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Mum vows to carry on fight for dyslexic daughter

STILL HOPEFUL: Sharon Bartley-Powell and her daughter Leahchyiane and some of her drawings

A DISTRAUGHT mother who has been fighting to get her dyslexic teenage daughter a decent education says she has been completely let down by education chiefs in Birmingham.

Leahchyiane Bartley is 13, but her dyslexia is now so severe she is unable to write her own name, despite being an outstanding young artist.

Her mum, Sharon Bartley-Powell, has been battling with Birmingham education authorities for the past year. She was particularly distressed by the fact that her daughter’s difficulties were not spotted by staff at Kings Norton Girls’ School in Birmingham.

Bartley-Powell said the school left her daughter in isolation for around 70 per cent of her time there over a two-year period. She left the school last July.

Leahchyiane’s mum eventually paid £450 to have her independently assessed by leading learning disability expert, Dr Neville Brown who runs Maple Hayes Dyslexia School in Lichfield.

Dr Brown’s assessment revealed her dyslexia was so severe that she would never reach her full academic potential. He recommended the private Shapwick School, near Glastonbury in Somerset, which specialises in one-to-one tuition.

After a three-day trial there this summer, Leahchyiane and her mum were delighted when she was offered a place, but Birmingham City Council refused to pay the annual £22,737 fees.

Leahchyiane finally received a statement of Special Educational Needs in September (SEN) and was placed at Queensbury School in Erdington – three bus rides away from her home on the other side of Birmingham.

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: “We are aware that Ms Bartley-Powell expressed a preference for her daughter to attend a school in Somerset and asked Birmingham City Council to fund that place.

“However, following an assessment and consultation with Queensbury special school it was agreed that Queensbury has the services and resources to care for Leah.

"Clearly we have to protect the public purse and it would not be right to fund a place elsewhere when we have the right school here in Birmingham.”

And now after three months at Queensbury, both Leahchyiane and her mum, say the school is totally unsuitable and are now considering home tutoring with a dyslexia expert.

“I feel Birmingham’s education services have totally failed my daughter,” Bartley-Powell said. “Many of the children she is now with are severely autistic, on a lot of medication, with behavioural difficulties, and some have severe speech problems.

“Leah has no peers as she’s the only girl in her class. Her needs are being swept under the carpet, but I will fight to the death to get her the education she deserves.”

A further blow for Leahchyiane, who hopes to become a fashion designer, is the school’s refusal to let her sit the GCSE art exam a year early, as she is clearly gifted in this subject.

Dr Brown, a chartered psychologist, said: “Leah is a bright child, who tragically is now embittered because she is conscious of being let down by the education services.

“She has only recently received her statement of Special Educational Needs, but this should have been done six or seven years ago when she was in primary school.

He added: “Primary schools often fake National Curriculum levels and help the children with their Key Stage Two tests, therefore dumping any problems onto secondary schools. Leah is a classic example of this.

“But every credit must go to her mother for fighting on for her daughter. Many parents would just sit back and accept the situation.”

Community activist Desmond Jaddoo, who has written to Councillor Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children and family services in Birmingham, requesting that she urgently reviews the situation, said: “I believe that Leah deserves better.

"Birmingham appears to be developing a systemic culture of failure when it comes to children and education services, especially towards the black community.”

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