Parents' concern over education provision for children with special needs in Hampshire

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Disappointed parents have hit out at Hampshire County Council, claiming the authority does not make enough effort to provide suitable provision for children with special needs.

The parents claim that in some cases, children are out of school for months, or due to lack of assurance over their children's needs, parents have refused mainstream school places.

Mum, Kayleigh Fay, says her daughter Rosie, 10, who has autism, separation anxiety and situational mutism, has not attended school since February.

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She claims the school, Merdon Junior School in Eastleigh, made an "unattainable" Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) and forced her into a situation that led her daughter to leave the school grounds by herself.

Rosie (10) and her mum KayleighRosie (10) and her mum Kayleigh
Rosie (10) and her mum Kayleigh

"Trying to force her into school is traumatic; anyone in education should know this. Her EHCP states the school needs to work closely with me to support this transition", she said.

"I recommended a plan which we felt would be attainable for Rosie, and this wasn't even discussed. There was a perfectly reasonable plan put forward which would have hopefully led to her being able to separate from me. Still, instead, they try to force strangers into the mix to work with her when they know how difficult this would be, but as long as it "looks like" they are providing education on paper, that's all that seems to matter."

She added: "Thinking it's alright to continually put my child through this kind of distress like normal. It's not normal, and they are preventing her from making any progress, and it's not okay, and something needs to be done about it."

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In July, Rosie went on a two-week trial at a special school. However, because she was on a reduced timetable, she could not meet the requirements for core subjects. Therefore, the special secondary school was unable to offer her a place.

Ashton (4) and his mum AimeeAshton (4) and his mum Aimee
Ashton (4) and his mum Aimee

"She's not accessed any core subjects in the last 17/18 months now. I can't even get a specialist school to take her on. How is she meant to get any better if she can't get a school to even try to meet her needs?"

Rosie's case is not an isolated one. The increasing pressure on local authorities to provide provisions for children with Special Needs (SEND) is a national problem.

Another mum, Aimee Bradley, says her son Ashton's EHCP stipulated one-to-one support at all times. The youngster, who is four-years-old, is due to start primary school in September. He has been diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum disorder, global delay and possibly TDA. He is also classed as non-verbal.

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"He is about 18-24 months mentally", Aimee, who is from Havant, said.

"He is still in nappies, and we want him to go to Riverside School because they can meet his needs, but the Local Authority [Hampshire County Council] has placed him into Trosnant Infant School, a mainstream school."

She claims that in a meeting she attended with an independent witness, Trosnant School suggested they could not meet her son's needs, but they have to accept him regardless of his needs.

This led Aimee to file a tribunal case against Hampshire County Council to prove that her son is incompatible with learning alongside others at a mainstream school.

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She said: "I have to go to court to prove that my son would be failed at a mainstream school. He's got no understanding. He gets naked when he has meltdowns. He just won't cope. It would be an absolute disaster for his mental health.

"This situation has affected my whole family. It is so consuming. I would want nothing more than to have him be able to go to a mainstream school, but I know that won't benefit him in any way. "

Ashton should start reception in September. However, Aimee says the school hasn't employed anyone for her son at this point, and he requires a 1-to-1 "all the time".

"I have not heard from the mainstream school; they never contacted me or the nursery to visit him. There are no messages about transitions. We heard absolutely nothing.

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"The nursery tried to contact the LA, but they never get back to you; they just don't get back to people. They should have sent someone to the nursery before he finished in July, and no one did. These people [officers from HCC] never met Ashton; they just looked at a piece of paper and made a decision about his future without even seeing him in person."

Aimee indicated that for September, she has no other option than to keep Asthon at home as she is unwilling to send him into an environment that won't be beneficial for his mental health. She knows he will end up on a reduced timetable, as "they won't be able to manage him".

"He doesn't have any communication techniques, he is refusing PECS, and he is not fluent at Makaton. I believe there is only one person at the school that is trained in autism and special needs to his level, one person.

"Why would I allow him to develop anxiety and fear to go to school? But the school already sent a letter saying that school refusal is not a good enough reason for your child not going. So what happens if my autistic disabled child refuses to go because he can not cope mentally? I would get fined as a parent because I'm putting his mental health first. If I sent him there, he would do anything to escape if he felt he couldn't cope.

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"People are just begging for the education that their children deserve."

The widespread issue has led to parents across the country protesting at Parliament Square Gardens in London in June, demanding educational reform for children with special needs.

SEND Reform England's Southampton branch, which Aimee leads, will peacefully protest in Southampton Guildhall Square from 11am to 2pm on October 12.

She added: "There are an incredible bunch of mums with SEND children. There are hundreds of people already confirmed so far. There are thousands of other mums in Hampshire in the same position as me, and it is so heartbreaking to hear. We hope to get as much support as possible."

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The initiative has already received more than 80,000 signatures supporting the reform.

In response to enquiries by the LDRS, Hampshire County Council said they were unable to comment on individual cases, but said they work closely with parents, local schools and relevant partners to support children with additional needs and provide "tailored education packages suited to each child", where required.

In a statement, a spokesperson said: "When there is a request for a specialist school place, the County Council follows statutory processes to ensure the most appropriate outcome is reached, with consideration given to the curriculum offered at potential schools, the school environment, and peer groups."

A spokesperson for Merdon Junior School said: "Merdon Junior School is fully committed to ensuring the inclusion, safety, welfare and education of all its children. While specific cases must remain confidential, the comments made do not fairly represent the full picture; nor do they reflect the commitment staff give to all children at the school on a daily basis."