Now Laycock school says: Lauren can come

Keighley News: April Birch with her daughter Lauren April Birch with her daughter Lauren

A Keighley mum and her husband have been battling for months to gain a school place for their disabled daughter.

April Birch said four-year-old Lauren, who turns five on December 22, was only offered a place at Laycock Primary last Friday – after initially being rejected.

But she will not be able to start until April and will need to remain at nursery until then.

“We’ve had progress at last,” Mrs Birch said. “But I’m still annoyed that Lauren must wait two terms before starting her education. She’s a lot bigger than the other children in the nursery.”

Lauren, who lives with her parents in Knowle Park, has cystic fibrosis along with a second genetic condition which stops her brain developing.

She has very limited vocabulary and needs a walking frame and adult assistance to walk.

George McQueen, Bradford Council’s assistant director for access and inclusion, said: “We have been working closely with the family, the school and support agencies. This has taken some time because of the potential adaptations needed.”

Mrs Birch, 32, said the struggle to secure a place for Lauren dated from early this year, when special- needs officers from the education authority began meeting staff from Laycock Primary. She said the school told the LEA it could not accommodate Lauren, recommending she would be better catered for at a special school.

At a meeting with Laycock Primary’s head and deputy head in May she said she was told the school could not take Lauren because it had no disabled toilets.

“But in their prospectus they say no child will be denied a place because of disability or special needs,” she argued.

“We were concerned back in May that things weren't being dealt with quickly enough, so we decided the best possible chance for Lauren to receive education from September to January was by keeping her at nursery.

“We were right because had we not done that she would have just been at home with me.

“It’s been a mess. As if life isn’t hard enough with any child, then add life-limiting illness to that and disabilities and it becomes a nightmare.”

She said last Friday she finally received a phone call informing her and husband Jonathan that Lauren would be able to start at Laycock Primary.

But she added: “The work that needs to be done at the school to accommodate Lauren can’t be in place for January so it will be after the Easter holidays that she starts.”

A school spokesman said: “We are continuing to work closely with the local authority and professionals to facilitate a successful placement for Lauren, while also having full consideration of the needs of the whole school. We look forward to welcoming Lauren and building strong relationships with the family.”

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