Sunday News

After a year being kept from school, Diamond is finally going to the ball

A bullied schoolgirl is now back in class and happy to be learning, writes

- Sapeer Mayron.

“This is probably the best school I have been to yet.” Finally, 15-year-old Diamond Binnie is back in classes, after a year of being kept out of school by bureaucrac­y and funding issues.

Her mum, Jo McLean, says she is a completely changed child. One morning, McLean forgot to wake Diamond at 6.30am to get ready, and Diamond got mad.

“That’s a conversati­on I never thought I would be having with my teenage daughter,” laughs McLean.

Diamond left her last school in August 2022, after being bullied to the point of self-harm. To everyone’s surprise, her family couldn’t find a school to take her in afterwards.

Finally at the end of their tether, and not sure where to turn, McLean and Diamond spoke to Sunday News in July.

Following inquiries with the Ministry of Education, and an article in August, a school that previously denied Diamond a place emailed to offer her one.

“It came out of left field,” McLean says. “We were just devastated at that point and I didn’t have anything left in the tank. I didn’t know what we were going to do.”

In an email seen by Sunday News, the principal of Diamond’s new school apologises for their error, for causing distress, and says their enrolment process was flawed.

“She’s just so happy, it’s been an incredible shift,” McLean says.

“When you’re in it you don’t realise the impact or what’s really happening until things change.

“Diamond has gone from sitting up late at night because she could, with nowhere to go and nothing to do, to taking such pride in herself, and her appearance and everything else, within a week.”

After her experience­s with bullying, Diamond was nervous to return to classes but has found herself in a warm and social environmen­t.

She quickly made friends, she says, and classmates offer her help with homework or share their notes from classes she missed earlier in the term.

“It’s really friendly. Basically I am friends with the whole class,” she says.

“I also didn’t realise but a cousin is my class, so I can slot in with their friend group.”

And on Friday, she went to her firstever school formal. Like most people before a big event, there were nerves, but they’re good nerves, she says.

Diamond has a mild intellectu­al disability, and when she was in primary school she was diagnosed with ADHD.

It takes her longer to learn than her peers, and she benefits from support in the classroom.

But she wasn’t “disabled enough” to

qualify for the Ongoing Resource Scheme (ORS), which provides government funding for a teacher aide in the classroom.

That’s why the schools turned her away. Until now.

Though Diamond turns 16 in October and should be in year 11, she has started in year 10 and at the end of the year they will revisit where her learning is at, and how much she’s managed to absorb in the last months of the school terms.

But so far, so good.

Diamond says she thought classes would stress her out like they used to, but after a learning assessment in her first week, she’s been provided her own learning materials she is confidentl­y working through.

“I was feeling a bit down in maths today so my teacher came and sat next to me and talked to me, gave me a hug. She’s really nice,” Diamond says.

“Then I got six pages of that book done within 30 minutes of the class.”

 ?? KAI SCHWOERER / STUFF ?? Harlow the dog looks on as Diamond Binnie gets her makeup done by her sister Hana as she prepares for her first-ever school ball.
KAI SCHWOERER / STUFF Harlow the dog looks on as Diamond Binnie gets her makeup done by her sister Hana as she prepares for her first-ever school ball.

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