Parents denied educational provision which meets their autistic daughter’s needs

Niamh Jackson, St Albans, has still not got a school to go to and her parents are worried about her

Niamh Jackson, St Albans, has still not got a school to go to and her parents are worried about her educational well-being. Picture: Steve Jackson - Credit: Archant

A St Albans family left without a school for their autistic daughter feel they have been failed by Herts County Council.

Parents Steve and Karen Jackson say they are now at a loss as to what to do to help their child.

Two years ago, just before starting Year 4, their daughter Niamh was diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD).

By October half term, Niamh suffered a breakdown at Bernard's Heath School. For a fortnight, she could not dress or wash, she would injure herself by throwing herself against things and any reminder of school gave her a severe panic attack.

Steve said: "When we did start getting her out and about again there would be a trigger and she would not be able to go out again for several weeks.

"She was - on paper - being home-schooled but in reality she wasn't. This is, of course, not acceptable to us as her parents."

Her parents feel the school encouraged them to take her out in order to relinquish their responsibility and make their attendance figures look better.

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Karen said: "They tried to mislead me into de-registering her and then later down the line said that a GP's note was not acceptable and they needed something from CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services)."

Karen said she feels the pressure from the school was so great that in the end she had to de-register Niamh. Anybody who de-registers a child then receives a form asking them to outline what the home-schooling will look like. In 2018 Niamh went to Margaret Wix school but at registration experienced sensory overwhelm.

Niamh's parents describe the funding issues to support her needs at Margaret Wix as a catch 22 situation.

They said that the county council said they would only provide funding if they could see that their daughter was attending yet she would not attend because it was not suitable for her needs.

This leaves the family in an ongoing battle with Herts County Council who are still figuring out what to do without a promise of anything. A spokesperson for the council said: "We have been working extremely closely with this family since April to find the most suitable educational provision for Niamh."

Steve added: "We feel stuck in limbo. Niamh wants to go back to school but she can't as there is nothing suitable in Hertfordshire. My wife and I are doing everything we can but Niamh is being failed by the local authorities. The process is just about keeping delaying things to save money and in the meantime my daughter is being severely impacted."