Council accused of broken promise to disabled children

Paying to read: Seven-year-old Lauren Kennedy, with her father, Tony, who faces a £2,000 a year bill for his daughter to attend reading lessons

Paying to read: Seven-year-old Lauren Kennedy, with her father, Tony, who faces a £2,000 a year bill for his daughter to attend reading lessons

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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1 Response to Council accused of broken promise to disabled children

  1. My heart goes out to Mr Kennedy I have been through the Hell of having an SEN child in Croydon and cannot think of a lonelier place to be.

    That said, I think that flogging back and forth to Purley Oaks is going to keep Lauren busy, but not actually solve any problems. The long-term goal has to be to make Lauren a high functioning student with no barriers to learning – Purley Oaks is not offering that; it is offering laborious coping strategies that will leave Lauren for the rest of her life a Dyslexic.

    We need to have a whole population who are high functioning learners for life; a global economy for people without high level skills is unforgiving, it traps people in low pay for life. If you are not sure walk around Croydon streets with me and see people trapped in poor quality private lets, one room bed-sitters for life.

    To overcome my son’s problems I researched child development, and found a solution for myself. It was the longest darkest journey I have ever been on in my life; and when I got to the end I vowed that I would document the journey and make the knowledge more widely available….
    In October 2012 I set up a Community Interest Company Fit 2 Learn ( and I tried to get all the basic knowledge down on the website. It is there freely available.

    I now know that there is no good reason why every child in Croydon ought not be achieving at least a Level 5 at the end of KS 2. We are nowhere near that level of achievement; not because the teachers cannot teach; but because we as a society are not thorough enough in our understanding of basic child development. It is not easy, but we all have to work together to understand this and make all our kids a lot smarter… especially Lauren..

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