has a duty to fund West Oaks School to provide a five day per week education programme for Francesca when she enters post-16 education.

Katy Watts, Francesca’s solicitor, said: “Local authorities are obliged by the Children and Families Act 2014 to provide the education described in students’ education, health and care plans, and cannot rely on lack of funding to provide less than is required.

“Parents and carers in Leeds and other local authority areas should consider challenging decisions not to fund five day post-16 education programmes for students with SEND, if cuts mean that students will not be able to access the education provision they require.”

The city council has indicated that it is likely to fund a five day per week programme for other students at specialist inclusive learning centres .