‘I thought the council could help us, I didn’t expect this’
Protest planned as special needs families say children are being failed
We regularly report on issues that affect families with special needs, such as education and support services. Add your email below to receive our free, independent news
By Natalie Bloomer
Families of children with special needs will gather outside a council building next month to highlight what they say is a failure of West Northamptonshire Council to provide their children with an adequate education.
The group of parents has come together after realising they were facing similar issues with securing their children a suitable school place, as demand grows.
Theresa Kiziak’s son Zain, 14, has ADHD, Tourette’s syndrome, OCD and anxiety. In April 2021 the specialist school he was attending informed the family and the local authority that they could no longer meet his needs. Instead they suggested he would be better suited to an education setting which could offer on site therapy.
Finding such a place or indeed any suitable school has not proved easy, 16 months on and Zain is still stuck at home.
“He’s finding it really difficult and his mental health is deteriorating. He has very little social interaction with people of a similar age and every day that passes he is missing out on a proper education.”
The specialist school which Zain attended previously has been able to offer him some classes during his time out of school but they are mainly things like cooking, pottery and farm provision - not subjects like English, maths or science.
“I’ve been so frustrated by it all, I thought they [the council] could help us, I didn’t expect this. I’m feeling very stressed with it all. I’ve sat down with them and told them they have a duty of care towards my son but all they say is they’re trying their best.”
In June of this year the local authority said Zain was due to be offered a place at a Pupil Referral Unit, something Theresa says is not suitable for her son. She says she’s been told the unit will only be able to offer him three hours a week (one hour a day for three days).
“If a specialist school couldn’t meet Zain’s needs how will a Pupil Referral Unit? And three hours a week is not an education. He’s 14, he doesn’t have many years left in school, how is this going to help him? I don’t know what they’re doing, what they’re offering is not enough. I feel like my son is being left behind.”
She is now appealing that decision and will face the council at a tribunal hearing in October.
Theresa says the impact of the past year has taken its toll on the whole family. So much of her time is taken up supporting Zain that she is unable to spend quality time with her 16 year-old daughter.
“There’s been a huge knock-on effect on us all. Zain is really struggling and having meltdowns at home - that’s hard for me and my daughter as well.”
West Northamptonshire Council has previously acknowledged that there was a clear and immediate risk that it would be unable to fulfil its statutory obligations of providing a sufficiency of SEND places in the area. A report from April also said that some pupils are unable to access an education setting in a timely manner and are without a school place.
To help tackle the problem the local authority has pledged to provide around 250 extra special needs spaces by creating units attached to existing schools and another 250 by opening a new special school.
For many Northamptonshire families, these plans can’t come soon enough. As thousands of parents across the county send their children back to school in September, others will continue to fight to get their child an education.
The protest by the West Northamptonshire SEND action group will take place outside Angel Square in Northampton on September 6th at 9.30am.
West Northamptonshire Council has been contacted for a comment.
NN Journal is a reader-supported publication. To receive all of our stories and support our work consider becoming a free or paid subscriber