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Mum from Hartley takes Kent County Council to tribunal over son's school place

A worried mum is preparing to take her fight to court after being told no school place can be found for her son who has autism.

Eleven-year-old Sam Horsley, from Hartley, is due to finish school at Langafel Primary School, in Longfield, this summer, and needs a specialist school to help him with learning difficulties.

Rebecca Horsley talks about her son Sam

But mum Rebecca Horsley, who also works as a teacher, says while Kent County Council has agreed Sam needs a specialist school, they have offered him nothing.

Rebecca, 39, says the failure to offer an adequate place is illegal, and says KCC is wasting thousands of pounds by driving her to challenge them at a tribunal hearing.

While Sam had struggled with communication problems caused by verbal dyspraxia, Rebecca explained that attending the SLIC (Socialise Learn Interact Communicate) unit at Langafel had helped him greatly.

"They're really good – they've worked really hard with him and he's progressed a lot,"she said. "When he started there he couldn't talk at all, but he's got much more confident."

Rebecca says he needs continued speech therapy and a specialist curriculum to keep progressing.

Mum Rebecca Horsley is desperately fighting to find a school place for son Sam (56301646)
Mum Rebecca Horsley is desperately fighting to find a school place for son Sam (56301646)

"You're only allowed to ask for one school, so we looked around six schools and we asked for Milestone, a special needs school in New Ash Green.

"They could meet his needs but they're full up.

"I then had a letter saying he could go to the local comprehensive. KCC approached the local comprehensive at Longfield Academy and they said of course they can't take him, because he follows a different curriculum and needs speech therapy.

"Then KCC said yes we agree he needs a special school but there aren't any spaces. They said I could home school him or go to court."

Meanwhile she says she has been unable to communicate with KCC, receiving only an email advising her she can challenge them in court.

The alternative option – home schooling – is not realistic as both she and her partner Gareth work full time.

Rebecca Horsley is preparing for a tribunal to find a school place for her son, Sam (56301619)
Rebecca Horsley is preparing for a tribunal to find a school place for her son, Sam (56301619)

And in any case, she says Sam is entitled to professional specialist education and speech therapy.

"They've offered us nothing," added Rebecca. "His primary school has said they will try to keep him there, but it's not really appropriate.

"He needs to be learning with children like him. Also he's excited about going to big school.

"Essentially for autistic children they need to prepare for big changes, and there's nothing I can tell him at the moment.

"I just think KCC should be able to help. I just get the impression that straight away they say they'll go to tribunal.

"I know we're not the only ones because, I've heard loads of stories. I'm a teacher and I know the schools are full up, but you can't just not educate children. They need to create spaces, even if it's not ideal conditions.

"They need bigger classes. Really what they need is more money."

Rebecca says she has also been affected by the stress of preparing for the tribunal, likely to go ahead in July.

And she added: "They're saying he needs to go to a special school, and I'm saying the same thing, so why are we going to court?

"They're wasting thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money.

"The option of keeping him at home is against the law, because the law is every child is has the right to education at a suitable school."

Kent County Council has been approached for comment.

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