School chiefs dig in heels family claim

PARENTS of a teenager stuck at home when he should be in school, have accused education bosses of dragging their feet over finding him a place.Mark Barnett, 13, has spent a month watching televisions and helping his mum Patricia Gardiner –but she can't apply for jobs until he's safely installed in school.

PARENTS of a teenager stuck at home when he should be in school, have accused education bosses of dragging their feet over finding him a place.

Mark Barnett, 13, has spent a month watching televisions and helping his mum Patricia Gardiner –but she can't apply for jobs until he's safely installed in school.

Now Patricia worries she is liable for prosecution, in the week that another mother - Patricia Amos - was jailed in Banbury, Oxfordshire for 60 days over her daughters' truancy.

But Patricia and her husband Jeffrey of Ainslie Road, insist the delay in getting Mark into Westbourne High School lies at the education authority's door this time.

They claim Suffolk County Council fails to return their calls or find Mark interim work to do at home, let alone find him a school place.

Patricia, 38, said: "They could decide to prosecute me and then what would I do?"

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Jeffrey, 48, said the dispute had marred the family's move to Ipswich from Harwich, for a new home and his work as a bus driver.

He said there had been no problem getting Mark's sister Caroline, ten, into Handford Hall Primary School.

He said: "We moved to Ipswich on April 8, and went to the council that same week and they said they had the paperwork from our application. Mark has a learning disability but that shouldn't slow things up because Westbourne has classroom assistants.

"But we've heard nothing back. I'm fed up of going up there to ask what's happening. They don't return our calls. Mark's getting bored and he must have exams soon."

Moira Jackson, education communications manager at Suffolk County Council, said: "When a child has a statement of special educational need we have to make sure that we find them a suitable school place with the appropriate support to meet that need.

"Unfortunately this can sometimes take time while we make sure everything is

in place.

"We have been liasing with the young person's previous school, and Westbourne High School, with the aim of establishing what support is required, and how that can be provided.

"The school is due to be organising a meeting to discuss the issue, and we will be writing to the parents to let them know what happens next."