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Law-breaking school told to accept autistic boy

A KENT school has been ordered to accept an autistic boy even though its specialist unit is full. An education tribunal has ruled that The Abbey School at Faversham must find 14-year-old Jonathan Green a place.

The school had been breaking the law by refusing to admit the teenager because its popular autistic centre already has 16 pupils, the maximum number it can cope with.

But now the Department for Education and Skills has told chairman of governors Lesley Temple that she and the rest of the governing body had "an unqualified duty" to admit the teenager. She has been told she must confirm by the weekend that a place had been found for him.

It is understood that if head teacher Peter Walker bowed to pressure and gave Jonathan a place, he could face a backlash from staff and the parents of children already at the school.

Jonathan's father, Eliott, Green, said he was delighted the DFES had confirmed what an earlier industrial tribunal had ruled. "It makes Jonathan's position very clear. The Abbey School is breaking the law by not admitting him. But at the end of the day I won't be happy until I see Jonathan in the unit. I would like to see him there on Monday morning," he said.

At the moment the 14-year-old, from Walderslade, is a pupil at the specialist speech and language unit at Upbury Manor School, Gillingham. The unit is not specifically designed for autistic children.

Mr Green said: "There is no provision for autistic children of secondary school age in Medway. The nearest specialist units are at Axton Chase, near Gravesend, and at The Abbey." But the teenager is so unhappy at Upbury Manor his parents are keeping him at home.

Mr Green said: "Jonathan is a very bright and highly functioning autistic child but he does need a very structured and safe setting, which his present school is not providing. He had been doing really well academically and was on target for some GCSEs which is quite something." Medway council will fund Jonathan's place at The Abbey and is providing him with home tuition until the question of his schooling is resolved.

A county council official said Kent LEA was liasing with governors at the Faversham school "with a view to resolving the situation as soon as possible."

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