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Parents of children with special educational needs choosing to appeal secondary school places

4th May 2016

As an increasing number of parents unhappy with their child’s secondary school placement choose home schooling as well as other alternatives over an appeal, a mother of a special educational needs child from South Gloucestershire explains why an appeal was the only option for her son.

55-year-old Margarita Korovina whose son Sherwin Harcourt has cerebral palsy says that children that suffer from conditions like this have very complex needs, with their physical disabilities greatly impacting on their educational learning. She comments: “It was important that Sherwin got the right help at this crucial stage of his education, as it will impact him for the rest of his life.”

Sherwin, who has a twin sister, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at one year’s old, but Margarita says that she spotted signs from when he was about three months old that he was not developing in the same way as his sister.

Despite having quite severe physical disabilities, Margarita says that her son is able to communicate, although he requires help with his speech, and that he has a good capacity for learning in the right environment. Physically, all four of Sherwin’s limbs are affected by his cerebral palsy and he needs regular physiotherapy and occupational therapy to ensure that he remains mobile.

“As Sherwin is getting older, he is much heavier and bigger and unfortunately I am not able to provide him with all the therapy he needs.

“It’s important that he gets this though as otherwise his muscles will become weak and he will lose further mobility over time,” explains Margarita.

The secondary school placement offered to Sherwin was at a mainstream school with a specialist unit attached.

In terms of his education, Sherwin was attending a mainstream school and Margarita was concerned that Sherwin did not receive adequate therapy or support to help Sherwin’s development.

Sherwin, who uses a wheelchair, had a lot of physical difficulties; he was unable to swipe doors to enter different parts of the building and could not attend afterschool clubs due to a lack of transport facilities.

To help her pursue an appeal of Sherwin’s secondary school placement, Margarita instructed Janata Ali of Moore Blatch solicitors. She says that one of the most important things she learnt while going through the process was the significance of Statements and how specific these sometimes need to be.

Sherwin’s Statement was written when he was three years old and had not been reviewed or updated despite changes in his requirements both physically and educationally.

Janata comments: “This is something which is very common. Statements can often use very general language to describe the support in place for a child.  For someone like Sherwin, who is academically quite able, it is incredibly important that a school with appropriate individual therapies is identified, detailing how often these therapies should be provided and making sure they are delivered by a qualified professional.”

Moore Blatch was successful in appealing Sherwin’s school place and in January of this year, Sherwin began a residential placement at Treloar’s school, where he boards for four nights a week.

As well as catering for his education needs, children like Sherwin will also access a range of therapies including, speech and language therapy, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and occupational therapy. There is also a specialist hand and speech programme that is crucial to Sherwin’s development.

Margarita continues: “Sherwin has never lived away from home and this will be a big change, but I am hoping that this will improve his social skills, independence and allow him to make more friends.

“As for my daughter, this will also allow me to give her some dedicated time, which I have struggled with previously, as well as being very important for her development.”

As for any advice that Margarita may have for other parents, she comments: “As a parent you must have conviction on behalf of your child because otherwise the long term costs to your child are likely to be high.”

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