Originally written 05/03/2020 since covering this story Dylan has been given a place at Mayfield Specialist school
A mum from Cumbria whose son has Autism is calling on the Government to urgently step in to resolve a funding crisis in special educational needs.
Ruth Ramsay’s son Dylan is due to start school in September, he is classed as band 5 profound specialist educational needs by Cumbria County Council.
Dylan needs one to one support, he can’t speak or communicate, with that in mind, Ruth applied for a place for him at Mayfield specialist school, having been told by professionals and other parents with children with autism that she wouldn’t have a problem and he’d be accepted. In January she received a letter informing her that there was no place for Dylan
“I went manic, I absolutely hit the roof. I phoned the council, I was crying down the phone, threatening legal action and everything else and they said ‘look there’s nothing we can do, we’ve had to cut the cloth somehow, we’ve had to make decisions and there’s no place for him’”.
Ruth is not alone, in fact, this year alone Mayfield Specialist school received 45 applications, there is only 16 places. She’s now appealing the decision saying it inconceivable that her son be sent to a mainstream classroom:
“Dylan going into a mainstream classroom with 28 children, that’s got equipment laid out on the tables it’s ridiculous, the pre-school that he’s in at the moment they’ve had to remove tables, craft items because even with one to one care he can’t show if he’s frustrated or fed up, hungry, tired, whatever and he’ll just throw things and people end up getting hurt.
“The main thing with autism is that you intervene early, you give support as early as possible. Dylan can’t speak, he can’t gesture, so even something as simple as pointing to dinner he wants is virtually impossible for him. He needs to be taught how to communicate, whether it’s by sign language or by picture cards, he needs to be given some way to make his needs known because without that he’s basically got no hope of coming on”.
The mum of two has since set up a petition calling on Cumbria County to fund more specialist educational places, it’s been signed by thousands of parents from the across the country who say they’re facing similar problems when it comes to getting their child an appropriate education, she said:
“It’s a huge problem, I can tell that from the amount of people that’s heard our story and got in touch and signed the petition. I’ve had people from all over the country sign it and messaging me saying ‘this is happening everywhere, don’t give up, keep fighting because if you don’t, you’re not going to get the right help for your son, and he needs it’.
The Government aren’t looking at it as carefully as they should be doing. They need to do more because it’s just going to snowball. Autism is rising, it’s not just down to better diagnosis, more and more children are coming through the system and if we don’t give them the help now it’s going to hugely affect them in later life and they won’t be able to look after themselves, they won’t be able to get jobs. It’s a huge problem if they don’t do something about it now it’s only going to get worse”.
The government said it was investing an extra £780m for children with special education needs, but Cumbria County council says a lack of funding is to blame for a shortage of places.
South Lakes MP Tim Farron used a parliamentary debate on school exclusions last week to further highlight the problem in Cumbria saying almost every head teacher in his constituency highlighted meeting the needs of children who require extra support being the biggest problem they face.
Ruth Ramsay is now appealing in the hope that Dylan will be accepted at Mayfield, she’s spent weeks gathering evidence and going through SEND code of conduct, she says she’ll fighting to make sure Dylan doesn’t miss out on what he’s entitled to:
“Any mum wants the best for her child but when you’ve got with special needs, it’s even more so. I would do absolutely anything to get him the education he deserves, it’s a fundamental right that a child gets an education, we live in a first world country and to be denied that it’s just utterly heart breaking and I said from day one ‘I will not stand for this, over my dead body is he going into a mainstream school’.
We shouldn’t need to fight. A profoundly special needs child should not have to fight to get something as fundamental as an education, that shouldn’t be happening. The Government can whip up £100 billion to knock 20 minutes off Boris Johnson’s train journey, why not invest in the children and the people in the country who need it most”.
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