April 18, 2018, (UK) Daily Mail: These loving mums both have sons with special needs. So why do they argue it's time to end the well-meant policy of sending them to mainstream schools? http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5631211/Mums-sons-special-needs-argue-time-sending-mainstream-schools.html Mothers shared the difficulties of getting their sons into special need schools Caroline, 51, has a six year old son who is autistic and has harmed other children She says people petition for her son to be removed from the mainstream school Zoe, 42, has an eleven year old son suffers ADHD and no longer goes to school She revealed her family have spent £3,000 trying to get support for him Teaching assistant Helen Davies could always tell when things were about to get out of hand. She watched nervously as the ten-year-old schoolboy, frustrated that the game of bat and ball was not going his way, became angrier by the second. Tensions boiled over and the boy, who had learning difficulties, took a fierce swipe at a classmate with his bat. Instinctively, Helen, 21, blocked him and took the full blow on her arm. The pain was excruciating, but at least she had prevented another child from being injured. This shocking incident did not take place in a specialist school, equipped to deal with pupils with special educational needs, but in a mainstream primary school in the Home Counties. And worryingly, it was far from an isolated occurrence. A survey conducted last year by the GMB union revealed one in five teaching assistants like Helen are assaulted at least once a week — a figure attributed in part to the growing number of children with special educational needs attending mainstream schools. Of the 1.2 million children with special educational needs in Britain, about 1 million are in mainstream schools. Around one million children with special educational needs in Britain are in mainstream schools. Zoe Greenwood, 42, (pictured with her son Thomas, 11,) is currently battling for her son who suffers from autism and ADHD to be given a place in a special school….
Schools now have a legal duty to accept pupils with special educational needs, who make up about 13 per cent of children in mainstream education, although in some schools the number is closer to 40 per cent. Meanwhile, about 158 special schools were closed between 1998 and 2007. Yet there are many — teachers, parents and charities — who believe the inclusive system is not working. … Helen says the disruption at her school made learning extremely difficult for other children. 'When children throw chairs and tables, you have to evacuate the whole class because it's not safe,' she says. 'One climbed on a cupboard when he was having a wobbly. He hurt himself and another child when he jumped down. 'For some children, it was a daily thing, if they went into the playground they would hit another child.' … 'Sometimes it worked, but sometimes I had all of them being hideous to each other or ganging up on other children like a pack of wolves,' she says. 'The others avoided them.' Indeed, many parents feel frustrated, as discussions on online message boards reveal. A mother named Lisa, from London, writes of three children in her daughter's class: 'They are terribly disruptive, loud and generally make it harder for all the well-behaved children to learn.' Caroline Lewis, 51, has every sympathy for such parents — including those at her autistic son Paulie's primary, who signed a petition to get him expelled aged six. She says: 'He was hitting other kids. Their children were coming home scratched to pieces. He threatened one boy with scissors. If my child was scratched, I'd feel they needed protecting.' Caroline, who is from Clacton, Essex, and also has two grown-up children, says Paulie was moved to another school where things were no better, and she pleaded with the local authority to send him to a special boarding school before he 'kills someone'. Essex County Council finally relented last year, but not before a teacher's thumb was broken. But Caroline says even his new school is struggling. 'I've been attacked by Paulie every day since he was two and when he got a place at the special school, I thought someone would finally help him. But it's not everything I'd hoped for. He has come home with bruises on his arms from where he's been restrained.' Catriona Moore, of the National Autistic Society, says many mainstream schools cannot cope. 'The whole system warrants reform. Some schools are informally excluding autistic children because they are not able to help in the way they need to. It's an awful situation.' Zoe recalls her son Thomas, 11, being left under a table for half the day in his infant school as he retreated to feel safe Finance director Zoe Greenwood, 42, feels her 11-year-old son Thomas, who suffers from autism and ADHD, has been terribly let down by his time in a mainstream school. She recalls one incident when he was dragged, kicking and screaming, into school after he became too upset to go in. 'Thomas had a meltdown. He was terrified and screaming for me. The staff didn't have the training to deal with him. He needed space, not manhandling.' A year later, Thomas, who now suffers from extreme anxiety and depression, is no longer going to school. Zoe and her husband Steve, 42, an IT consultant from Farnborough, Hampshire, are battling to get him into a special school. Thomas was diagnosed aged five, but his parents have fought to get his needs formally recognised with an assessment called an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. Introduced in 2014, these aim to take a more holistic approach to a child's needs, involving both social and health professionals. They replaced Statements, which focused purely on educational needs. It isn't just about the school, it's about the Government and the system, it's not working - Zoe Greenwood The new EHC was pioneered by former prime minister David Cameron, whose late son Ivan was disabled. He wanted to end the 'bias towards inclusion' and the 'ideologically driven closure of special schools'. There has been a slow increase in the number of children with special educational needs being sent to special schools, from 38.2 per cent in 2010 to 43.8 per cent today. However, many parents say they are finding it difficult to get an EHC plan — without one, they cannot access any funding or support for learning in a mainstream school. Zoe — who has another son Jack, eight — says because Thomas does not have an EHC plan, his only option is to stay at home or attend a mainstream school without extra help. 'In infant school, he was left under a table for half the day. He went there to feel safe and they left him there. I was in tears when I picked him up. 'He's never violent towards others but there are times he hurts himself, he will bang his head and bite his hands. He's defiant and will refuse to do something.' Jody (pictured right) revealed her son Cameron missed a year of school until she went to a tribunal to force the education authority to provide an EHC plan. So far, the Greenwoods have spent £3,000 trying to get an EHC plan and other support, such as psychiatrists and speech and language therapists. 'He needs to be in a special school,' says Zoe. 'We've seen a psychiatrist who says his poor mental health is a direct result of his needs not being met at school. You shouldn't have to fight so hard. It isn't just about the school, it's about the Government and the system, it's not working.' Jody Coxon is another mother who says her children have been failed. The 37-year-old nursery worker from Sittingbourne, Kent, has two boys who are on the autistic spectrum, Cameron, 15, and Harry, 12, as well as a daughter, Nicole, eight. 'Harry struggled at mainstream primary school,' she says. 'He'd hide and refuse to talk. He lasted five days until I was called in by the head who told me: 'We can't do anything for him.' ' Jody, a single parent, moved both children to another school, but things were not much better. 'Harry got so frustrated he tipped a table over, threw a chair and his shoes. The parents started pulling their children away from him at pick up. It was awful.' Five years ago, Harry finally got an EHC plan and was sent to a special school with just ten children to three teachers — and he is thriving. His brother Cameron ended up missing a year of school until Jody went to a tribunal to force the education authority to provide an EHC plan. He, too, is doing well at a special school. Of course, there are plenty of children with special educational needs who thrive in mainstream schools, but only when the right support is in place. For so many, given the evident difficulties, getting the help they need — whether in a mainstream or special school — remains a depressingly remote possibility.