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Mum Shelby Patterson 'worried sick' for autistic son Theo after Suffolk County Council denies him special school place




A young mum whose son was diagnosed with autism three years ago is ‘worried sick’ after a council said he wasn’t eligible to go to a special school.

Shelby Patterson, 24, of Wagtail Drive, in Bury St Edmunds, has been trying to move her son Theo, five, who currently attends St Christopher’s CEVC Primary School, in Red Lodge, from mainstream education for almost three years.

“He has already been held back a year and is now in reception. But once he goes into Year 1, we’re not sure how he will cope,” she said.

Shelby Patterson's son Theo has been told by Suffolk County Council that he doesn't require a specialist school placement despite being diagnosed with autism. She is now planning to go to tribunal to get him the education he needs. Shelby and Theo and her other son Rory and partner Jack Field. Picture by Mark Westley. (25684701)
Shelby Patterson's son Theo has been told by Suffolk County Council that he doesn't require a specialist school placement despite being diagnosed with autism. She is now planning to go to tribunal to get him the education he needs. Shelby and Theo and her other son Rory and partner Jack Field. Picture by Mark Westley. (25684701)

“The school have been great but they just can’t give him the attention and education he needs.”

Shelby has visited special schools within the catchment area and said they would ‘make a huge difference’ to her son’s school and home life.

“It would make life so much easier for him because he could learn at his own pace rather than struggling to keep up with the others,” she said.

“His behaviour would change because his teachers would be trained to deal with it. I believe that with the right help Theo can do really well but he can’t do that where he is at the moment.”

Shelby, who is also mum to three-year-old Rory, asked Suffolk County Council to carry out an Education, Health and Care Plan in which it concluded that Theo did require specialist teaching.

But following a panel review in November, the council wrote to Shelby and claimed that a special school would not be a ‘suitable setting’ for the youngster.

“It’s frustrating because the council has contradicted itself and his teachers and paediatrician all agree he would benefit from special education,” said Shelby. “He is entitled to a good education as much as any other child so why shouldn’t he get the extra help he needs?”

Shelby has opted to take part in a mediation session to try to resolve the issue but if unsuccessful, she intends to take the case to tribunal.

“It’s not fair on anyone for things to stay as they are. We’re worried sick and it’s not fair on his teachers or on Theo."

Cllr Mary Evans, cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills at the council, said: "Suffolk County Council works hard to ensure that children and families are matched with an education setting that will best meet their needs.

"We regularly review the provision allocated to ensure that it is still suitable. The majority of referrals for all Suffolk’s specialist schools, units, alternative provision and pupil referrals units are made by the child or young person’s current education setting.

"Referrals are considered by multi-agency panels: first to consider whether the request for a placement would meet the special educational needs of the child or young person; and then with the specialist providers to allocate places. We recognise that there is an increasing demand for specialist placements and we have committed a significant investment of £45million in developing over 800 additional places over the next 5 years across Suffolk.

"The first 168 places were announced today and a further admissions round will be held in Spring 2020 to include these new places.”


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