St Albans mum fighting for council to let Asperger’s sufferer son go to special needs school

Lucas Osborne and Laura Berrill.

Lucas Osborne and Laura Berrill. - Credit: Archant

A St Albans mum is fighting County Hall to allow her son to go to a school which can accommodate his Asperger’s syndrome.

Laura Berrill’s 17-year-old son Lucas Osborne was diagnosed with high-functioning Asperger’s aged 10.

After being excluded from mainstream education, he attended a special school in Hemel Hempstead until he was 16, but was unable to sit exams due to his condition so couldn’t start a film course at Oaklands College in Welwyn Garden City as he lacked the necessary grades.

After an unsuccessful time at Springboard College in Watford, his mum spent months researching alternative provisions which would enable him to return to education in a setting which also provided independence, mental and social care.

She found a place at The Priory School in Swindon, which caters for students with special needs like Lucas, and gathered extensive evidence to support his placement.

But, a Herts County Council panel turned down their request for provision for this place, insisting he return to Springboard, and Lucas has now been out of education since last September.

Laura, of Deva Close, St Albans, said: “My son has been left languishing at home, out of education and society for nearly a year now and all the council can do is wash their hands of him.

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“They do not listen to me or my cause and seem blinkered to the opportunity I have spent months finding. They say it’s because they don’t think he’ll engage due to his mental health, but do they seriously think him sitting at home doing nothing is actually going to improve his state of mind?

“It begs the question, what do the special educational needs team actually do apart from say ‘no’ to the people who need their help the most? It beggars belief when they won’t even try to give him an opportunity.”

Laura, who has had to sideline her career in journalism and public relations to help Lucas, is now taking the council’s decision to a tribunal.

“I have done all the legwork, all the research and fought all the way for my son.

“It begs the question, what do the SEN (Special Educational Needs) team actually do apart from say ‘no’ to the people who need their help the most? It beggars belief when they won’t even try to give him an opportunity.

“The clue’s in the question: Special Educational Needs. They’re not addressing this in any shape or form whatsoever.

“I quite simply have no idea what you need to do to get the support of the local authority team responsible for the welfare of our young people. I can see why so many other families give up. It’s an utter disgrace on their behalf and needs addressing before so many more fall through the net,”

She has also contacted St Albans MP Anne Main, who has written to the council’s director of children’s services in support of Lucas’ case.

She wrote: “I would very much like to ask for assistance from the county council to be given to Lucas Osborne to resolve this case... in order to allow [him] to fulfil his potential and enjoy his time in education, rather than remain unhappily at home and out of school.”

Mrs Main told the Herts Ad: “As a society, we expect young people to stay in the education system until they are 18. However, those with special needs, such as Lucas, sometimes struggle to find their niche.

“I have been more than happy to support Lucas and his mother and I hope a solution can be found to this important matter.”

A Herts County Council spokesperson said: “We understand their frustrations and are working with Lucas’ family to currently assess whether local provision is able to meet Lucas’ needs, and any adjustments that would need to be made to ensure he is able to thrive and achieve positive outcomes.”