Battling to educate her son

St George's Academy in Sleaford. EMN-190122-131253001
St George's Academy in Sleaford. EMN-190122-131253001

Prospects may be improving for an autistic teenager after his mother appealed to The Standard to intervene in her battle to get the educational support he needs at school.

Sharron Smith of Sleaford contacted the newspaper at “her wits’ end” while fighting for her son, Owen, who attends St George’s Academy.

The 15 year old had been diagnosed with autism and learning difficulties from the age of four.

His mum said: “We have had professionals in health working with Owen and seeing him annually ever since, we had been granted a statement (now known as EHC) plan in primary school, but it never materialised. Upon moving to secondary school I again requested alongside his paediatrician for an EHC but that was initially turned down due to lack of information from the school.”

She claims the school viewed Owen as ‘not a priority’ as he is quiet and introverted in class rather than disruptive, but she said that leads to him being bullied and withdrawing even further and not seeking the help he needs.

She says she was offered Teaching Assistant support, funded by the education authority, but said: “Every time a new student came in needing support they took it off Owen as he didn’t have an EHC.”

Miss Smith said Owen was again unlikely to get support this year unless other students were off sick.

The single mum told The Standard: “The world is a confusing place for someone on the autistic spectrum, so to have the unpredictability of not knowing when he has support or not makes it even worse. He is now predicted to fail his GCSEs.”

Miss Smith has again appealed for an EHC and requested the academy’s input.

Following enquiries by The Standard, Principal of St George’s, Wayne Birks and his Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator met with Miss Smith in December and agreed to review support provided and meet in February.

Mr Birks apologised if any support had not been sufficiently tailored and added: “Each child we support has specific needs and when a large number of people are involved, it is possible that the support may not be as consistent as may be hoped.

“I think the issue was as much about the extra work all Owens’ teachers needed to do to support his needs; ie resources and approach, rather than the support of a specific Teaching Assistant.”

Miss Smith now says there has been progress: “Owen has been granted a needs assessment for an EHC plan.

“This doesn’t mean that Owen will get an EHC plan. Plus if he does get an EHC plan it takes time and he will have left St George’s by then.”