A father from South Croydon has accused Croydon Council of acting unlawfully and immorally over the decision in 2011 to stop providing transport to disabled children attending the Purley Oaks literacy centre.
The centre is run by Croydon Council and provides specialist teaching to disabled children and those having problems learning to read. But for the past 18 months, any children from other schools needing to attend the centre during school hours have had to have taxis booked and paid for by their parents – or miss out on the vital lessons.
Now, Tony Kennedy has asked Julie Belvir, the borough solicitor, to investigate whether the council’s policy is illegal under the Education Act 1996 which says that local education authorities cannot charge parents for state education.
Kennedy also claims that Croydon’s policy discriminates against those with a disability and breaches Croydon’s duty to safeguard pupils.
Kennedy has taken up the cause on behalf of his seven-year-old daughter Lauren, who is dyslexic and recently began attending the Purley Oaks centre.
“When my daughter started attending the centre I was told that transport was no longer provided by Croydon Council,” he told Inside Croydon.
“Instead, I was told that I should contact a couple of local taxi firms that Croydon Council recommended. My daughter’s school is only three miles from the centre. But to attend her classes, the taxi firms told me that I had to pay almost £1,000 a year, plus waiting time, which could be almost the same again, to send her there. For someone living in the north of the borough, the total figure could easily be £3,000 or more.
“If you are a hard-working family on a low income, or on benefits, you have little or no chance of being able to afford sending your child there. I believe the policy is unlawful and illegal. It is a disgrace and an utter shame on this borough. I am determined to do something about it,” Kennedy said.
When announcing the changed policy, withdrawing council-funded transport, in 2011, Tim Pollard, the cabinet member responsible for children, families and learning, had said, “The plans currently being developed will see the centre staff go out to the children and provide the tuition in their school. We believe this will be significantly better for the children, whose other education will be much less disrupted by the travelling than it has been.
“As there will no longer be this transportation of children to the Centre, there is no longer a requirement for the cost of this to be met by the council. “
Now, Kennedy accuses Pollard of speaking “utter rubbish” and breaking his promise to young disabled children.
“The service was never transferred into schools,” Kennedy said. “It was a policy that never happened or, maybe, was never meant to happen. The promise was broken.
“In the meantime Croydon Council have illegally been demanding that parents pay for the state education which they have already paid for in their taxes. The council must know this. Either that, or, they are incompetent. ”
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