Creeting St Mary: Family is victorious in county council fight for son’s schooling rights

Alex Clarke, 13, pictured at home in Creeting St Mary, has just won his fight for schooling in the c

Alex Clarke, 13, pictured at home in Creeting St Mary, has just won his fight for schooling in the county. He is pictured with parents, Tony and Heather and his sister Lucy, 10. - Credit: Archant

A father has spoken of his joy after his family won an 18-month legal battle to get their autistic son educated at the school of their choice.

Tony and Heather Clarke, of Creeting St Mary, near Needham Market, took Suffolk County Council to a tribunal to get 13-year-old Alex educated in a specialist school for children with learning difficulties.

Alex, who has a range of conditions including autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia and audio processing difficulties, is studying at Needham Market Middle School, but his parents want him to go to the Centre Academy East Anglia, in Brettenham, from September.

“We are extremely happy, overjoyed, relieved – and very pleased for Alex,” Mr Clarke said.

“We have been fighting for about 18 months. I can remember when we started –it seemed like a no-brainer and we thought it would have never gone to tribunal but the council decided to fight it.

“We did not know which way it was going to go. We spent the last couple of weeks on tenterhooks, it’s been a real stressful time. We have got the most appropriate schooling for Alex. We have not gone out to ask for something he did not need and we have not looked for the most expensive school. It’s been a very pragmatic choice.”

He said the school is designed to cater for children with conditions like Alex’s and would see him tutored in classes of about five students.

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He added the family was unlikely to seek to recover their legal costs of £27,000.

Mr Clarke said: “We have been really fortunate that we have been able to borrow the money from the family. There are other families going to tribunal that are doing it themselves.”

A spokesman for the county council said: “We will be implementing the decision of the tribunal and Alex will be going to the Centre Academy, Brettenham in September.”

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal in Ipswich ruled the county council should pay for the specialist schooling.

Alex had been due to go to secondary school in September.

The Clarke family had concerns extra support in the school would have meant he would have been out of the classroom for too long missing important lessons.