Autistic Burnley boy forced to quit school
A FATHER fears his nine-year-old son will 'fester away' if he is forced to attend a special school.
Jack Entwistle, who has autism, is at the centre of a row between his parents and Lancashire County Council after he was told he could not attend his mainstream Burnley primary school.
Now Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle is set to call for a debate in Parliament about the teaching of autistic children in Lancashire after being approached by Jack's parents and the families of two other local youngsters.
Jack’s dad, Alan Entwistle, of Marsden Road, claimed St James Lanehead CE Primary had broken the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act in saying that it ‘could not cope’ with Jack after he was diagnosed with autism in October 2012.
Mr Entwistle and his wife, Karen, have appealed the outcome of a special educational needs and disability tribunal, in which a judge backed the county council’s decision to send Jack to Pendle View Primary School, a special school in Colne.
They claim Jack, who is also visually impaired, was asked to leave the school with no notice on May 13.
He said: “There was no warning, no paperwork, nothing. He’s come on leaps and bounds at St James’s. He’s had a teaching assistant for the last seven months and in that period he’s gone through the roof.
“The problem is that LCC and the tribunal judges are not qualified to make judgements regarding placements for autistic children.
“The gist of the tribunal was that autism was not Jack’s primary disability. We have a letter from Great Ormond Street Hospital saying that it is. How can they over-rule that?
“They’re just throwing them on the scrapheap and into a special needs school to fester away.”
Sally Riley, Lancashire County Council's head of inclusion and disability support services, said: “It would be inappropriate for us to comment on any individual case.
“When the parents of a child with a statement of special educational needs express a preference for a certain school, such as an independent special school, it is the county council's duty to consider the placement very carefully.
“Sometimes we can find ourselves at odds with the parents’ preference and when this happens, a parent can take the case to the special educational needs and disability tribunal.
“Once such a case has been heard, the decision is taken out of the county council's hands. The judge's ruling is final.
“We have to abide by their directions, ensuring we take the actions they instruct us to take, within the timescales they set out.”
But Mr Entwistle denied it had been his choice to remove Jack from St James’s.
He said: “His mainstream school told us in October 2012 they could no longer cope with Jack.
“When we asked the county council for advice, they sent us a list of schools to look at. One was White Ash School in Oswaldtwistle and the other was Oliver House School in Chorley.
“We had interviews with both head teachers but only the Chorley one had space. LCC then used taxpayers’ money to fight to stop us from sending him to the one in Chorley, which we chose, and force him into Pendle View.
“We’re not troublemakers but we’re not prepared to send Jack to a special school where we think he will regress. It’s not the right environment for him.”
Mr Birtwistle will raise the matter with the House of Commons' Backbench Business Committee next Tuesday to call for ‘greater provision’ for youngsters with autism.
He said: “Some of these families have been led up the garden path by the education authority and we need to look at how we can help them.”
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