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(UK) W. Devon: Protesting parents slam SPED program, lack of services

Nov 9, 2023, Tavistock Times Gazette: Protesting parents seeking specialist schools

SW England

FRUSTRATED parents in West Devon are joining forces to press for changes to the schooling of their children who have special needs.

Some parents have even given up their jobs and sold their homes in order to support their children at home because they are not learning at school.

Meanwhile, a national pressure movement called S.E.N.D. staged a regional protest in Plymouth echoing local parents’ demands for wholesale reform of the Special Educational Needs (SEN) process across the country — the provision of alternative education to the mainstream system.

Parents accept their children cannot always receive the intensive teaching required at small primary schools. But they criticise both the ‘lengthy’ and ‘opaque’ process of assessing children for their individual education, health and care (EHC) plans and then the assessment for suitability for specialist schools. They also claim the consultation process with parents by Devon County Council is ‘inadequate’.

Parents say their children, many of whom have been diagnosed with conditions such as ADHD and autism, for instance, ‘should be in a specialist school’ (often as verbally advised by professionals). But the mums and dads complain they are not learning how to read or write to the standard expected at their mainstream school, either because they do not get the badly needed 1:1 attention or are emotionally unable to cope with the schools. As a result, parents have to reluctantly withdraw them from school and keep them at home.

This forces some desperate parents to sign onto benefits as they are no longer able to work. Vicky Sanham’s son, Malachi, has adhd, a speech difficulty and autism and cannot learn at his school in Whitchurch because they do not have the specialist staff or environment to give him the right education.She has formed a social media group of unhappy parents in her position: “There are about 30 parents in the same position as me. I cannot go out to work because Malachi’s school is not suitable for a child with special educational needs. …

Vicky, who has been involved in diagnosing child autism as an assistant clinical psychologist, is critical of the DCC for the way it deals with assessing access to specialist schools for children with an EHCP….

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