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(UK) Derbyshire: 4y.o. with severe disabilities denied special school place

Nov 28, 2023, Irish Sun: NO CLASS My son, 4, was rejected from special school – teachers said he should be put in a TENT inside a classroom instead

E. Midlands

Ellie claims the school is openly telling the council they can't look after children with special needs

A MUM has told how teachers suggested her son should be put in a TENT inside a classroom after he was rejected from a special needs school.

Ellie Tomlinson, 23, says mainstream school is unsuitable for her four-year-old son Ruben, who suffers from sensory processing issues and is nonverbal.

Last year, she applied to Derbyshire County Council for an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) to get Ruben the support he needs.

The application should have taken 20 weeks - but Ellie waited for 15 months, meaning Ruben stayed in nursery for an extra 12 months, losing a year of education.

Ellie was then left disappointed when the authority decided Ruben should go to Spire Nursery and Infant School in Chesterfield, Derbys., a mainstream school.

She said the school had already admitted they could not meet Ruben's needs or keep him safe as it does not have a sensory room or the space which he requires.

And when she pointed this out to the council, Ellie was shocked when they suggested putting a tent inside a classroom, which already has 50 pupils.

NHS receptionist Ellie, of Chesterfield, believes nearby Ashgate Croft, which is a special needs school, would be more suitable and currently has three free places.

She fumed: "My son is non-verbal, still in nappies, he's got very high support needs, he's got no awareness of danger.
"His sensory issues mean he could have a meltdown without support….

"And the council still decided to put him in the mainstream school - and offered to put a tent for him in the classroom. It's ridiculous. It's just pure neglect.

"The school is openly telling the council they can't look after this little boy with special needs and the council is ignoring it, pushing for him to go in.

"And they lied to me that there are no places in Ashgate because I contacted the school and they said they are anticipating to have three places in October 2024.

"I went to view the mainstream primary, and it absolutely will not be suitable….

"The school itself said they don't have the facilities to give him the space and quiet time that he needs. This is so stressful."

Ellie has decided that she will appeal and fight for her son to go to a special needs school - but this will set the family back at least £2,500 [$3,200].

Ellie, who lives with partner Scott Grant, 29, added: "I've been back and forth emailing with his caseworker, but she doesn't have the right to make decisions.

"I've been sending emails to the head of the Children's Services and complaints - but you only get automated replies….

A spokesperson for Derbyshire County Council said: "While we can't comment on individual cases, Derbyshire has had a significant increase in the number of requests for Education Health Care Plans (EHCPs) and for the assessments and advice that go along with these.
"This is a national issue and other local authorities are facing similar increases in demand.

"As a result of this our performance in completing some ECHPs within the 20 week deadline has been impacted and has led to delays in completing some of them on time.

"We are extremely sorry for any children, families and schools who are being negatively affected and we are working extremely hard to improve our performance.

"Derbyshire County Council is investing significant additional staffing resources to address these challenges as well as reviewing and restructuring its services to manage the demand in the future.

"The additional resources are being deployed to both catch up and finalise those that have gone over the deadline and to also keep current and new plans within the 20 week timescale.

"At the same time we have had an increase in demand for special school places.

"We are working with the special schools to increase the places available. Where there are delays in identifying a special school place for a child we will work with the family and the existing schools or provision to look at what alternatives can be provided.

"All the places that are available at Special Schools are carefully considered to prioritise those with the highest needs and to ensure that they are used appropriately."


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