EDUCATION chiefs are being criticised by parents who claim their policies are "hypocritical".

Last week the High Court overturned a ruling by Bromley magistrates which saw a parent who took her children out of school for holidays found not guilty.

The woman, who took her three children out of primary school for nine days, will now go back to magistrates' court for a conviction.

However, a High Court ruling has recommended she receive an absolute discharge.

A council spokesman said: "We are pleased our appeal was accepted and the not guilty verdict was overturned.

"This decision reinforces the important underlying principle our schools, not parents, decide what is an authorised absence."

But some parents say the council has no right to preach about denying education when many children are being neglected in the borough.

Others feel the council is forcing some parents to take legal action to get the appropriate education for their children.

Kay Moore's autistic son Luke was educated at the specialist infant unit at Crofton School, Towncourt Lane, Orpington, until the age of eight.

Following expert assessments of his needs, the family, of Crockenhill Road, Swanley, requested Luke attend Parkwood special school, in the neighbouring borough of Dartford.

But Bromley Council refused, claiming there were already adequate facilities in the borough.

The family took the council to the Special Education Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) in November 2003, where it claims the council said moving Luke was not cost-effective.

In the meantime, the family was forced to enrol Luke into the Autistic Spectrum Disorder unit at Poverest Primary School, Tillingbourne Green, St Mary Cray.

By May 2004, Luke had been excluded because of his behaviour.

Following an emergency meeting, the council finally agreed to fund Luke's education at Parkwood.

The family says it has spent more than £8,000 in securing this funding.

Mrs Moore said: "Luke wouldn't be where he is if it wasn't for our fight.

"There is some provision for special needs children in the borough but not for what everyone needs.

"At the time, I felt completely let down by the council. It is unfair gifted children can be placed in schools outside of the borough but it's a different matter for children at the other end of the spectrum.

"If these children don't have what they need there are going to be cost implications for the council in the future regarding their long-term care.

"It all boils down to cost, the council is money, not needs driven."

Another mother says the council is failing to provide education to a large number of children in the borough and is considering legal action.

The Bromley resident, who asked not to be named, said: "If the council refuses to fund special needs education at an independent or out-of- borough school, the parents have no choice other than to accept their children have to struggle on without support or take the council to a tribunal.

"During our first tribunal the council withdrew two days before and agreed to assess our child. This was after we had gone to lots of expense obtaining reports and assessments from experts.

"I know of parents who have remortgaged their homes to pay for this.

"For the council to withdraw at the last minute, well it's just a case of cat and mouse and all at the expense of the taxpayer and the families involved.

"The council is bullying parents. We are just the tip of the iceberg.

"I know of so many children who are not attending school and the council is getting away with it."

She added: "This is not money I feel comfortable taking from the local education authority (LEA) but I cannot have my child written off at the age of nine.

"I have to fight for my child but parents need to be aware this is coming out of the pot for all children.

"It smacks of hypocrisy the council would take this woman to court.

"The council is wrong to preach about parents denying their children education when it does it as a matter of course."

A spokesman for SENDIST confirmed 53 parents have made appeals against Bromley LEA during the 2004/05 academic year, with 77 cases the previous year.

The spokesman added the figures were "quite high" and confirmed Bromley LEA had withdrawn from 21 appeals.

In response, Bromley Council's head of special education needs David Pearson said: "Bromley maintains a broad range of special educational provision within the borough where well-qualified teaching and non-teaching staff deliver high-quality education for children with a range of special educational needs and disabilities.

"School placements and provision are made within the borough wherever practicable and appropriate to meeting the needs of individual children.

"Any parent or carer who has concerns over any aspect of arrangements for their child can discuss them fully with experienced staff at the council."

He added: "It is not the case there are many children in the borough who are not in receipt of education although I am very willing to look into this issue if you have further details.

"It is pleasing to note parental appeals to SENDIST have reduced significantly and this reflects the hard work and effort made by staff to resolve issues of concern to parents and avoid tribunal appeals wherever possible."