Derbyshire families share struggle to gain special education support for their children

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The number of Derbyshire families coming forward to share startling stories about their battles to gain special educational support for their children continues to grow.

The parents are trying to obtain a legally-binding document which spells out the support their child needs, and will be provided at a school.

Derbyshire County Council is in control of drawing up these documents – called Education, Health and Care Plans, or EHCPs. It currently has more than 3,000 on its books.

An increasing amount of parents have come forward so far to speak publicly about how they have battled to obtain or even be assessed to get an EHCP for their child.

Josh Higginbottom is 10-years-old and attends Brampton Primary School.

He has asymmetric quadriplegic cerebral palsy – rendering the loss of his arms, legs and body – is a full-time wheelchair user and has a number of speech impediments.

Josh had a Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Statement – the former document which was replaced by EHCPs.

In June last year he began the process to transfer the statement to an EHCP.

The first draft arrived in October, followed by five further drafts.

In April 2018 it was finalised, then amended in May and June, making it a full year since the process began.

The family appealed for further changes in June and this went to tribunal in October.

This month it has emerged that out of the 68 tribunals that have concluded this year, the county council has won just one – with a cost to the taxpayer of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Josh’s case is one of the 67 it has lost this year so far, with a further 30 pending.

The county council was ordered to amend Josh’s plan by the judge and to fund the required support.

Despite this, the county council has said “we don’t need any more money,” say Josh’s parents. His mother, Sharon, said: “The school are fantastic. They have supported Josh since nursery and they include him in everything they do, regardless of the cost.

“We always work together and I fully support how inclusive they are, I have massive respect for Brampton Primary School – they are amazing.

“Our problems are with the local authority. They have historically underfunded Josh since reception.

“They paid a barrister at tribunal to support them, while I supported myself.

“I took Josh along to the tribunal to meet the judge and she was appalled at the situation.”

Daniel Bowler is five years old and is on roll at Ironville and Codnor Park Primary School.

He is autistic and has a range of sensory, speech and sound disorders.

One of is conditions, Pathological Demand Avoidance, leads Daniel to avoid or refuse any requests that are made too assertively.

He also has separation anxiety, which leads him to act as his mother’s “shadow”.

Daniel typically communicates using Makaton, a form of sign language paired with speech. In May, his GP signed him off school due to be medically unfit to attend due to anxiety and illness.

This was due to a compulsion to eat and chew “anything he could get his hands on”, says his mother, Teresa.

She says that since he hasn’t been in school, Daniel has not been ill or required antibiotics.

Teresa has requested permission for her son to have an EOTAS – education other than at home.

Before this, in October 2017, Daniel had been due to have his EHCP reviewed.

However, it was August before the family received a draft.

This draft only came through after Teresa proposed legal action.

However, the plan “did not even begin to resemble anything that could support him within a school,” says Teresa, who lives in Codnor Park.

A Derbyshire County Council spokesperson said each child’s case was different.

“It is not appropriate for us to discuss comments relating to individual children and their specific care plans, but we work directly with those parents to resolve the issues and continue to work with parents to try to achieve agreement wherever possible,” the spokesperson added.