max temp: 15°C

min temp: 15°C

ESTD 1874 Search

Ipswich/Brightlingsea: Red tape could destroy basketball star’s shot at fame

17:11 03 December 2012

Laurence Watsham of Brightlingsea in Essex, is fighting to stay in the Copleston Basketball Academy now that his travel benefit is being denied.

Laurence Watsham of Brightlingsea in Essex, is fighting to stay in the Copleston Basketball Academy now that his travel benefit is being denied.


AN England basketball youth international who overcame bullying by taking up the sport is today facing the possibility of giving up on his dream – because of red tape.


Laurence Watsham was picked on for being exceptionally tall – but using his height to his advantage he transformed his life.

He had hoped to pursue his sporting ambitions after enrolling at Ipswich Basketball Academy at Copleston High School in September.

However, the 16-year-old – who lives over the Suffolk border in Essex – has been told he does not qualify for a travel subsidy because he would not be studying at his nearest learning establishment.

Bosses at Essex County Council said the 6ft 11in teenager can take his travel and tourism course at Colchester Institute – and said sports and other extra-curricular activities could not be taken into account.

His angry mother Jenny Rooke said the council was “completely ignoring” the fact that Laurence is also undertaking an AASE course in basketball – the academy is the only place in the east of England where aspiring players can achieve the qualification.

She said she can’t afford the £70 to £80 a week it costs to send Laurence, who suffers from Aspergers syndrome, to and from Copleston.

Currently, friends and family are ferrying Laurence to and from Ipswich.

Ms Rooke, 52, accused the council of showing no regard for the sport which has “saved” her son.

“It has been a nightmare,” she said. “I don’t know why I thought him going to Ipswich would be straightforward, nothing in his life has ever been straightforward.”

“Basketball is the most important thing in his life, it just seems so unfair.”

The course at Copleston provides students with a realistic opportunity of making a career out of the sport, offering the training, conditioning and nutrition sportsmen and women require.

When he was nine, Laurence was diagnosed with Aspergers – an autistic spectrum disorder typified by difficulties with social interaction.

In and out of schools, constantly struggling and frequently excluded, his time at primary school was turbulent.

“Since he was diagnosed with Aspergers he has always had his travel paid for,” said Ms Rooke. “It (Aspergers) has affected his life in so many ways.”

Basketball, she said, suddenly gave him something to aim for. “For the first time, people believed in him. For the first time he actually believed he could do something with his life,” she said.

“It just seems ridiculous. He has had all this help his whole life and now when he needs it most they turn their backs on him.

“He said to me, if he didn’t have basketball he would’ve probably ended up on drugs because he wouldn’t know what else to do.”

An Essex County Council spokesman said: “Essex County Council is sympathetic regarding the current situation of Mr Watsham.

“However, as our policy states, to qualify for post-16 transport assistance a student must attend the nearest establishment to their home that provides the subject they wish to study.

“Any extra-curricular activity, such as sports, cannot be taken into account unless the sport qualification level is higher than that of the main qualification they have chosen to study.

“If a student is declined transport they may appeal against the decision.”

n What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail starletters@archant.co.uk



  • Well maybe she should move to Ipswich if she's that bothered instead of the tax payer fitting the bill! At last commen sense from the council

    Report this comment


    Monday, December 3, 2012

  • I think Essex CC have some rights here, to choose not to fund travel. Many parents pay to meet all their children's education and entertainment needs while others always try to assert "rights" with little justification.

    Report this comment


    Monday, December 3, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

Rory Marriott, who was sent on a nearly 30mile diversion

We all bemoan the diversions which close the highways and byways of Suffolk when roadworks are set up.

The Orwell Bridge

There have been a number of crashes on the county’s roads this morning.

Campaigners have been calling for a by-pass for decades.

Local councils are to spend £500,000 in a bid to kick-start proposals for a four villages’ by-pass – a move that could see the road opened by 2021.

Paul Clement, chief executive of Ipswich Central

A major conference aimed at pushing ahead with dramatic changes to Ipswich town centre is to be held at the end of this month.

The area in Clarkson Street where two gangs fought on September 23

An Ipswich mother-of-two has told of how she was left terrified after getting caught up in the middle of fighting between groups of young men wielding bricks, lumps of wood and an axe.

David Acton, Hannah Hutch and Patti Love in Jane Wenham-The Witch of Walkern, which is touring Suffolk and Essex

A leading Suffolk private school has cancelled a play by an Oscar-winning and National Theatre-sponsored playwright because of fears about bad language and its subject matter which covers child abuse.

Sharon Halls and Daniel Compton's baby, Evie

The mother of a premature baby born 12 weeks early in the Dominican Republic has said they are not expecting to travel home before December.

Police have defended the use of an offender rehabilitation scheme

The leader of a scheme to rehabilitate prolific offenders in Suffolk has clarified its responsibilities after a sex scandal involving one of its team attracted attention.

Dan Poulter with employees at B&Q

The proposed closure of the B&Q superstore on the edge of Ipswich will lift a huge question mark over the future of one of the town’s largest retail parks.

Talented golfer William Turner, 18,  from Shoeburyness

A teenager who has been sentenced for causing the death of his best-friend will live with his actions “forever”.

Most read

Most commented

Topic pages