Cambridgeshire mothers struggle for Roo’s educational rights

 

 Trudi Riley

Roo and Trudi Riley

Most nine year olds are happily settling in to their first terms in their schools but not little Roo Leanne Riley from Creamfields Road, Walton Highway, she has been without a school for almost six months.

Roo is diagnosed as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and is on the autism Spectrum disorder (ASD) and requires one to one and a specialist school to cater for her needs.

She started her education at West Walton primary school, where it became apparent that Roo needed extra help for integration and education. A statement including of fifteen hours of school support and one to one was awarded but soon found to be insufficient to her needs. It was upgraded shortly afterwards to 25 hours.

Mother, Trudi Riley explains:

“We had to appeal to get 25 hours, even though she was a danger to herself and others and requires constant one to one. If Roo were a mainstream child, being out of school for six months would mean Norfolk County Council would have me up in court for her absenteeism.”

In 2012 West Walton primary made a request that she be allowed a place for two terms at St Michael’s primary school in Kings Lynn, which has a special resource base for autism. But this arrangement was soon found to be unsuitable.

Mrs Riley said: “In these schools they support them to re-integrate into mainstream school. But at this time Roo was diagnosed with having the additional needs of ADHD. St Michaels couldn’t cope, so we had to go back to County and they put her back into mainstream, but they employed a brand one to one support. It was clear West Walton wasn’t able to cope with her long term needs so she was assigned to Clackclose SRB in Downham Market for two terms.

“We asked Norfolk County Council to find her a suitable school. One where she could be in a small class of children and catered for her specific educational needs, we’ve worked very closely with Roo’s social worker, but have had trouble communicating to Fliss Davies her assigned key worker in the Council.

“Last September were asked by the Council to view Gretton School, which is an autism specific school in Cambridge which fitted all of Roo’s needs. We would have been able to take her there ourselves. When we said we wanted to go ahead, the educational panel at Norfolk County Council produced a school that we had never discussed, Sheridan school in Thetford.

“Their decision was made before we had a chance to view it. When we did we had huge concerns and we aired them, but were told this was the most cost effective option, and we would never get her into Gretton. Room’s placement at Clackhouse came to an end in April, and we still haven’t found a suitable school for her.”

Roo was originally meant to start at the County’s appointed educational centre, Sheridan school, in April. But at a meeting with the educational panel in March, it became apparent she had not yet been enrolled at the school, and there was nothing put in place for her there.

Mrs Riley explains:

“The school was more focused on emotional behaviour disorders with very little experience of high functioning ASDs. They told us they intended to build a unit for children with ASD housing 8 students of mixed ages and abilities. So again there was no specific resource to suit Roo’s long-term needs. We tired a transition period over the summer holidays, and this proved sadly, without a doubt that they are not suitable for Roo. We refused the place after her mental state deteriorated so badly that we had to give her sedation. All her specialist workers are in agreement that this is not the best place for her. And according to County an appeal could take 12 months. This isn’t fair on her.”

Chris Murray, who manages the divisional additional needs team said:

“We want children with special educational needs (SEN) to access the most appropriate school to meet their needs. Decisions on which schools should be named in a statement of SEN are based on their suitability and whether they can meet the child’s needs – not the cost.

“It would be inappropriate to go into detail about Roo’s individual circumstances. However, we are aware of Mrs Riley’s concerns and want to work with her to ensure that her daughter receives the education that she needs.”