Search

(UK) St Albans, England: Autism parents forced to homeschool; officials promise to do more

Feb 7, 2020, Herts Advertiser: St Albans parents claim there is no appropriate school for their children with ASD https://www.hertsad.co.uk/news/education/hertfordshire-county-council-asd-school-places-1-6503296 New light has been shed on a number of St Albans children with special needs whose parents have taken them out of school because their parents feel nowhere meets their requirements. But in many of these cases the pupils are not being officially home-schooled, and they are effectively "off the books". The county council cannot officially give its blessing in these cases, but some families have told us after they have explained their situation to professionals, they are not fined for keeping their children off school. St Albans parents Steve and Karen Jackson felt that they were forced to home educate because there was no school that suited the needs of their daughter Niamh. Niamh was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) two years ago. Niamh suffered a breakdown at Bernard's Heath School. For a fortnight, she could not dress or wash, she would injure herself by throwing herself against things and any reminder of school gave her a severe panic attack…. Herts County Council vehemently deny that families with special needs children are encouraged to be officially home-schooled or kept at home saying they have a "strong committment to inclusion". St Albans mum Donna Sharp has only recently found a suitable school for her son, James. James is on the autistic spectrum and Donna felt she had no choice but to keep him at home for 15 months. She said: "I was shocked that James was coming home with injuries...that a school for vulnerable children was not able to keep my child safe. There was even a suggestion that I had given him bruises. I had to put a Freedom of Information Act request in to find out the truth - that there had been lots of incidents of him coming to harm."… They said that they have recognised, as part of their SEND transformation programme that there is more to do, and "are working hard to increase special school and provision places in Hertfordshire; and also increase the capacity of mainstream schools to meet the needs of children with complex needs". … Operations director for children and young people's services Jo Fisher said: "In Herts and across the country, local authorities are spending more than on special educational needs. We welcome the continued and any further injection of funding for children with special needs." She added: "We know that we have got more we can do. We recognise that. We are developing special school provision which we are rapidly expanding over the next 12 months."