Mum of girl who's 'too scared for school' slams council for lack of understanding of her special needs

Emily has missed huge amounts of school over the years, with her attendance plummeting as low as 9%
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A mum who says her daughter is too anxious to go to school has hit out at the lack of compassion from Milton Keynes Council.

Emily is 13 and has a diagnosis of autism, depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

She has a full EHCP (Education, Health and Care plan) but despite this has not been in full-time school for years, says her mum Helen.

Emily in her garden at home. We have disguised her identity to keep her safeEmily in her garden at home. We have disguised her identity to keep her safe
Emily in her garden at home. We have disguised her identity to keep her safe

Last year her attendance dropped to 9% and since January she has not been to school at all and spends her days at home, playing on her phone.

Two placements in special needs schools have failed and mainstream school was a “nightmare” for Emily, said Helen,

"She is just too anxious and scared to go to school. When she goes, she cries, she becomes withdrawn and won't speak and she hurts herself. She’s on anti-psychotic medication but even that doesn’t help her settle at school.”

Emily’s family believes the only answer is an EOTAS – Education Other Than at School – package to enable her to learn at home and they are waiting to hear if the council’s SEN department will agree this.

EOTAS is a formal special education package made under an EHC Plan, for which the local authority remains legally responsible. It is generally considerably more expensive than placing a child in a school.

Helen says she has been fighting the council for years to get the best for Emily and is weary and battle-scarred from her experiences.

“Instead of working with me, the local authority has put up barricades and obstacles and have made it impossible for me to work with them in the best interests of my child. They don’t seem to understand her special needs.”

After sending a flurry of emails this year, trying to chase up on promises and appointments, Helen says the SEN department ended up putting her on a “restricted” list, where she is only allowed to email a single point of contact.

"All I’m doing is trying to get an education for my child yet I feel I’m being punished,” she said.

Helen wanted to speak out about her problems after reading the Citizen’s story about Archie, the boy who had been excluded from a city school 13 times due to his special needs.

Archie also has autism and his mum Amanda described her “exhausting and heartbreaking” battle with MK City Council.

Helen said: “Dealing with MK Council’s SEN department is horrific. It causes me massive, massive problems and stress because it is just one battle after another.”

The Citizen asked the council if it had plans to educate Emily. A spokesman said: “

“While a place at Bridge Academy remains on offer, we appreciate the family’s perspective that it isn’t currently working for Emily. We are actively working on the EOTAS (Education Other Than At School) package, which is complex and highly personalised, and this is why it takes some time to get right.”

He said the council had provided a single point of contact for Helen to enable “her concerns to be dealt with more effectively”.