Mum's desperate bid to find school place

PUBLISHED: 14:51 16 July 2001 | UPDATED: 10:20 03 March 2010

A MOTHER is fighting to get a special school place for her young son who has severe learning difficulties.

By JUDY RIMMER, education reporter

A MOTHER is fighting to get a special school place for her young son who has severe learning difficulties.

Nine-year-old Zaque Boon, of Meadowlands, Kirton, has Tourette Syndrome along with other medical problems.

His mum, Linda Sheppard, 40, withdrew him from Trimley St Martin Primary School after an incident where she claims he was not given the correct medication for his conditions. She has made a formal complaint and the school is carrying out an inquiry.

Zaque has now been out of school since May - and the desperate mother has written to Prime Minister Tony Blair and Education Secretary Estelle Morris appealing for urgent help to find him a suitable place.

"For the last two months, Zaque hasn't been at school at all and is just at home with me all day," said Mrs Sheppard. "That means he is missing out on his social skills."

The mum claimed that Zaque was bullied by other children at school and made to feel different. "He just can't cope with a mainstream school," she said.

Headteacher Graham Pearson said: "The school is carrying out an investigation into the complaint on the medicine. That is under way and will be completed by the end of term."

After taking her son out of school, Mrs Sheppard said she had paid £300 for an independent assessment by an educational psychologist. He said that Zaque had an IQ of 61 and severe and complex difficulties.

"It's clear from the report that he needs specialist education," commented the mother.

Zaque has to take medication to help control Tourette Syndrome, a neurological disorder characterised by tics - involuntary sudden movements.

A consultant paediatrician has suggested he also has features of Asperger's Syndrome, which is a form of autism, as well as language difficulties and features of Bipolar Disorder.

Mrs Sheppard said she has been looking for a suitable special school and was impressed by Banham Marshalls College near Diss, which is a private boarding school.

She asked Suffolk County Council's education department to agree to fund a place there, but was turned down and told that a mainstream school place was still thought to be appropriate.

"There's no way I'm prepared to send Zaque back to a mainstream school, but I am open to suggestions about a special school," she said.

"I have always been told that there is nothing suitable in this area. I thought Banham Marshalls seemed very good and would be ideal, but I am certainly willing to look at other alternatives – I'm keeping an open mind."

Mrs Sheppard claimed that the education department had not been replying to her letters and had ignored requests for a home tutor to give Zaque some teaching while he was out of school.

"I am teaching him myself at home but I am not trained to do it," she said. "I am trying to do as much as I can with him, reading and things like that, but it is very difficult."

Anna Davidson, senior education officer (pupil services) for the southern area, said: "We are unable to comment on an individual basis about any particular child.

"However, we can confirm that Trimley St Martin Primary School is in the first stages of investigating a complaint from a parent. The school is following standard procedures which apply in such cases.

"In terms of children's special educational needs, a parent can seek advice on a private basis from an independent specialist if they wish. Any resulting report would be considered alongside advice from the council's specialists.

"If it was considered appropriate to provide a place for a child with special needs in an alternative type of school, the county council would first seek to provide this locally. Home tuition is not available to a child who has been removed from school voluntarily by parents."

WEBLINK For information on Tourette Syndrome.

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Ipswich Star. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Ipswich Star