City 'stalling' in fight over Ciara's Blind School fees

THE mother of a blind teenager who fought for a place at a specialist school is accusing the city council of delaying tactics by appealing against the ruling.

Council bosses have refused to pay the fees to send Ciara McGearey, 13, who lost her sight when she was only three days old after suffering meningitis, to the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh – despite it being ruled that this is the best option for the teenager.

The education department wants her to go to the council-run Oaklands Special School, which does not specialise in blindness.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A tribunal, which was set up under the Additional Support for Learning Act, ruled in November that the Blind School was the best option for Ciara.

Her mother, Rosie McGearey, 41, believes the council is trying to buy time by taking the case to the Court of Session. As her husband Mac is in the army, the family have to move around a lot, and Mrs McGearey says the council is holding up proceedings in the hope that the family will soon have to leave Edinburgh.

She said: "The longer they can hold us off, the nearer it is to our next posting. Our lawyer believes the earliest this will be heard is in six months."

The family have lived in Colinton for the past seven months, and because the council will not pay to send Ciara to the Blind School, she has not been attending school during this time.

When the family lived in Edinburgh previously, Ciara attended the Royal Blind School from the age of six months, when she went to a parent-and-toddler group, and was enrolled as a pupil from 2001-13. However, she had to leave when her father was posted to Suffolk with his regiment.

Mrs McGearey said she had to watch her daughter go downhill since she left the school and went into other council-run facilities and she wasn't prepared to put her through it again. Ciara also suffers from hydrocephalus, neuro fibromatosis and slight cerebral palsy.

Mrs McGearey said: "We watched the regression in Ciara after she left, as other schools weren't able to communicate with her the way the Royal Blind School had. We can't watch her go through that again."

Colinton and Fairmilehead councillor Jason Rust, who has been trying to help the family, said: "It seems all the stops are being pulled out to avoid the council having to fund the education of this young girl at the Royal Blind School. The council should drop their mean-spirited appeal forthwith.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"It is disgraceful that the council are not even honouring the tribunal's decision on a temporary basis."

A council spokeswoman said: "The council's general policy is that if an appropriate place can be found in one of our own schools then that is our preferred option for the pupil. Oaklands School provides a high standard of education for children with a wide range of complex needs."