Dispute after student with special educational needs refused school place

Daniel Norris,15, at home with his mum, Donna Smith. Daniel has been excluded from school and his mu

Daniel Norris,15, at home with his mum, Donna Smith. Daniel has been excluded from school and his mum is desperate to get him back into education. PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

A Lowestoft academy is locked in a dispute with education chiefs after refusing to give a place to a teenager with learning difficulties.

A special educational needs (SEN) statement prepared for 14-year-old Daniel Norris names Benjamin Britten Music Academy (BBMA) as the school he should attend.

However, the school in Blyford Road has refused to admit him.

Suffolk County Council said the academy was in breach of the government's School Admissions Code in ignoring the SEN statment and its legal team was involved.

BBMA said it was unable to comment on the details of the case.

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Daniel and his mum Donna Norris moved to Lowestoft from near Acle in February 2016. He had previously attended Acle Academy and hoped to continue his education in Lowestoft.

However, since leaving Acle he has not been offered a school place and has received just five hours of home tutoring each week since September.

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His learning difficulty means he needs one to one support in some lessons.

Mrs Norris said she had written to several schools in the area without success and now feared for his future.

'He is not making any friends,' she said. 'We have been here a year and he has got no one. He stays in his bedroom day in, day out.'

She said her son had no chance of gaining any qualifications and she intended to seek financial compensation for his missed education.

She added: 'What makes me angry is they would be quick to penalise me if I didn't send him. He has a right to an education but he has had nothing for nearly a year now.'

Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for children's services, education and skills, said BBMA had an obligation to offer Daniel a place and the council, SEN and Suffolk legal were continuing to work closely with the academy to try to resolve the matter.

He said: 'The School Admissions Code, which academies must follow in accordance with their funding arrangements, states that if an academy is named on a student's statement of special educational needs (SEN) or education health and care plan (EHCP), a place must be offered.

He added: 'As an academy, Benjamin Britten are responsible for their own admissions and as such any offer must be made by the academy.

'Benjamin Britten Academy have refused to admit Daniel to the school at present. This is in breach of the School Admissions Code.

'Suffolk County Council, SEN and Suffolk legal are continuing to work closely with the academy to try to resolve this matter as quickly as possible, but we are disappointed that to date our attempts have been unsuccessful.

'Whilst this matter is ongoing Suffolk County Council have secured home education to meet Daniel's needs.'

A BBMA spokesman said: 'How unfair to run a story about a matter on which, because there is a named student involved, the school is unable to comment on details of the case. How very unfair.'

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