Coun­cil U-turn on autis­tic pupil

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser - - Schools - Ian Bunt­ing

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

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