Parents of 10-year-old who won't be accepted into any school in Leeds in desperate plea

The parents of an autistic 10-year-old Leeds boy who has been out of mainstream schooling for more than two years said their son has been failed by the local authority.

By Daniel Sheridan
Saturday, 12th March 2022, 4:45 am

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Joshua Lee has autism and pathological demand avoidance and has been rejected by multiple schools with specialist provisions that are not able to support him, his dad Oliver, 44, told the YEP.

The main characteristic of Joshua's condition is to avoid everyday demands and expectations to an extreme extent.

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Joshua Lee aged 10 who suffers from Autism pictured with his mum Rebecca and Dad Oliver at their home at Collingham Pic: Simon Hulme

Joshua was last in mainstream school in 2019.

He has struggled at multiple schools, with his dad Oliver saying there has been safeguarding issues.

It comes as a new report by the Children's Commissioner this week has warned that pupils are "falling through the cracks" in England and going "missing from education altogether" amid a lack of data.

At his latest school in 2019, Joshua tried to scale a fence.

Oliver believed this created a safeguarding issue so decided to remove him from the school.

Since then, Joshua has been homeschooled by his mum Rebecca, 43.

The family, from Wetherby, are now in a desperate fight to find Joshua a school so he can return to education.

Leeds Council told the YEP the authority "strive to meet the provision of needs of children with SEND" and "take the concerns of parents seriously".

However, Oliver said his family feels like they have been failed by the system and are now being forced to look outside Leeds at future options for Joshua.

"Joshua was last in a school in 2019 but we pulled him out due to safeguarding concerns after he tried to scale their fence", Oliver said.

"Until you are faced with this issue you do not realise there would be this much of a whole in the system.

"There are many families in similar positions to ours.

"It weighs really heavily."

There is no accurate data on how many children there are in England, a report from the Children's Commissioner has revealed.

The report argues that this means vulnerable pupils could fall through the cracks and miss out on crucial support.

Oliver said a review of his son's education situation was underway, but claimed the authority had not met deadlines or kept the family up to date.

"I understand it has been difficult during the pandemic", he added.

"But nobody has reached out to us, it is like salt in the wounds.

Oliver wanted to feel "supported" by Leeds council.

He said a school had been found outside Leeds which may be able to meet Joshua's needs.

"There is no ideal solution but knowing support is there is very important, and I don't feel like there is", he added.

"It is a very worrying situation."

A Leeds City Council spokesperson said they are not able to comment on individual cases.

In a statement provided to the YEP, they said: "The local authority is committed to work in partnership with parents and in the best interests of children. We strive to meet the provision needs of children with SEND and aspirations of parents and we take the concerns of parents seriously.

“PDA is a clinical diagnosis and therefore we are led by our clinical partners in their use of diagnostic terminology. Our statutory processes, consultation with specialist and mainstream settings and provision offer is not restricted by a diagnostic framework.

“We endeavour to work restoratively with all families to ensure children with SEND meet their aspirations and outcomes.”

In the new report from Dame Rachel de Souza, an audit of local authorities (LAs) revealed a "striking" lack of up-to-date data on the numbers of children in each area.

Dame Rachel said that even prior to the pandemic there were children who were "falling through the gaps in education" if they were waiting for a school place, were being home educated because their needs were not being met in school, or who had simply "fallen off the radar".

She said she had surveyed all local authorities, which revealed the "striking" finding that LAs "do not have an accurate figure of how many children there are in England - let alone the number of children not receiving education".

Dame Rachel added that many LAs relied on time-lagged population estimates to tell them how many children were in their area but that migration and other factors meant this information was often inaccurate.

"Even where LAs were able to provide an estimate of children missing from education (for example children who have dropped out of school), there are hundreds of children that have never interacted with the education system that we know nothing about," she said.

"The 'known unknowns' includes children who have never been on a school roll, perhaps because they have gone missing from care or who have been trafficked into the country," she added.

"It is essential that we change this worrying reality."

The next stage of the Children's Commissioner's work will involve a "deep dive" into 10 LAs to explore the barriers to pupils attending school.

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