Council U-turn on autistic pupil
A relieved plains family thanked the Advertiser for helping them secure a place at a suitable secondary school for their young daughter, who is severely autistic.
Michelle and Cameron Tonner endured a stressful few weeks after being told 11-year-old Katie was being sent to a school in Motherwell in August.
Katie is currently a P7 pupil at Petersburn Primary and in a class with seven other children with autism, all of whom were granted places at Buchanan High in Coatbridge.
Michelle and Cameron were given the devastating news that there were no places left for Katie to join her friends at Buchanan High and she would instead be going to Brannock High – and into mainstream classes.
Michelle told the Advertiser: “Katie was diagnosed in 2011 and her autism is more severe than any of her classmates.
“Her behaviour can be very challenging and she needs to be in a very small class size.
“One time Katie’s desk was moved within the class and she injured three adults as a consequence. She cannot cope with change.
“When we were told she wasn’t getting a place at Buchanan High it was absolutely devastating.
“What made it even worse was the fact the council informed us that Katie would be going to Brannock High in Motherwell.
“Even leaving aside the distance Katie would’ve had to travel every day, it just wasn’t suitable for Katie’s needs.
“My husband visited Brannock and the smallest class size there is 20-30 pupils.
“And the school is right beside a main road, which would’ve had our nerves jangling, worrying about Katie crossing out on to the road.”
Michelle and Cameron’s appeal against the decision to send Katie to Brannock High was rejected and the crestfallen parents, who also have a 10-year-old son called Cameron, were set to take their case to a tribunal when they received an email containing a surprise U-turn by the local authority last week.
Michelle explained: “We had just been sent the forms to fill in to go to tribunal when we got word from the council’s education officer, informing us that Katie had now been accepted for a place at Buchanan High.
“We were absolutely over the moon with the news and we’d like to thank the Advertiser for their support as this change of heart came about when the paper made it clear it was working on our story.
“I doubt this was a coincidence and we are very grateful to the Advertiser for raising awareness of our plight.”
Michelle added: “We are so glad that common sense has prevailed as it was a very worrying and stressful time.
“Katie knew we were fighting her case and couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t be able to go to high school with her friends.
“That’s all that mattered to her and all we wanted was what was best for Katie in her educational career.
“She was jumping up and down with joy when we told her she was going to Buchanan High in August.
“It’s the right outcome in the end and the whole family are delighted.”
Gerard McLaughlin, head of education at the council, said: “We do not comment on individual pupil cases. However, there are robust processes in place to consider the individual additional support needs of our pupils.
“We take account of the view of professionals, parents and, where possible, pupils when determining appropriate school placements.
“There are occasions when the professional view of the authority differs from that of the parents and/or the pupil and in these circumstances we would also take time to review placement decisions.”
Stressful time Michelle and Cameron with Katie