Mum's agony over wait as son with complex needs rejected from eight schools
- Credit: Kerry-Ann Why
A mum has described her agony after her son with complex needs has been rejected from eight different schools in Norfolk and Suffolk.
Kerry-Ann Why, 45, lives in Lowestoft with her son James, 10, whose mental health has deteriorated after being stuck at home since July 2021.
The family moved to Lowestoft in March 2020 and James was originally educated at Attic@TheLanding until July 2021 when the provider closed.
Now, James who has a variety of complex needs including autism, ADHD, sensory processing disorder and learning difficulties, is being left in limbo, with no promise of when he will be provided with SEND provision by Suffolk County Council, who say they are working to reduce challenges faced by parents trying to find the best school provision.
James is not alone. According to the National Autistic Society's school report published in 2021, across the UK, three quarters of parents said their child's school place did not meet their child's needs, doubling since the previous education report was published in 2017.
Parents also reported facing huge battles trying to get help, with 57pc saying they had to wait more than a year for support and 26pc waiting over three years.
It comes as Suffolk County Council admitted to letting children with special educational needs down after an independent report into its services published in September 2021.
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Ms Why said: "James has been left out to dry since July.
"We've consulted with eight different schools across Norfolk and Suffolk but none of them have suitable provision for James.
"We are in limbo, just waiting day by day to hear whether he has a place or not.
"James' mental health has deteriorated and he's almost suicidal.
"I'm watching my boy disappear.
"Most of the time he spends in his room and now he even refuses to go and use the toilet.
"Generally, he's just very unhappy with everything at the moment.
"Although he has autism, he misses the social aspect of being in school and the lack of routine is really affecting him mentally.
"I appreciate it can be hard for the council but sometimes I feel like they don't think about the effects this has on the families behind the scenes."
Despite Suffolk County Council drafting an action plan to address issues raised in the independent report, Ms Why is not optimistic.
She added: "The council say the right things but nothing ever changes.
"It makes me so angry knowing that we are going through this as well as so many other families.
"The stress of it all has not only had an impact on James, it has also left us all feeling anxious because we've been left in limbo.
Caroline Stevens, chief executive of the national autistic society, added that the education system is working against people who are autistic, particularly following on from the lockdown.
She said: “The education system simply isn’t working for autistic children and their families, and things have been made even harder by coronavirus.
“Families told us they had to spend months, even years, without the right support, often because there’s no school to meet their needs.
"Two in five of those who were refused an assessment of their child's needs said they took legal action.
"I know from my experience with my own autistic son how gruelling this can be, especially on top of the often-unbearable pressures families already face.
“We won’t accept a world where so many autistic children are falling behind and so many families are being left exhausted and on the edge of crisis.
"The government’s upcoming SEND review is an opportunity to change things, to live up to the promise of the 2014 reforms which were never implemented properly.
"The system is broken, the government must act.”
Suffolk County Council's action plan aims to address a number of issues raised in the independent report which can be found here.
A spokesperson for Suffolk County Council said: “Through our capital programme, the council has created an additional 210 extra school places this year for children with high needs and will be providing a further 260 extra places next year.
"This will enable these children to be educated closer to their families.
“We recognise that some families face challenges with finding the best school provision and we are working to improve this.”