Parents 'at wits end' with SEND provision as son goes 2 years without school

Alfie, from Wickham Market, has been out of school for more than two years.

Alfie, from Wickham Market, has been out of school for more than two years. - Credit: Alfie's family

The parents of a 14-year-old boy who is autistic and has been without full-time education for more than two years say they are "at their wits end" with the insufficient provision for children with special needs. 

Alfie's parents have criticised the council's "lack of understanding" of their son's needs and what they described as "inadequate provision", after they felt they had no choice but to remove him from a mainstream school to keep him safe. 

It comes as Suffolk County Council's under-fire SEND service announced last weekend that an independent review of communications to parents and "family-facing" elements of the service would take place.

A six-week review begins this week, conducted by two senior officers from Lincolnshire County Council.

Alfie, from Wickham Market, is the eldest of four children and was described by his parents as a "gentle and amazing brother".

He has autism, severe anxiety and dyslexia and has been without full-time education for two and a half years, after he was allegedly bullied at school. 

His parents claimed: "When Alfie started at Saxmundham School he very quickly experienced horrific bullying which worsened his mental health."

They claimed the bullying was so extreme he suffered multiple injuries, but claim their allegations were not taken seriously. 

Alfie's parents say vulnerable children like their son are being failed.

Alfie's parents say vulnerable children like their son are being failed. - Credit: Alfie's family

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"The school failed to put in place the mandated provision for our son's special educational needs, leaving no safeguards to protect him," they said. 

"There was a lack of understanding of Alfie’s needs and inadequate provision put in place for him to remain safe and well at school. We were left with the difficult and unimaginable decision of removing our son from school in order to keep him safe and protect his mental well-being."

Mrs Lizzie Girling, headteacher at SET Saxmundham, said all bullying allegations were investigated at the time. 

She said: “We take all incidents of bullying very seriously. While Alfie was a student at SET Saxmundham in 2018-19, all bullying allegations were investigated in accordance with the Seckford Education Trust Anti-Bullying Policy and we would be willing to reach out to Alfie’s family to discuss the matter further.

“At SET Saxmundham, we are committed to providing a safe and respectful learning environment for all our students and staff, and we ensure that everyone feels supported and included in our school community. Students and their parents/carers should feel comfortable to speak out against bullying and that allegations will be listened to, investigated and resolved.”

The Campaign for Change (Suffolk SEND), which is a growing group of 340 parents, carers and supporters of SEND children, say Alfie's case is "not unusual and highlights the continued failure of the council". 

Alfie's parents claim that Suffolk County Council has ignored them throughout, saying they have had "no concern for the lack of education and wellbeing of Alfie".

They said they are "at their wits end" with the lack of provision.

"We have been oppressed and ground down fighting for our son's needs and it has had a massive impact on us as a family," they said.

"Vulnerable children like Alfie are being failed."

Alfie has since been offered a place at a special needs school in September, but his parents explained it is not a suitable place for Alfie as it is a unit specialising in communication and interaction, something Alfie does not struggle with.

They said: "It is the wrong unit for Alfie. He needs help with his cognitive learning and his learning disability."

Suffolk County Council said it acknowledges that more improvement is needed in the way it delivers its SEND services.

A spokesperson said: “We continue to work with families across Suffolk to ensure that SEND provision is best suited for their child.

“Significant improvements have been made recently in the way we deliver SEND services, but we acknowledge that more improvement is needed and we are committed to delivering that.

“One way we will do this is through an independent review carried out by a team of Lincolnshire experts to examine the processes, communication protocols and family-facing elements of SEND services. This begins this week and will be completed within six weeks. Families are invited to share their experiences for the review at SendReview@suffolk.gov.uk.”

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