SEND Suffolk: Alfie, 14, with out schooling for two years
The parents of a 14-year-old boy with autism who have been without full-time education for more than two years say they are “dead” with inadequate care for children with special needs.
Alfie’s parents have criticized the council’s “lack of understanding” of their son’s needs and what they termed “inadequate care” after feeling they had no choice but to remove him from regular school to take him out to protect.
Suffolk County Council’s under-attack SEND service announced last weekend that an independent review of communications to parents and “family-oriented” elements of the service would be taking place.
A six-week review begins this week and is being conducted by two senior Lincolnshire County Council officials.
Alfie of Wickham Market is the oldest 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 a full-time education for two and a half years after allegedly bullied at school.
His parents claimed, “When Alfie started at Saxmundham School, he was very quickly exposed to horrific bullying that worsened his mental health.”
They alleged the bullying was so extreme that he suffered multiple injuries, but claimed their allegations were not taken seriously.
Alfie’s parents say children at risk, like their son, have failed.
– Credit: Alfie’s family
“The school has failed to make the required provision for our son’s special educational needs so that no safety precautions are left to protect him,” they said.
“There was a lack of understanding of Alfie’s needs and inadequate arrangements for him to stay safe and healthy in school. We were faced with the difficult and unimaginable decision to take our son out of school to keep him safe and to protect his mental well-being. “
Ms. Lizzie Girling, headmistress at SET Saxmundham, said all allegations of bullying were being investigated at this point.
She said: “We take all incidents of bullying very seriously. While Alfie was a student at SET Saxmundham for 2018-19, all allegations of bullying were investigated in accordance with the Seckford Education Trust’s Anti-Bullying Policy and we would be ready 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 of our students and staff, and we make sure everyone feels supported and included in our school community. Students and their parents / carers should feel comfortable speaking out against bullying and that allegations are heard, investigated and resolved. “
The Campaign for Change (Suffolk SEND), a growing group of 340 parents, caregivers, and supporters of SEND children, says Alfie’s case “is not uncommon and underscores the council’s continuing failure”.
Alfie’s parents claim that Suffolk County Council consistently ignored her, saying they were “not concerned about Alfie’s lack of education and wellbeing”.
They said they were “finished” with the lack of supplies.
“We were oppressed and dejected to fight for our son’s needs and that has had a massive impact on us as a family,” they said.
“Children at risk like Alfie fail.”
Alfie has been offered a place in a special school since September, but his parents said this was not a suitable place for Alfie as it is a unit specializing in communication and interaction that Alfie does not have to contend with.
They said, “It’s the wrong unit for Alfie. He needs help with his cognitive learning and his learning disabilities.”
Suffolk County Council said it acknowledges that further improvements are needed in the delivery of its SEND services.
A spokesperson said: “We continue to work with families across Suffolk to ensure that the SEND delivery is best suited for their child.
“There have been significant improvements in the delivery of SEND services recently, but we recognize that further improvements are needed and we are determined to deliver.
“One way to do this is through an independent review, conducted by a team of Lincolnshire experts, to examine the processes, communication protocols and family-oriented elements of the SEND services. This starts this week and will be completed within six weeks. Families are invited to share their experiences for the review at SendReview@suffolk.gov.uk. “