City chiefs to pay half of Ciara's school fees

A BATTLE to get council bosses to pay the fees to send a blind teenager to a specialist school has finally been resolved – just days before it was due to go to court.

Mac and Rosie McGearey have been involved in a legal wrangle with the city council for several months after it refused to pay to send their daughter Ciara to the Royal Blind School, despite an independent tribunal ruling this is the best option for her. The dispute finally ended after the council agreed to pay half of Ciara's 38,000-a-year school fees.

The other half is being paid for by the army, who stepped in as Ciara's father is a serving soldier.

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The Evening News revealed last month that discussions were under way between the council and the army, and the funding has now been confirmed by both parties.

A tribunal ruled in November that the Blind School was the best school for Ciara – who lost her sight when she was only three days old after contracting meningitis. But council bosses planned to appeal against the decision.

Although the council wanted Ciara to go to the council-run Oaklands Special School, which does not specialise in blindness, Ciara has been attending the Blind School since the start of the year after her father, who serves with the 1st Royal Tank Regiment, raised enough money to send her there until the summer.

Education leader councillor Marilyne MacLaren said: "I am really delighted that through good, constructive partnership working with the army we have come to a solution for Ciara's schooling in the future."

Colinton and Fairmilehead councillor Jason Rust, who put forward a motion calling on the council to withdraw its appeal earlier this year, is angry the council took so long to come to an agreement with Mr and Mrs McGearey.

He said: "This is a fantastic outcome, but the actions of the city council throughout have been deplorable.

"I fail to understand why the council has needlessly put Ciara and her family through this ordeal, treating them with contempt."

Brigadier David Allfrey, Commander 51 (Scottish) Brigade, said: "I am delighted that we have been able to deliver a sound and sustainable result for Ciara and her family."