Children in Wales with additional learning needs 'not getting the support they need in classrooms'

A mother has said she was forced to quit her job to homeschool her children with additional learning needs because there was not enough support available to her and her family.

Victoria Lightbown's four children all have some form of additional learnings needs.

The mum from Denbighshire told ITV News Wales many children like her own are not getting the support they need in classrooms.

She said: "Families are finding it difficult to fight. Families are exhausted, because every tiny little thing is a battle."

Speaking to ITV News Wales, Ms Lightbown said: "It is a nightmare because negotiating the system, whether it be through educational health is incredibly difficult.

"When you're doing it four times, it's almost impossible."

She has started a petition calling for more funding to help children like hers, despite reforms being introduced which are aimed to make the system easier to navigate for parents.

Only one of her children goes to nursery but she said there is no "appropriate support" for the others.

What is the Welsh Government's reformed system?

Ministers say it is a unified legislative framework to support all children of compulsory school age or below with additional learning needs.

It also looks to support young people with additional learning needs who are in school or further education.

The Welsh Government goes onto describe the reform as:

  • An integrated, collaborative process of assessment, planning and monitoring of the support provided to learners which facilitates early, timely and effective interventions

  • A fair and transparent system for providing information and advice, and for resolving concerns and appeals

However, Ms Lightbown believes the reform is making it harder to get support, instead of simplifying things.

  • What Education Minister bJeremy Miles had to say in response

In response, Jeremy Miles MS, Wales' Education Minister, said an extra £10 million has already been given to schools.

One of Ms Lightbown's children, aged five, has a speech and language capacity of less than 18 months.

She claims she was told her child would just "catch-up" and is now fighting to get them support.

Only one of her children goes to nursery but she said there is no "appropriate support" for the others.

She has now launched a petition, saying that the Welsh Government's reform has made things "more difficult".

"The petition was there to raise awareness that actually things aren't ok.

"Our aim is for the 10,000 signatures that we would need in order to have the debate in the Senedd, rather than just going to the petition's committee.

"That's to really demonstrate that actually the children of Wales and the families in Wales are really struggling to access appropriate education and where the difficulties lie."

Speaking to ITV News Wales, Jeremy Miles MS said he "absolutely agrees" with the "underlying principle in the petition" and went onto say that "teaching staff need to be able to meet the needs of all learners in their classroom and I think that's what we are doing."

Another parent, who did not want to be named, told ITV News Wales anonymously that a school threatened her with social service intervention and fines because she could not justify her autistic child's absences.

She argued it is not feasible as waiting lists to receive medical evidence is "so long".

A concerned mother, Justine, told ITV her son was not diagnosed with autism until last year. She claims despite seeing doctors and experts, she was directed towards a "parenting course".

Her son found school "traumatic" and eventually refused to go.

She added that some children are experiencing "school-based trauma" because of a "lack of understanding" with regards to additional learning needs within mainstream schools.

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