‘The fight we’ve had to go through is just ridiculous’
Family’s frustration over transport for autistic son
The parents of an autistic East Kilbride schoolboy have blasted South Lanarkshire Council over what they claim is a succession of roadblocks in the provision of appropriate school transport for their son.
Ronnie and Sharon Parrott say they’ve been in a battle with council chiefs for three years regarding 14-year-old Jak’s education.
Jak is in third year at Duncanrig Secondary but the local authority will only provide “privileged place” transport for the 16-mile round trip to school from his King’s Park home because it had initially offered him a place at Cathkin High – despite medical advice that Jak’s needs would be better met at Duncanrig.
That means he must travel to another child’s house and wait outside to be picked up, and they must apply for the place each year – with no guarantees it will be provided.
Jak’s parents have been left exasperated by the situation, which saw Jak initially assigned to an East Kilbride primary school, then switched to a Rutherglen secondary – where he wouldn’t have known any other pupils.
The couple say the council refused to acknowledge letters from Jak’s doctors and speech therapists suggesting Duncanrig would be a better option for him.
Mr Parrott told our sister paper, the Rutherglen Reformer: “It’s a constant stress and anxiety.
“The fight we’ve had to go through just to get to this point is ridiculous.
“We have letters from doctors saying that Jak should be at Duncanrig. The council has gone against every person associated with Jak’s development.”
Jak was diagnosed with autism at the age of just two. He is also dyslexic and has hearing difficulties in one ear.
His family moved to Rutherglen when he was starting primary two, and the council offered him a place at Crosshouse Primary in Greenhills – which included transportation – and he attended there for the rest of his primary education.
When it came time to transition to secondary school, Jak and his family were keen for him to join other members of his primary class at Duncanrig, but were told he should go to Cathkin instead.
Mr Parrott said: “Structure is very important to Jak. Duncanrig seemed the best option to us.”
The family had to get a placing request to ensure Jak could get into Duncanrig – a move that meant they were not eligible for transport to and from the school.
Mr Parrott explained: “We had to do what was best for Jak, and he was determined about going to Duncanrig, so he got a place that way – but then the issue with the transport came up. We met the council about this and they refused to listen.
“Yes, we put the placing request in – but the views of us, of Jak, of the health professionals that knew him, was that Duncanrig would be better for him. It was the education department that placed him in Crosshouse to begin with, rather than at Cathkin Primary – which was never mentioned – but if he’d been there to start then transitioning to secondary there would have made sense.
“Children like Jak don’t have the luxury of going to any mainstream school, they have to find somewhere that suits him best.”
Eventually he was offered a “privileged place”, which meant he could get a taxi to and from school, as long as there was an extra seat in the vehicle and he could be collected from another child’s home. In first year that was possible as another pupil Jak knew attended Duncanrig – and lived nearby.
Mr Parrott added: “You have to sit outside someone else’s house twice a day. For a child with additional support needs that seems all wrong.
“There are too many risks for him to get a bus there. We don’t know what to do next.”
A doctor’s letter seen by the Reformer supports Jak’s parents’ views.
The letter, sent to the local authority, states that: “It would appear that every year Jak and his family have to go through a very stressful process in which his transport arrangements for school are reviewed.
“I am of the opinion that Jak’s need for transport to school will not change during his future years at school. In the addition to this, the process by which this is reviewed year on year is causing Jak and his parents undue stress and anxiety.”
The letter states Duncanrig as being the best school suitable “to meet Jak’s needs”.
A council spokesman said: “I can confirm that as in previous years we are able to provide a privileged place on school transport.
“ASN allocations are not determined on a local catchment basis. This is to ensure that children with ASN can be offered placements across the authority area that best meets their needs.
“Part of the consideration when making this recommendation is to try to place the child as close as possible to their local community.”
Challenging times Jak Parrott with dad Ronnie outside Duncanrig Secondary