Parents hit out at shortage of places at special schools in Huntingdonshire

Emma Bail, Lauren Wyatt with son Jack, 4, and Katy North, with daughter Hattie, 4

Emma Bail, Lauren Wyatt with son Jack, 4, and Katy North, with daughter Hattie, 4 - Credit: Archant

Desperate parents of youngsters with Special Educational Needs (SEN) fear their children be left without a school to go to in September because of a shortage of places in local special schools.

Campaigning mum Emma Bail, whose daughter Scarlett, 4, has Down syndrome, said both Samuel Pepys in St Neots and Spring Common in Huntingdon were full.

At least nine families in St Neots are thought to be affected, together with more whose children are in mainstream schools but may need to move to more appropriate SEN places.

Emma, from St Neots, said affected parents were faced with a stark choice of keeping their children in a nursery for a further year, attempting to home-school them or sending them to a mainstream school which would be unable to meet their needs.

She said: “For me personally, my daughter will start mainstream in September, but it is possible that in future years she will need to move to a SEN school. At present, if mainstream does not work out for my daughter, there is no plan B. There are no SEN places. And I am deeply worried what that means.

“The pressure on families at this time is immense. The constant worry and endless emails and phone calls to the local authority, which largely go unanswered, is putting these families under extreme stress.”

She said: “Our families do not want the public to feel sorry for us, our children are much loved and valued. What we are asking for is public support. Most people do not understand just how desperate this situation has become.

Most Read

“The families also want to make it clear the schools themselves are not at fault. The problem is with the lack of funding available from the government to ensure there are enough school places for all children, no matter what their needs are.”

Lauren Wyatt, whose son Jack, 4, has Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome, said: “We assumed we wouldn’t have a problem getting a place. I feel anxious and I am very worried for his future. I feel I can’t trust the local authority any more.”

Katy North, whose daughter Hattie, a four-year-old twin, has cerebral palsy, said: “I feel upset that the situation has not been made clear. I feel disappointed at the lack of communication.”

A Cambridgeshire County Council spokesman said: “There is a large and growing need for provision for children with special educational needs. Some of the special schools in the county are at or close to capacity.

“We have a total of 3,523 children and young people in Cambridgeshire with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). The needs of most children in Cambridgeshire can be met by a mainstream school.

“A new special school - Highfield, Littleport - opened in September 2017 and we are planning for additional new special schools at Northstowe and Alconbury that are due to open in 2020.

“We are aware that there are small number of families in the St Neots area who require a place for their children in a special school from September 2018. We are actively working with Samuel Pepys special school in the town to refurbish the school buildings so the school can accommodate additional students. We are confident that there will be sufficient special school places available in the St Neots area for September when the places are needed.”