Mum’s anger as son with special needs is refused school place at his preferred Portsmouth school

NOT HAPPY Debbie Doody with her son Joshua.   Picture: Allan Hutchings (113161-145)
NOT HAPPY Debbie Doody with her son Joshua. Picture: Allan Hutchings (113161-145)

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FOUR-year-old Joshua Doody is obsessed with routine, can’t read emotions and avoids eye contact at all costs.

Change of any kind puts him in ‘meltdown’ and while he is still too young to be properly diagnosed, all the symptoms point to Asperger’s Syndrome – a form of autism.

But he is still at pre-school because Portsmouth City Council have refused to place him at the only school he knows.

Gatcombe Primary, which is next door to the All Aboard pre-school Joshua has attended for the past three years, and where his two elder brothers went, is oversubscribed.

Mum Debbie Doody, 35, of Kestrel Road, said: ‘I’ve no choice but to take Josh back to the pre-school until he turns five next March. But then he’ll have nowhere to go.

‘The council is ignoring all the evidence that says Josh will suffer if he goes to a school he is not used to.

‘My son doesn’t behave like ‘normal’ children. He is obsessed with putting things on his head, he is constantly trying to pull his clothes off because he says they feel tight, and he throws a tantrum if his routine is changed.

‘He needs to be in an environment he knows, and a place where he already has friends who will not pick on him for being ‘different’.’

Mrs Doody lost an appeal against the council’s decision not to send Josh to Gatcombe Park.

The council said letters from pre-school managers, a Harbour School specialist teacher adviser and his GP confirming Aspergers symptoms and recommending he attend Gatcombe were ‘insufficient’.

The council has instead offered Joshua a place at Highbury Primary in Cosham.

‘Josh is too young to get a proper diagnosis but it’s plain to see he won’t be able to cope in a new environment,’ Mrs Doody said

Julian Wooster, director for children services, said: ‘We understand the situation must be disappointing and frustrating for Mrs Doody, but we have fair processes to make sure every family looking for places at our schools is treated equally.’

‘Unfortunately, we were not able to allocate Joshua a place at Gatcombe Primary as it was over-subscribed, and a panel of independent members could not find grounds to uphold the appeal.

‘We always look to support children who have special education needs, but in this case, the medical evidence supplied was insufficient.’