I am writing to voice my alarm and disgust at articles I have just read relating to cuts in Children’s Services at Norfolk County Council. I am amazed at committee chairman James Joyce’s quotes, especially the ones relating to children with special educational needs being sent to local mainstream schools, and the possibility of cutting transport.
My son is severely autistic, has mild learning disability and ADHD. He goes to a school 26 miles away from where we live and his transport is provided by county. He has to travel this far to school because it is the nearest one to us with the appropriate facilities, fully trained staff and is the best educational establishment to meet all his needs. Yes, he is severely disabled, but he has a right to the correct education for him.
While only seven, his needs meant a highly specialised unit was the only way he could move forward. Harry is just one of many children in this county who need to be educated outside of mainstream and to say that sending some children with SEN to mainstream would save money in transport costs is offensive and ludicrous. All children have the right to be educated in the best place for them and cannot simply be shuffled along to mainstream. Schools are already under increasing strain in coping with those with SEN who are able to stay in the mainstream system. Government changes to statements have been clouded as being the best for the child but in many cases the change has merely brought in savings as teaching assistant funding has been cut. How would these mainstream schools cope with children with SEN that really should be in a specialist unit or a complex needs school? More importantly how would the families of these children cope with the stress and upset such a situation would no doubt cause? Teaching a child close to home does not mean they are receiving the best for their individual needs.
Mr Joyce says he wants to help with early intervention, helping families early on to help prevent crisis situations. I can tell you that sending SEN students to mainstream despite their needs because that school is close to home will lead you to a whole new crisis with children being taken out of school as families fall apart under the strain. I am all for inclusion and for some it works, for some it works up to a point and then the move to complex needs has to take place. The county has many schools who do their very best for their SEN students so my comments are not a dig at our mainstream schools of which many do their absolute best for SEN students.