Family desperate for SEN place after being ‘failed’ by Council

Jemma and Arthur

A TUNBRIDGE Wells mother who has been waiting a year and a half for appropriate school placement for her autistic son believes that the County Council has “given up” on her child.

Jemma Maddock, the mother of five-year-old Arthur Maddock, who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), has been attempting to enrol her son into a specialist school since March 2022. However, after months of assessments and rejections from three schools, a placement has still not been secured.

Ms Maddock says she feels “angry” after being told by Kent County Council (KCC) that the reason her son was rejected by a specialist school, Cage Green in Tonbridge, was due to “Arthur’s presentation, which they feel would have a potential impact” on the other children with special educational needs.

She told the Times: “I am so angry, it’s like my child is a hindrance to them despite having never met him, they have just judged him.

“I feel that this reasoning was a cop-out. It is a school for autistic children.”

Ms Maddock said the recent rejection from Cage Green school comes after a 16-month struggle with KCC to have Arthur placed into a specialist school.

She explained the frustration of waiting months for assessments and reviews, having previously waited three-and-a-half years for Arthur’s autism diagnosis. She was only given an appointment after she spoke to her local MP, Greg Clark.

Arthur has an EHCP (Education and Health Care Plan) and currently attends St James’ CofE Primary School, but after a difficult first year in which he had to repeat reception, she feels the school cannot fulfil his needs.

Ms Maddock said: “I am very grateful he has a place at a mainstream school. St James’ is incredible, and they have always done their best for Arthur, but it is not the best fit for my son.

“Arthur is partially verbal and he wears headphones to muffle the sounds around him and also has a TA [teaching assistant] with whom he has a brilliant relationship.

“I discussed looking at a specialist school with the school SENCo (special educational needs coordinator) as she agreed that this may be a better option for Arthur, and they would be able to fulfil his needs.”

But after months of chasing emails, changes within the department, and being rejected by three schools, KCC decided that Arthur will attend St James’ in September with further provision’.

Feeling let down by the system, Ms Maddock told the Times: “I am at the end of my tether with KCC.

“I have been given so much hope that my son will be in a specialist school, now that has been taken away from me.

“I understand that schools are overrun, especially specialist schools, but I just feel like they have given up on my son.

“I have been fighting for this for nearly a year-and-a-half now and I have got nowhere.

“St James’ and I are worried about his transition to Year 1, [which is more] teacher-led with scheduled lessons, where he could become disruptive,” she said.

“The SENCo has told me that they disagree with the Cage Green assessment. Something definitely needs to change as all these children will be affected in the future.

“I will continue to view other schools, I am not listening to KCC. I will get Arthur into the school he deserves.”

KCC has been approached for comment.

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