12-year-old Ellie with mum Dawn Hughes and dad John Healing.
First published Monday 2 February 2015 in News
Wirral Globe: by Emma Rigby, Senior Reporter
A WIRRAL mum has won a landmark case to keep her 12-year-old daughter at a primary school for severely disabled children, calling into question the local authority’s decision to push ahead with its closure.
Dawn Hughes has been fighting endlessly to keep the Lyndale School in Eastham open.
Her daughter Ellie has athetoid cerebral palsy and dystonia and requires constant care.
Having been born 16 weeks early, Ellie spent the first two and a half years of her life on oxygen.
Further health problems have led to Ellie missing months of school at a time, leading her to stay on at Lyndale for an extra year.
But mum Dawn and dad John Healing have been fighting to keep their daughter at Lyndale for longer as they feel moving her to another school, whether it be primary or secondary, would put her safety at risk – a fight they have finally won.
They appealed to the Special Educational Needs Disability Tribunal, arguing that Ellie needs the stability and security offered by the Eastham-based school.
On Tuesday, they were told that Ellie can stay at Lyndale until August 2016 – when Wirral Council plans to close the school.
Dawn said: “We love Ellie very much, and we’re just relieved that at least until 2016 she will be safe, healthy and happy with the people she knows and trusts best.
“Ellie gets anxious when she is around people and places she is unfamiliar with and as her parents we see that this directly affects her health.
“She suffers from episodes of painful and extreme muscle spasms which affect her body, head, face, arms and legs as well as internal processes like digestion and breathing.
“These episodes can go on for months affecting every aspect of her life leaving her unable to eat and exhausted because her body won’t allow her to sleep. They cause her great suffering and are life-threatening.”
Parents of those attending the Lyndale School hope the decision will add further weight to their legal fight against the decision to close the school and their campaign for it to take children up to the age of 19.
But Wirral Council says the ruling will not change their plans for the school.
Dawn said: “As far as we know no-one has challenged the LA about transition before on Wirral, and we’re still not sure what the wider implications of the decision are.
“I’m hoping this may pave the way for other parents to challenge the LA if they feel that transition is not right for their child.”
A year of anguish and uncertainty ended in heartbreak for Lyndale parents after Wirral Council’s ruling cabinet voted unanimously to close the facility in August 2016, citing a fall in numbers and a change in Government funding as the reason.
The authority believes there are other special needs schools in Wirral which can accommodate Lyndale pupils but parents disagree, instead vowing to fight until the bitter end to save the school.
One outcome the parents have fought for is for Lyndale to become a 2-19 facility, giving children consistency and added security.
Dawn said: “Many people have worked really hard on our behalf to get the council to see sense. Now is their chance to look at the whole issue of 2 – 19 education again and reverse the decision to close Lyndale school – a place where the trusting and caring relationships built between pupils and staff allow the children to thrive and enjoy their sometimes very short lives.”
Julia Hassall, Wirral’s director of children’s services, said: “We have not taken this decision lightly, and I have given my own personal commitment that we will work with each child and their family and carers, to ensure that the transition, will be as smooth as possible.
“We have not been formally notified of the tribunal’s decision so it would be inappropriate to comment. However, any ruling would not affect our future plans for The Lyndale School, which will close for all pupils in July 2016.
“The school was due to close earlier, but we changed the date to prevent some children who were due to make the transition from primary to secondary, from having to change schools twice. I hope this demonstrates that we do have the children’s best interests at heart.”
Dawn added: “We’re very tired of struggling to be heard, but we’re still fighting for Lyndale and if any readers would like to help us out our justgiving link is justgiving.com/lyndale-school.”