Parents’ heartache over fight to secure school place for son with autism spectrum disorder
- Credit: SIMON FINLAY
The parents of a disabled four-year-old who did not get a place at his brother's primary school after they moved slightly further away say they have been let down by the system.
Leigh and Tammy Ramsden had hoped Morgan, who has autism spectrum disorder and went to Magdalen Gates Pre-School in Norwich, could progress to Magdalen Gates Primary, where his six-year-old brother Marshall goes.
However, when they moved to a house half a mile away in Churchill Road, which better suits Morgan's needs, they ended up slightly outside its catchment area, and were instead offered a place at Mousehold Infant School.
Mrs Ramsden said: 'If we had moved miles, I could have understood, but we didn't. We are just 10 minutes walk from the school, in the opposite direction.'
Norfolk County Council said Magdalen Gates was oversubscribed, and other families with higher priority, according to the oversubscription criteria, were given preference.
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The couple said Morgan's condition means he is only partially speaking, is prone to sensory meltdowns, has a very limited understanding of his own safety, and finds dealing with new people and situations 'incredibly challenging'.
They wanted Morgan to progress to Magdalen Gates to preserve continuity, and have kept him at home since July.
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Since April, when offers of school places were made, they have been battling to secure an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) for Morgan, which would have given him higher priority, but were rejected.
They were left in tears when their appeal failed, and have now entered a mediation process.
Both parents said their fight for a school place has only added to their stress in a year in which both of their mothers died.
Mr Ramsden said: 'It's been horrible, because we had no idea what was going to happen to Morgan. We did not know what effect not being in a school would have on him. He has become less socialised because he has not been in school.
'It's so stressful when you are in the middle of it, and it's your child who needs to be safe and looked after.'
A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said: 'An EHCP is attributed to a child when it is clear their early years setting or school cannot meet their needs without needs and support identified and co-ordinated though this assessment and plan.
'In this case, we had evidence Morgan was having his needs met within Magdalen Gates Pre-School. We would expect Morgan's school, following transfer there, to apply their own approach to supporting him and only to request an EHCP assessment if they felt they could not continue to support him without this approach.
'The EHCP system is working, but not all children with special educational needs necessarily require an EHCP. Our staff have worked with the family to provide information and advice to ensure they are aware of the criteria involved.'
Mr Ramsden said: 'It looked at his current situation and completely ignored that he would be leaving pre-school in a couple of months. There was no planning or thinking 'the situation is about to change, and we need to make sure we are on top of it and he is looked after'.'
Following a meeting at Mousehold Infants, which has Ofsted's top 'outstanding' rating, Morgan is now due to start there today, with Mr and Mrs Ramsden having to take their sons to different schools in opposite directions.
However, they still want a place at Magdalen Gates.
What is your experience of the EHCP system? Email firstname.lastname@example.org