SEN pupils in Suffolk still fighting for school places, six months after damning review

  • Watch a report for ITV News Anglia by Rob Setchell

A mother has described the heartbreaking experience of watching her young son struggle with loneliness after he was taken out of school for eight months because of his autism and ADHD.

Kerry-Ann Why, who lives in Lowestoft in Suffolk, said 11-year-old James's only friends over the last few months have been strangers he has talked to online.

James cannot read and write and Ms Why feels he has been let down by an education system that up until now has had little or no provision for pupils like him.

She was speaking six months after a review found the county's special education needs provision was failing children like James.

"James stopped eating. He couldn't get out of bed. His weight plummeted," said Ms Why.

"To watch your child go through that is heartbreaking because there was absolutely nothing I could do.

"I know that being in school was the answer. He needed routine. He needs friendships."

Kerry-Ann Why and her son James

She is now hoping things will improve after he finally returned to school in Lowestoft last week.

Six months ago, an independent report into Suffolk's special educational need services said children like James were being failed.

The council hired consultants Impower on a contract worth £250,000 to lead improvements.

James Why has now been able to return to school

More staff have followed - and so have 60 more special school places - but Allan Cadzow, the director for children and young people at Suffolk County Council, admitted they were simply the "green shoots" of a recovery that will take time.

"We're very aware that for some parents, carers, children and young people we are not providing the best experience yet," he said.

"We do not see this as something we need to solve in a couple of years time. We're working on it now.

"It's absolutely urgent. It's at the top of my agenda."

According to the council there are 24 children not on a school roll.

But campaigners say more children are still slipping through the cracks - struggling in an unsuitable school or part-time education.