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Disabled child left without a school place

The mother of a severely disabled 11-year-old has expressed dismay after her son was left with no school place.

Izaac Stillwell suffers from brain damage and serious learning disabilities, and has autistic traits and hyper mobility. His mother Katie Stillwell believes that mainstream education is unsuitable for him and applied for a place at Baycroft, a special needs school in Porchester. “Baycroft School has been Izaac’s nominated special needs school since Year 4,” she said. “But last week I received a phone call out of the blue from the education authority telling me that Izaac has not been given a place at Baycroft. Izaac won’t be able to keep up with the classes in mainstream education, let alone be able to get himself on a bus in the morning.”

When Ms Stillwell attempted to launch an appeal into the decision, she found that it was not possible because the responsible local authority had failed to complete the process of transition in time. “Last year Izaac’s statement was changed from an educational statement of special needs to an educational health care plan. Because they haven’t completed his transition to an EHCP I have been told that I cannot submit an appeal.”

Despite her concerns, Izaac’s existing school has sought to find him a place at another mainstream school in the area. Suella Fernandes, Fareham’s MP, has written a letter to the education authority in an attempt to resolve the issue, which remains ongoing. Ms Stillwell has started a petition for her son and more than 15 other special needs children in the area who have been left without a school place. “We genuinely fear for Izaacs short and long term outlook if this decision isn’t overturned,” she writes on the Change.org website. “I would like to personally invite Nicky Morgan or anyone else from the education authority to come and meet both myself and Izaac to see for themselves. Izaac will not cope academically, mentally, emotionally or physically, and it won’t be fair on mainstream teachers either.”

Commenting on the case, our education law solicitor, Angela Sandhal, said: “All local authorities have a degree of discretion when it comes to school placements, which makes this situation all the more unusual.  If the local authority here is operating a blanket policy without regard to current the parental preference then it is very likely to be unlawful and amenable to judicial review particularly given the profound consequences for young children like Izaak who are clearly very vulnerable and have had no experience of coping in a mainstream school.  I would at the very least expect local authorities to maintain the current arrangements while assessments are completed”.

We are experts on education, health and care assessments and related appeals to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.

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