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Anger as Norfolk pupil is taught 150 miles away

PUBLISHED: 10:00 09 April 2010 | UPDATED: 09:32 02 July 2010

Kerry Smith from Yarmouth with her autistic son Jack who may have to go to Hull for his education.

Kerry Smith from Yarmouth with her autistic son Jack who may have to go to Hull for his education.

Stephen Pullinger

A Norfolk mother claims she has been forced to send her nine-year-old son more than 150 miles away to a boarding school because of a lack of provision in the county for his complex needs.

A Norfolk mother claims she has been forced to send her nine-year-old son more than 150 miles away to a boarding school because of a lack of provision in the county for his complex needs.

Kerry Smith, 41, of Lichfield Road, Great Yarmouth, said her son Jack Brown has Asperger's syndrome, a type of autism, and his extreme behavioural problems made him unsuitable for education in mainstream schools.

After taking him out of Southtown's Edward Worlledge Primary School last term, Ms Smith was first directed to a school in Lincolnshire, which turned out to be unsuitable, before finding him a place at Horton House school, in Hull.

She said: “Other schools I was told about were even further away in Scotland and Wales. Although Jack will get superb specialist attention at Horton House, it is a shame he has to board so far away.

“There are so many children with autism that there must be a case for having a similar special school in this area.”

Ms Smith praised staff at Edward Worlledge for doing their best, but said they had acknowledged a year ago that Jack needed a special school.

“When he was in regular classes, his inappropriate behaviour included touching children or adults, shouting out and taking his trousers down. One day, he went mad and threw everything around the classroom,” she said.

He had been educated in the school's special inclusion unit for a while, but his behaviour eventually deteriorated there as well and he was excluded on a number of occasions.

Ms Smith, who works in a Yarmouth café, said: “Edward Worlledge kept trying but it was making my life more and more stressful. It was hard getting him to school with him kicking and screaming and then I was constantly waiting for a phone call.”

Her plea for a new special school was reinforced by Jacky Porter, manager at Yarmouth's Smart Kids Autistic Way centre, which Jack attends.

Mrs Porter said: “We are seeing more and more families with children on the autistic spectrum, and increasing numbers with more than one child with the condition.” She said mainstream schooling worked for some autistic children, but it was often like “trying to fit square pegs into round holes”.

Kate Gooding, a spokesman for Norfolk County Council, said: “We work extremely hard to support children with special educational needs in the county and try, wherever possible, to keep them in Norfolk and close to their families.

“Our special educational needs strategy is working to try to ensure that fewer children have to travel long distances to attend school and, by September, we will have eight specialist resource bases in the county to support children with autistic spectrum disorder.

“Some children, however, have such specific needs that they need to be met by very specialised schools, of which there are only a few in the country. Sadly, Jack is one of these children and his needs are so complex that he requires a 52-week placement at a residential school.”

Do you have an education story for the Evening News? Call reporter Steve Downes on 01603 772495, or email steve.downes@archant.co.uk

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