Fight for more SEN schools in Horsham

Katherine Daw-Hunt with her son George  and Helen Potter with her son Ryan SUS-141223-174418001
Katherine Daw-Hunt with her son George and Helen Potter with her son Ryan SUS-141223-174418001

Mothers throughout the area are fighting for their children after struggling to get them into full time education for almost a year.

Parents have raised concerns about a lack of special educational needs (SEN) schools in the Horsham district after failing to find places for their children who suffer with autism and learning difficulties.

Katherine Daw-Hunt, from Horsham, went through the process with her oldest son Harry and is going through it again with her youngest son George, both of whom suffer from autism.

She said Harry had struggled to learn in a mainstream school and did not want George to go through the same processes.

She said: “George would struggle to cope in a mainstream school. He needs to be in a SEN school where there are specialised people around him. There are a lack of SEN schools in Horsham and the ones that are already here are over-subscribed.

“I really don’t see why there is such a massive problem building a new SEN school in Horsham. We love our kids to bits and we are fighting for them because we love them.”

Helen Potter has also been through the process with her eldest son Lee and is going through it once more with youngest son Ryan.

She said: “Ryan is at Manor Green but I had to fight for his place. We want them to learn, we want them to be happy, we want the best for our children, we want our children to go to university or have carers but how can they if they are not in full time education?”

Trish Duffy’s six-year-old daughter suffers with PDA, a form of autism, and has been out of education for almost a year as she couldn’t cope in a mainstream school.

She said: “My daughter has been out of school for ten months and she was suspended for nine of the ten weeks when she was in school. She had to be removed on a couple of occasions because she was disrupting the learning of 29 other children, that’s not fair on her or them.

“I get lots of comments from people saying why is she not in school and I say I would love her to be in school but there is no where for her to go.”

The parents have also said delays in their children’s special educational needs statements, which outline the extra support their children need, have led to problems getting them into schools.

Katherine received her statement four weeks after it was due and was unhappy with the delay and the lack of communication from the council. She said: “If George was in school without his statement then he would not get the support he is getting now.”

Trish added: “I waited 48 weeks for my statement. I have been close to a breakdown on so many occasions, there is no support and we have to wait again and again and again.”

A spokesperson for West Sussex County Council, responsible for education in the county, said they were aware of delays in finalising school placements for some children with special educational needs and a change in the law meant they had altered the way services are organised.

They added: “Where it is agreed that a child has needs that can only be met in a special school, a mainstream school would not be offered. At present there are limited places available in West Sussex maintained special schools. However, a new building programme is currently expanding capacity within a number of those schools and will when completed create an additional 19 classes. We are also aware that the National Autistic Society is re-submitting a bid to the Department for Education to open a free school in West Sussex.”

The council also apologised for delays in issuing SEN statements but said these would not affect a child starting school. They added: “Additional resources are now being used in order to ensure these are finalised as soon as possible. If any families who have been affected would like to contact us, we will investigate fully.”