Mum claims special schools ‘cherry picking cases’ after they are rejected 29 times



Leanne Dale’s son Jack, 13, who has autism, ADHD and anxiety issues, was removed from Bradfields Academy in Chatham, Kent, last year and has since been rejected by 29 special schools

leanne dale
Leanne Dale says special schools are ‘cherry picking easy cases’

A mum is at her wits end after her special needs son was rejected from 29 schools without them ever even meeting him.

Leanne Dale’s 13-year-old son Jack has autism, ADHD and anxiety issues, and was deemed ‘too complex’ for his last school, Bradfields Academy in Chatham, Kent, she said.

The teen has been without full-time education since April last year and his mum said it’s taken a toll on his mental health.

Leanne – who has had to take unpaid leave to look after Jack – said she was given little warning before the decision was made.

The school and Medway Council didn’t initially offer any kind of alternative educational program while he waited for a new permanent school place, she claims.

Jack had been at Bradfields – which caters for pupils with complex needs – for two years, which included pandemic lockdowns.

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Jack has spent nearly a year without any schooling

Jack is still waiting for a home tutor to be assigned

But on returning to the classroom in early 2021 he lost his grandfather to Covid within a matter of weeks and then his auntie died suddenly.

Leanne told the Mirror: “There was a lot of extra anxiety he had to deal with, on top of his own problems.

“It was causing him extra stress. He went back to school and he was having more difficulties.”

In March last year, Bradfields called Leanne in for an emergency review, with the council present.

Jack had managed to escape the main school grounds the previous day and it was decided he would have his school hours reduced to one morning a week.

But by the following month Leanne was told “it’s not working” and he has been at home ever since, she said.

Leanne, pictured with 11-year-old daughter Katie, said the lack of routine has been detrimental to her son

Jack is still officially enrolled at Bradfields while the council makes inquiries for an alternative placement.

However, Leanne claims the school – beyond sending a work pack last July – has never even checked how he is or sent him any work.

Due to also having a daughter at mainstream school, Leanne needs Jack to get a place within a reasonable distance from their home so she can drop them both off, as he struggles to cope on other transport.

But Medway has even looked outside the immediate area, with still no luck.

And not once has Leanne had any contact with any of the schools, and none have ever met Jack before making a decision.

“We are at the end of our tether now,” said Leanne.

“It’s all just a waiting game and when you’ve got a child with severe needs and high anxiety, you’re left to just get on with it, which is quite disgusting.

“It is a strain on the whole family.”

Jack’s needs were deemed ‘too complex’ by his previous school, says his mum

Leanne has put in a formal complaint to the council as she believes Jack is “not getting the duty of care he deserves”.

“I have got a list of all the schools and they’ve either got a ‘no’ or ‘no space’ against it or ‘unable to meet needs’.”

She said the whole system seems to be broken, and she feels discriminated against because Jack has multiple diagnoses, which the school were well aware of when he enrolled.

She said: “It does feel like they are cherry picking children, taking the easier cases. That’s how it comes across.”

She said Jack was highly reliant on the rigid routine school brought and is missing interacting on a regular basis with friends.

He struggled in larger classroom settings and his tutor would often have to teach him in more secluded areas, sometimes out in school corridors.

Leanne has since spoken to Medway SENDIAS, a local organization which helps families whose children need special education support.

She said they advised her to put in a complaint and to push for alternative education.

Jack is now due to get a home tutor, but Leanne said that it was never offered initially.

In response to her formal complaint, in an email sent late last month and seen by the Mirror, the council said a referral to a tuition agency to provide tuition at home had now been made.

Leanne said: “They didn’t give that to me without pushing me for it. It’s always been me having to push for it.

“It’s upsetting because you know there’s a lot of other people out there that are not quite as wise and they take it as gospel what they’re being told and I don’t think it’s acceptable.

“I am one of the ones that moans but you’ve got to, at the end of that day, it’s your child’s rights,” she added.

The complaint response email added: “We are very sorry that we have not been able to identify a school place for Jack as yet and we are continuing to work hard to resolve this. We understand your frustrations.

“There is a currently a lack of places within specialist educational provision nationally as well as in Kent and Medway generally.”

A statement from the Medway Council said: “We are doing everything we can to help find a suitable school place, which is able to meet his complex needs.

“We have contacted a number of schools but unfortunately they either do not have any vacancies or are unable to meet their individual needs.

“While we continue to consult with suitable schools to find him a place we have arranged for a specialist tutor to help him.

“We are committed to ensuring every child in Medway receives the best education possible.”

The Mirror has also contacted Bradfields for comment.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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