Concerned mother from Sudbury calls for special education units in all mainstream schools after daughter is unable to secure place at specialist school
Criticisms of the education system’s support for pupils with complex needs have been aired by a concerned Suffolk mother, who believes specialist schools have insufficient capacity to ensure children like her daughter are not left behind.
Sudbury resident Samantha Deeks is calling for dedicated units for students with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) to be available at all schools in Suffolk, after being unable to secure a place at an appropriate specialist school for her daughter, Anya.
Eleven-year-old Anya, who is currently a pupil at Tudor Primary School and is set to move to Ormiston Sudbury Academy in September, has global learning delay, meaning her educational progress is two to three years behind the average for her age.
Her mother praised both Tudor Primary for their support, and Ormiston for reaching out to assist with her daughter’s transition to secondary school – but she stated there was only so much they could do under the current education system.
Samantha told the Free Press the level of demand for spaces at suitable specialist schools in the area – including their preferred choice of Priory School in Bury St Edmunds – is well above the available capacity.
Her daughter is also unable to attend Hillside Special School in Sudbury, she explained, as it is designed to cater to those who have more severe disabilities.
“Mainstream schools can’t always deal with the needs of children with special needs,” said Samantha, of Constable Road. “As much as Tudor Primary School are giving us fantastic help, their hands are tied, in that they can’t do any more.
“It’s up to the education system, and that falls short. The system is poor when it comes to dealing with children with learning disabilities.
“As parents, we’re fighting the system for little things, because having that support can make such a difference. If she was a child who learns normally, we wouldn’t have to fight to get support.
“We have to try to pick a school that will take her, but there’s such demand for spaces.
“We’re limited in what school she can go to by where we live and, even if we moved to Bury, there’s still no guarantee she would get a place.
“I would ideally like for every mainstream school to have a special needs unit that caters specifically for every student with special needs, because they don’t all learn at the same rate.
“I’m a cleaner. As a parent, you want better opportunities for your child. My older daughter is doing fine, but my younger daughter gets lost in the system. I don’t want her world to be shut off – I want the world to be open to her.
“It’s disgraceful that a child with learning disabilities has to fight for their education, yet if you don’t need extra help, it’s laid on the table.
“Enough is enough. My daughter and all the other children who need a space at a special needs school need to have a voice.”
In response, a spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council stated the education authority carefully considers the special educational needs of each child, as set out in their education health care plan (EHCP).
The council said: “Parents have a legal right to mainstream education and every effort is made to ensure a child’s needs can be met in any mainstream setting in Suffolk.
"To support this Suffolk has developed a robust and dedicated range of outreach services and all schools can make an application for High Needs Funding where they identify the need to provide additional support for more complex children.
“Some parents chose to request more specialist provision for their child and these requests are submitted to the Specialist Education Panel.
"If a child may benefit from a place either in a Specialist Unit attached to a mainstream school or a Special School setting, then the panel will consult with those providers.
"Where there are more applications than places available, then children are put in a pool and those with the highest level of need will be allocated places.
“When the child’s place for September is confirmed the local authority will issue a Final EHCP naming the school, we consider suitable to meet the child’s special educational needs in Section I.
"The issuing of a final EHCP gives the parent the right to request mediation and appeal through a First Tier Tribunal.”