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(UK) Leicester: School can't meet autistic boy's needs; mom has to give up job

Sept 3, 2022, Leicester Mercury: Mum forced to give up work to teach son after council fails to provide suitable school place https://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/news/local-news/mum-forced-give-up-work-7538806

A Leicestershire mum has had to give up the job she loves to teach her son after the council failed to provide a suitable school place for him. Harvey Leak, 11, was set to go up to secondary school this year.

His parents applied to two specialist schools which they felt were best suited to meeting Harvey’s needs as he has been diagnosed with autism and requires frequent breaks from work, additional teacher support, a visual timetable, and a distraction-free personalised workstation to help with his anxiety. However, because he is above average for reading and writing, Leicestershire County Council assigned him a place at Lutterworth High School, a mainstream school. The school has said it cannot meet Harvey’s needs in a document sent to the council and seen by LeicestershireLive. His mum, Corinne Toseland, who lives in Fleckney, said she feels completely helpless and, with many schools already back for the Autumn term, has no idea what she is supposed to do now. A spokesperson for Leicestershire County Council said they could not comment on individual cases. They added: “We are working hard to ensure all children have a school place that suits their needs.”

“Last week I had to break it to my little boy that he is going to be homeschooled,” Ms Toseland told LeicestershireLive. “He loves school, he just wants to have a friend….

Ms Toseland said she and Harvey’s father, with whom she shares custody, have tried to contact his caseworker countless times, but rarely hear back. She has now had to give up her job as a dental nurse so she can be at home with her son.

“We haven’t heard anything about it in the last two weeks,” Ms Toseland said. “I’m having to give up the job that I love so I can go home and be with my little boy because he’s just got no where to go at the minute.

“I’ve not been given any direction on what to do, how to homeschool, if he’ll get a tutor. I’m not a teacher, I’m a dental nurse and we’ve just been left.

“Harvey is very clever, he’s cleverer than me. I looked into getting a private tutor, but they’re £20 [$23] an hour. With me not working, I can’t afford that.

“I don’t know how I’m going to survive financially. And with the gas and electricity going up as well, we’re going to be at home more, it’s just a nightmare. …

The family are appealing the council’s assigned school place, although their tribunal date is not set until December. The two specialist schools they applied to are now full, say the family, though there may be a chance of a place opening up for Harvey in January.

Corrine Toseland and Harvey Leak Credit: Corrine Toseland