LOCAL chess genius Peter Williams has been withdrawn from his school, St Lawrence Primary, following a dispute over what the local education authority considers to be unauthorised absences.
Peter, 7, is widely regarded in the chess community as one of the UKÕs most talented youngsters, winning a string of national tournaments playing against much older children, and even adults.
After the school and the LEA refused to oblige a request by the Williams family to take Peter out of school every Wednesday for specialist chess study, PeterÕs parents have had to remove him from the school to avoid prosecution. Peter will now be taught at home by his father.
PeterÕs father, also called Peter, said: ÒThe last straw was when I wrote a letter to the school complaining that one of the teachers had spoken to me in an unprofessional and improper manner.
ÒI received a letter from headmistress Val Palmer in response which gave me the feeling that my complaint wasnÕt being taken seriously, and that the school was continuing to fob me off. Basically, the general atmosphere was just getting unbearable.
ÒI think that the school and the LEA have handled the whole thing dreadfully. They wouldnÕt grant us any meetings; they didnÕt even take the time to answer my emails.
ÒIÕve got copies of hundreds of letters back and forth between myself, the LEA and the school, because this was the only type of communication that I was allowed, which was absolutely ridiculous.
ÒThere has to be something wrong when you are forced to pull your son out of school completely in order to regularly get a bit of time out of class. It is a crazy system.
ÒWe have joined the Home Education Advisory Service, who have been very helpful in providing a curriculum and guidance. IÕm quite happy teaching Peter at home, and it is working out quite well at the moment. IÕd like to think that PeterÕs education wonÕt suffer, and we will do the best that we can, but you can never tell.
ÒIÕve had very little help from the LEA since taking Peter out of school. IÕve had one booklet from them and no other contact, which is disgraceful.
ÒI would consider sending Peter to another local school if they were happy to accommodate PeterÕs requirements and were happy with the situation in general. No doors should ever be shut. Maybe someone shouldÕve told St Lawrence that; they wouldnÕt even talk to us.
ÒMaybe when Peter is 11, some secondary schools might be more happy with the situation, so he may be able to attend school once again.
ÒLooking back over the last six months, I just canÕt believe it went on that long. Mrs Palmer always said that she supported Peter, but I canÕt think of one single thing she has done to support or help him. From the schoolÕs point of view, this dispute was really not worth losing a talented pupil over.Ó
St Lawrence School declined to comment on the situation.
In a statement, Hampshire education spokesman Don Allen said: ÒWe have done all we can to assist Peter, but as the local education authority, we have a very clear legal responsibility to ensure all children in full time education are attending school regularly. Government guidance is very clear that pupils are able to apply for a limited number of days absence from school each year, and Peter was granted the maximum 10 days by his headteacher.
ÒI am disappointed to learn that Peter has been removed from school by his parents, but it is their choice and they have every right to do so. The education department will work with his family to ensure they meet the requirements of educating Peter at home, offer support and guidance.
ÒWe recognise that Peter has considerable talent in chess and wish him every success. However while he was enrolled to receive education from one our schools he needed to meet the requirements of the national curriculum, and this view is supported by the British Chess Federation, who have said that there is no reason why a child should be taken out of school to pursue their abilities in chess.Ó
Local county councillor Tony Ludlow, said: ÒIt is the parentsÕ right to take their child out of school, and it is their decision. I understand the pressures that they have been under, and I am happy to help in any way I can with future arrangements concerning PeterÕs schooling.Ó