Oxfordshire mother sends son 150 miles away for specialist school after failing to find local option

  • ITV Meridian reporter Ciaran Fitzpatrick explores how 3 families in Didcot have been struggling to find appropriate SEND places for their children

A mother from Didcot has been forced to send her 14-year-old son to a specialist school more than 150 miles away in Lincolnshire following issues in getting him a local space.

Terez Moore has battled for years to get her son Theo into appropriate spots in Oxfordshire, but says the council was not offering them any that were the right fit.

"We're missing special events with him, things like birthdays, we can't celebrate his achievements," said Terez.

"We have to organise kids to sleep over at friends' houses because it takes about 2 and half hours to drive up there."

Terez Moore speaking to Ciaran Fitzpatrick after her son has had to move 150 miles away for school Credit: ITV Meridian

It comes as a brand new £14 million special school has been announced in her home town of Didcot.

This would take the overall number of specialist education sites to 17 by 2027.

Oxfordshire County Council says demand for these services have soared in the past decade.

Terez says this is too little too late for her family. "I remember when my son was in year 5, they said there would be a SEND school opening up in Didcot," she said.

"But it went quiet after the announcement. It was then scrapped, so a part of me says this is very much smoke and mirrors."

Cllr John Howson looks after education for Oxfordshire County Council Credit: ITV Meridian

ITV Meridian has been following the SEND crisis for several years, including how Kent County Council was accused of failing children and 'widespread systematic failings' at Oxfordshire County Council.

Protests took place across the country in 2023 by parents of children with children with special educational needs over a lack of provision and 'failures to reform the system.'

Oxfordshire County Council pointed to a population boom around 10 years ago coupled with high rates of house building contributed to the demand locally, particularly in Didcot.

Cllr John Howson said he can’t guarantee parents will get access straight away but he will try his hardest to make sure no child is left behind.

"The number of children with special needs seeking special places has gone up exponentially over the last few years," said Cllr Howson.

"As the demography goes down and birth rate works its way through, we should get better towards having a balance brief. We are looking at another smaller resource-based type school in the Didcot area which we can do relatively quickly."

Alicia's son Thomas will have to wait until year 7 before he can go to a special school Credit: ITV Meridian

Parents here say this is any funding is good news, despite coming too late for them.

Alicia’s son Thomas was approved for a specialist setting in year two. But won’t get that placement for another 5 years.

"I know lots of parents that either had to give up work and have the children at home, or having a daily battle sending their school that is not suitable for them."

"I just want to send my children to school for them to be happy like everyone else, and them to thrive in their education."

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