Winterbourne girl is going back to school after nearly 2 years
A WINTERBOURNE teenager is going to school for the first time in nearly two years after her family won a legal battle.
Lily-Grace Hooper, who is visually-impaired, has been schooled at home since the start of the lockdown in March 2020.
South Gloucestershire Council wanted Lily-Grace to attend Brimsham Green School in Yate after she finished primary school that year.
But her mother, Kristy, believed the school's resource base for children with disabilities was not suitable for her daughter, who is now 13.
It has taken her family until now to persuade South Gloucestershire education officials to let Lily-Grace attend the secondary school they believe will give her the best shot at learning.
Kristy said: "We never wanted a mainstream secondary environment for Lily-Grace. We made that clear a long time ago.
"Educating children with special needs in mainstream education is a good idea for some but it's not for everyone.
"I don't think, at any point, the social and emotional aspects of Lily-Grace's life or her choice of peers were considered at all."
This month, however, following a third, successful appeal, Lily-Grace will attend New College Worcester, an independent specialist school in Worcester.
It caters for 11 to 19-year-old pupils who are blind or whose vision is impaired.
Initially Lily-Grace is attending the college two days a week.
On the other days she will continue learning at home in Winterbourne, where a tutor provided by the council has been working with her since June, teaching maths and English.
Once she has settled into her new school she will become a full-time weekly boarder, travelling to Worcester on Sundays and returning home after school on Fridays.
Lily-Grace visited New College for an induction day before Christmas.
Her mum said: "Lily-Grace is very bright and she loves this place. She is going to do really well here.
The school's head, Nic Ross, said: "Every student at NCW has a tailored programme, carefully planned and delivered to meet their individual needs in three key areas: academic achievement, independent living skills and involvement in extracurricular activities at the college and in the community."
The family has spent more than £7,000 on lawyers' bills in challenging the council to fund the schooling which, they believe, would be best for Lily-Grace.
Kristy thanked friends and neighbours in Winterbourne who raised over £3,000 towards the costs at a series of sponsored events at the end of November, including a football match at the village recreation ground and party at the George & Dragon pub.
Asked if Lily-Grace would now be educated permanently at New College, a council spokesperson said: "Lily-Grace will start her transition to her new school in January. We are unable to confirm the duration of the placement."
It leaves Kristy facing the possibility of fighting to keep her daughter at the new school even as she celebrates finally getting her there.
But after winning her fight for her daughter's place, she said: "You just shouldn't take 'no' for an answer. Don't be fobbed off."