School place joy for James

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY DANA GLOGER

A COUN­CIL has fi­nally agreed to fund a place for a boy with spe­cial needs at a Jewish res­i­den­tial school, af­ter he was left with no school to at­tend for more than six months.

James Su­gar­man, eight, who has at­ten­tion deficit dis­or­der with hy­per­ac­tiv­ity, as well as autism and mod­er­ate learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties, stopped at­tend­ing a lo­cal school near where he lives in Edg­ware, Mid­dle­sex, last year.

The school said it could not cope with his needs, so he re­mained at home while Har­row Coun­cil tried to find an al­ter­na­tive place.

His mother, Sharon Su­gar­man, ap­proached the JC in des­per­a­tion last year be­cause she could not cope with James’s need for con­stant care. His be­hav­iour be­came in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult while he was not at school, leav­ing her feel­ing more des­per­ate and iso­lated.

She was un­able to work while car­ing for him and the pres­sure of the sit­u­a­tion be­came so se­vere that she had to be pre­scribed med­i­ca­tion for de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety at­tacks.

“I think James was get­ting de­pressed too,” she said. “He was very mis­er­able.”

Last June, the JC launched its “Forgotten Par­ents” cam­paign, call­ing for bet­ter lo­cal-author­ity care and pro­vi­sion for the par­ents of dis­abled chil­dren, as well as more respite fa­cil­i­ties.

Mrs Su­gar­man took James for an as­sess­ment at De­lamere For­est, the Jewish res­i­den­tial spe­cial needs school in Cheshire. He was of­fered a place but the coun­cil re­fused to fund it, say­ing it pre­ferred to find James a lo­cal school.

In an un­usual move, the head teacher of De­lamere For­est, Har­vey Bur­man, and its gov­er­nors, of­fered James a grace-and-favour place for one term, mean­ing the school would foot the fees of around £14,000.

Since then, James’s par­ents, as well as Rabbi Michael Bern­stein, who s e t up a nd r u n s t h e Em­bee Spe- cial Ed­u­ca­tion Con­sul­tancy, which of­fers ad­vo­cacy for the par­ents of chil­dren with spe­cial needs and has been act­ing for Mrs Su­gar­man, have been lob­by­ing Har­row to fund the place per­ma­nently. When­the JC vis­ited the school last­month,Jamesseemed thor­oughly en­gaged in his lessons.

While lis­ten­ing to a mu­sic CD on which t he c l a s s an­swered ques­tions, he in­ter­acted fully with his teach­ers and class­mates, of­fer­ing in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the mu­sic and lis­ten­ing care­fully. At lunchtime, when all the

stu­dents eat to­gether in the din­ing hall, James vol­un­teered to lead hamotzi (bless­ings be­fore the meal).

“He has made great progress here,” Mr Bur­man said. “He has built good re­la­tion­ships and is def­i­nitely more set­tled. The pro­gramme and rou­tine have been very good for him.”

The school, which has around 30 stu­dents, tai­lors each child’s learn­ing plan to their spe­cific needs, thus pro­vid­ing a per­son­alised ed­u­ca­tion.

Mr Bur­man ex­plained: “This is very im­por­tant, and par­tic­u­larly for James who needs a wak­ing hours cur­ricu­lum, not just for his school hours. Be­ing a res­i­den­tial school, De­lamere For­est can pro­vide that.”

This week, Bar­bara Pacinella, the coun­cil’s spe­cial ed­u­ca­tional needs man­ager, said: “Har­row Coun­cil has writ­ten to James Su­gar­man’s par­ents con­firm­ing that we will sup­port James’s place­ment at the school.”

Mr Bur­man called it “a vic­tory for James.

“I felt very strongly that this was where he was best placed, and ev­ery­one agreed.”

He thanked the JC for high­light­ing James’s case and said: “It was a real fac­tor, and I’ve no doubt it helped.”

James: now happy at De­lamere

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