Special needs case victory

Yechezkel Englander

Yechezkel Englander

Chasidic parents have won a lengthy battle to place their autistic son at Jewish special needs school Delamere Forest in Manchester.

Yechezkel Englander, 10, started at Delamere this week after Higher Broughton couple Avraham and Yocheved Englander made a successful appeal against a Salford Council placement.

"We first contacted the council more than three years ago to ask about transferring Yechezkel to a different school," Mrs Englander said.

Yechezkel, who needs 24-hour care, had been at a mainstream Jewish school. The Englanders removed him six months ago because "the school wasn't able to cater for him. I can't remember a day when I wasn't called to bring him home because they couldn't handle him," Mrs Englander recalled.

The council refused to move him and would not assess his special needs. The family spent almost £4,000 on a private assessment and the council eventually decided he would be placed at Salford special needs school Springwood Primary. But the couple refused to send him there.

"We knew Springwood wasn't suitable for him," Mrs Englander said. "It was a short-term solution because it's a primary school and he would be finished in a year. He wouldn't be able to eat there and wouldn't fit in socially either. We thought Delamere would cater for his needs. It's Jewish and so he could eat there too."

Last month, a tribunal ruled that Yechezkel should move to Delamere. The tribunal, led by Judge Hugh Thomas Brayne, voiced "serious concerns" about Yechezkel's placement at Springwood.

"The local authority have occasioned a long and unacceptable delay in placing Yechezkel, despite their knowledge that he has not been attending school," Judge Brayne said.

Mrs Englander said winning the appeal had been "fantastic and a huge relief. He has only been at Delamere for a couple of days and has already settled in and is happy."

Rabbi Michael Bernstein, who represented the family, was pleased at the outcome "because this child has been out of school for a long time".

The rabbi set up Embee Special Education Consultancy - offering advocacy for the parents of children with special needs - after winning a battle with Haringey Council more than 10 years ago on behalf of his son, now 17, who has Down's syndrome.

"I always feel extremely concerned that the parent who is the most vulnerable among our society is having the hardest battles to secure the rights of their child," he said.

    Last updated: 10:34am, March 18 2011