Mum’s anger at autistic son being ‘excluded’ from school trip

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The situation left her feeling her son had been ‘discriminated against’ due to his condition.

A mum has spoken of her anger and frustration after her autistic son was ‘excluded’ from an end of term school trip. The pupil, who attends Kirkby High School, was due to go on the outing to Blackpool last week alongside hundreds of other children.

However, after the school refused to allow his mum to take her son by car to join the trip at Blackpool, she said he was left unable to attend because the alternative of travelling by double decker coach would have been ‘too stressful’.

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The mum, who asked to be referred to by her first name of Stacey, said she was ‘very pleased’ that her son, who she has asked not to be named, was willing to attend the trip in the first place and was ‘extremely disappointed’ when the school refused what she said was a ‘reasonable adjustment’ to accommodate the needs of his condition.

Stacey said the situation had left her feeling her son had been ‘discriminated against’ due to his condition and left him missing out on an important opportunity to spend time outside school with his classmates.

The Kirkby mum said her son, who was diagnosed with autism in 2019, was one of several hundred children selected for end of term treat. She had assumed initially that the school would be transporting him and other autistic children at the school via minibus.

When she found out about the plans for him to travel in the much larger coach with the rest of the group, she told the school it would be wrong to ‘put him in that situation’. Stacey said: “It would be crowded, too compacted, too noisy, a situation that was only going to upset him and stress him out.”

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Offering a compromise, Stacey said she told the school she would drive him to the location and he could then join the rest of the trip. However, a couple of days before the trip was due to take place Stacey received a phone call from the deputy head who told her ‘if he doesn’t get on that coach he can’t go’.

She said: “I was told other kids with autism were getting on the coach so he should be able to. But, it’s a spectrum, it varies for every child. They also said it would be a safeguarding issue if my son went in my car. I don’t know how or why that would be a safeguarding issue because I’m his mum, I think it’s fair to see he’s pretty safe with me and I just wanted him to be involved as much as possible in the right way for him.”

Teenage boys walk to a bus stop. Image: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty ImagesTeenage boys walk to a bus stop. Image: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images
Teenage boys walk to a bus stop. Image: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images

In order to ensure her son didn’t miss out on a ‘fun day out’ Stacey resolved to take him anyway, with the two going together last week while the rest of the group were on the trip.

Stacey said: “I just don’t feel like he should miss out, I didn’t think he was going to go in all honestly when it was first mention and I was made up he was willing to put himself in that situation, I was made up he was prepared to take that little step to put himself out there and be involved and I felt the school were just prepared to punish him basically for having autism.”

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She says she has logged a complaint about the incident with the council’s education department and Ofsted but that this isn’t the first time she has had problems with the way the school has dealt with her son’s condition.

She said she believes there’s a lack of staff awareness and insufficient training in how to support students on the autistic spectrum.

Stacey also said the family have been waiting two years for an educational and health care plan to be put in place by Knowsley Council, a plan which would enable her son’s support needs would be met and currently remains in draft form.

She said she felt it was important to highlight what was happening because other families also could be affected and there needs to be “more awareness” of how to include students with autism in school life.

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Shirley said: “He’s only 12 now, there’s been so many issues already, if this is what we’re dealing with now, we’ve no hope as our children get older if this is how the schools are treating them.”

Stacey said she did later receive a phone call from the head teacher on the day of the trip apologising over the situation and offering to supply a minibus, although the family had already gone to Blackpool at this point.

She said the school has offered a meeting to get some of the issues ironed out and while she welcomed the phone call she wants to make sure there are effective changes to make sure students feel ‘fully included in school life’.

A spokesperson for Rowan Trust, the multi academy trust which runs Kirkby High

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said: “As a member of The Rowan Learning Trust, Kirkby High School places the well-being of all students at the centre of everything we do. We are aware of a current parental concern and the headteacher is working closely with the family to resolve the issue.”

A spokesperson for Knowsley Council said that while the council was unable to comment on the school trip, it acknowledged there had been ‘delays’ in completing the fourth draft of the education and health care plan.

The school said the plan was no with the family following a further request for change of some details within it and that once the school receives confirmation that the family is happy with the plan it can be ‘finalised’.

An Ofsted spokesperson said the education watchdog was ‘unable to discuss individual complaints, but we do take them seriously and deal with them in line with our published procedures’.

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