Mother of autistic son facing hour-long school run calls for better specialist schooling provision

Ms Richardson believes the journey will likely put Seth off his education. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

The mother of a seven-year-old boy with autism and ADHD, who is facing a two-hour daily school run, has called for more special educational provisions across Northumberland.

Lucy Richardson from Hexham said her son Seth will have to travel 36 miles for education in September after the council allocated him a place at a specialist school in Blyth.

The mum-of-three said the new place will make Seth a "school refuser" as it will be difficult to get him into a taxi with a stranger for an hour to get to school.

  • Video report by Tom Barton.

Ms Richardson said: "I'm deeply concerned. It's heartbreaking, to be honest, because it's not Seth's [choice]...he has no choice in his diagnosis.

"It's not something that he's asked for. It's something that he has been born with and something he has to learn to deal with.

"I feel the council are penalising him because of where we live. I don't think any child should have to drive 30 miles to a school whether they're SEN or non-SEN."

  • Labour councillor Angie Scott suggests transportation fees could be spent on specialist provision.

The Hexham-based charity WeCan reported an increasing numbers of children with additional needs travelling long distances to go to school.

Hayley Armstrong, from the charity, said: "It's plain for us to see that those that attend out of area schools are missing out on the additional opportunities that children have going to local schools.

"They make friends at school and they carry on these friendships outside of school and it builds a social life for them.

"Social lives are critical for every child, young person and adult, more so for those with disabilities."

Northumberland County Council told ITV News Tyne Tees it is trying to improve its arrangements for pupils with additional needs so more can be taught close to home.

Asked whether it is appropriate that children are facing journeys like Seth, council leader Cllr Glen Sanderson said: "I don't think it's appropriate and it's something that we are working very hard on at the moment.

"We are working with the mainstream schools to find a classroom or two, specialist teachers that will make sure that the education that a child receives is the very best - tailored for that individual child within their location so they shouldn't need to leave their neighbourhood, their community.

"It's absolutely something we're working on."

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