Gifted pupil fights school fees refusal

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The Independent Online
A NINE-YEAR-OLD girl who became the youngest member of Mensa at the age of four has won the first stage of a High Court battle to force Camden education authority to pay her pounds 4,300-a-year school fees, writes Marianne Macdonald.

Tests have shown the dyslexic child, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has an IQ in the top 0.02 per cent of the population. She is gifted at gymnastics and mathematics, has the vocabulary of a 14-year- old and is a year above her age group at school.

Yesterday she was given leave to apply for a judicial review of her case against John Patten, the Secretary of State for Education, and Camden. The hearing is expected to take place later this year.

The local education authority has refused to pay her fees because it argues it is under no statutory duty to do so. Last September the dispute reached Mr Patten, who admitted the girl had special needs but denied she required extra provision for them. He refused to overturn Camden's decision.

Her mother is fighting the ruling. She claims the borough cannot cope with her daughter's combination of high intellect, dyslexia and motor difficulties - which means she has a short auditory memory and writes slowly - in its own primary schools.

The battle with the borough started almost four years ago when her daughter started at a state primary school. She developed emotional and behavioural difficulties and after six months refused to go back.

Her mother taught her at home for eight months before putting her into a private school in north London which charges pounds 1,640 a term. She says she is flourishing there but that she cannot continue to pay the fees.