Gifted child goes to court

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WESTMINSTER City Council is to be sued by a couple who claim that it has failed to provide their gifted daughter with a proper education.

The parents of Alexandra Inns, 10, say their daughter has an IQ of 168 and that none of the local primary schools can cope with her needs.

The case mirrors that of Lucinda Cash-Gibson, who became the youngest-ever member of Mensa in 1989 at the age of four and a half with an IQ of 161, and whose claim against Camden council is to go to a judicial review. It challenges the assumption that gifted children do not need special attention at school.

Alexandra's parents say council officials did not do enough to find her a suitable school place, and that they were guilty of malpractice when they refused to move her up a class at primary school.

The council says that tests by its educational pyschologists showed that, although bright, Alexandra is not gifted, and could learn perfectly well in a normal school. Graham Ellis, its policy adviser for education and leisure, said the authority had done all it could to help.

Alexandra's parents say she was frustrated at her local state school, St Mary's, Bryanston Square, and they asked the headteacher to move her up a class, but she refused. After tests by an educational psychologist showed her to have a very high IQ she was given separate work from the rest of her class, but was bullied by other children as a result.

The tests, taken when she was eight, revealed that she had a reading age of 11, a spelling age of 12.3 and the non-verbal skills of a 13-year-old, although on the British picture vocabulary scale she was only just above average for her age.

Alexandra's parents moved her to Newton prep school in south London, an independent school for gifted children, and later to Paragon Hill prep school in Hampstead, but she had to leave both because they could not afford the fees.

In October they turned to Westminster for help, after they had been threatened with legal action over unpaid school fees. Her father, Mr Denny Inns, is disabled and cannot work. The council said it could not help with school fees. After three months out of school, Alexandra has begun attending Soho parish primary school, and hopes to win a scholarship to an independent school next year.

(Photograph omitted)