Why no school place for my autistic son?
Tyler Fountain’s parents, Kym and Alex, say they are being sent on an endless merry-go-round by Lincolnshire County Council who have had a year to sort things out.
South Holland and The Deepings MP John Hayes, a long-standing champion of disability rights, is now ready to step in to help.
He said: “I will certainly be happy to take up this case for the parents and fight for the child’s best interests.”
The Fountains, of Crowland, believed all would be well after an independent school at Thorney, perfect for 11-year-old Tyler’s needs and just five miles away, was ready to accept him following a home visit by the school’s headteacher and a family visit to the school.
But the county council pulled the rug from under their feet on Wednesday, saying it was too expensive, and once more suggested The Priory School in Spalding – but that’s been explored twice and found unworkable.
Kym (28) said: “They (the council) are just sending us on a merry-go-round and all of us are living in limbo.
“We are getting nowhere and that’s why I thought, if I put my story out there, hopefully they (the council) will listen and place him quicker.”
One non-starter suggested by the council was a school in Horncastle, but Kym says Tyler would have faced each way taxi rides of one hour and 40 minutes. He finds journeys stressful and couldn’t always cope with trips to and from Gosberton.
“When he was there, I would get a phone call at work saying ‘can you come and get him?’ because he was refusing to get in the taxi,” she said.
Autism is a life-long disability that affects sufferers’ ability to communicate with and relate to other people.
It’s a spectrum disorder and Tyler, who happily chats to family and friends, is classed as “moderate”.
The council had suggested Willoughby School at Bourne but youngsters who go there are more severely disabled than Tyler and it was mutually ruled out by the school and the Fountains.
Kym said: “Tyler came out of there and said ‘who would I be friends with, mum?’”
The couple are now fibbing to their son – telling him his new school is being painted and that’s why he can’t go there yet – to prevent him from becoming stressed because he knows all of his pals are back at school.
Kym says the council also suggested that Tyler could return to Gosberton House, but he would be the oldest pupil and “he’s already said goodbye to the school”.
The Fountains rejected home tuition as they want Tyler to be in a school because autistic children need to socialise.
The absence of schooling is taking its toll with Tyler reverting to habits he had as a five or six-year-old.
Kym said Priory School was first ruled out because the school said Tyler wouldn’t cope with moving from classroom to classroom for lessons.
Priory came back into the frame when a special unit was being considered for Tyler and a couple of other pupils, but that didn’t go ahead.
Tyler’s parents work and the long wait for a school place would have hit them harder still if Kym’s mum hadn’t been free to look after him.
Council children’s services manager Sheridan Dodworth said: “Officers will continue to work with the family to secure appropriate educational provision. The local authority has a responsibility to ensure it spends taxpayers’ money wisely and therefore it will always attempt to place young people in maintained schools or academies, where possible, before it considers independent provision.”
She said it’s not unusual for children to travel some distance to schools that best suit their educational needs.