Autistic boy loses fight for special school place

Holly and James

Holly and James - Credit: supplied

THE parents of an autistic boy have vowed to fight to get him the education he needs after he was refused a place at a special school.

Holly and Matt Gaunt, of The Vale, Portishead, say they are devastated after being told by North Somerset Council that their four-year-old son, James, must attend mainstream school when he begins full-time education in September.

That is despite the fact he cannot cope when surrounded by large numbers of children, becomes anxious and withdrawn and can lash out at those who invade his space.

His parents have vowed to appeal and say they will do everything within their power to get the decision overturned so their son can attend a special school that will cater for his needs.

James has a statement of special educational needs (SEN), allowing his parents to state where they would like James to be educated, but last week they learned that the council has turned down their request for a special school.

Holly said: “Our views and wishes have been completely ignored and a panel of strangers has decided the best route for James is mainstream schooling.

“This will not be the end of our fight by any stretch, but we are bitterly disappointed that there are still more battles to come.

Most Read

“I cannot understand how people who have never even met James can make such a big decision for him. It is quite obvious to us that James needs specialist support in order to thrive.”

In September, a new Children and Families Bill will become law and the Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) will replace the current statement. With this comes a new code of practice that places emphasis on the involvement of parents in decision making, giving them greater choice and control.

Holly and Matt are clinging on to hope that common sense will prevail and North Somerset Council will listen to their views.

A spokesman for the authority said: “We always try to match a child’s individual needs with a placement in the most appropriate school.

“North Somerset has a full range of provision to meet the needs of children and young people, whatever their level of autism.

“We will continue to work with the parents but in the interests of all those involved, we are unable to comment on an individual case.”

In the meantime Holly is sharing her day-to-day challenges in an online blog that has attracted thousands of viewers and hundreds of comments from parents in similar circumstances.

The blog can be found at