Our son needs a special school

THE family of a boy with autism who has not been to school for more than 18 months are asking South Gloucestershire Council to rethink its decision not to offer him a place at a special school.

The council accepts that Mason Evans-Rice, who lives in Soundwell, needs extra support. But it insists this should be done in a mainstream school with a resource base for pupils with disabilities.

The council says the only place available is at Blackhorse Primary School, which his parents Kevin Rice and Becky Evans removed him from in 2021, after disagreements over his education.

Kevin and Becky have paid for a private assessment which concluded Mason, who is 10, would make progress in a special school, and say the council’s own assessment process has been shambolic, with delays, poor communication and a psychologist’s report made on the basis of a short phone call.

They say the council is failing to take into account their views – or the emotional trauma caused to Mason by the death of his four-year-old sister Raeyah from cancer earlier this year.

Mason’s communication difficulties were first noticed by a reception class teacher at Blackhorse, which was near the family’s previous home in Emersons Green.

During the pandemic Becky, who has been an early years practitioner for 20 years, found Mason was unwilling to take part in online lessons or work at home, despite her efforts to help, and after schools returned in September 2020 the process of getting an education, health and care plan (EHCP), which assesses how much extra support a child needs, began.

Kevin and Becky paid for a private assessment, which resulted in an autism diagnosis that was accepted by the NHS.

A breakdown in relations with the school and frustration at Mason’s lack of progress led to Becky and Kevin removing him from school in October 2021 and teaching him at home – but as a result the EHCP process was restarted from scratch.

Becky said: “He can learn in the right environment but there’s no way on earth a mainstream school can do what this child needs – he just shuts down.

“I’m happy to educate Mason at home but I’m not trained in providing the support he would get in an SEN school. He’s been struggling for four years.”

A council spokesperson said: “We cannot comment publicly on any specific case, however it is important to us that every child is assessed individually, with the aim of finding the best support, locally wherever possible, to meet their specific needs. 

“The majority of children with special educational needs, including those with EHCPs, are able to have their needs met and can thrive in our mainstream schools. 

“The findings of Ofsted inspections of our mainstream schools over the last two years emphasise the high quality educational offer available to children and young people with special educational needs.”