Newquay mum had to fight to stop son being sent to school 450 miles away

  • Watch Charlotte Gay's report

A mother from Newquay says more needs to be done to help children with special education needs from being sent hundreds of miles away from Cornwall after her son was nearly sent 450 miles away.

Marie Ralph's says her son is "constantly being disabled by society" because schools do not have the training to accommodate children who are neurodivergent.

Malachi, 15, has Tourette Syndrome and autism. When he was six he was excluded from mainstream school because of his "challenging behaviour".

The teenager says when he was overwhelmed he would lash out by "kicking, punching and biting" people.

Now years later, Marie says Malachi has "thrived" with the support of personal support workers but it took until he was 12 years old before he was eventually given his own personalised Educational Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

Before this, she told ITV News she had to take Cornwall Council to family court to prevent Malachi from being sent 450 miles away to a school in North Derbyshire.

"It shouldn't be like this. I've got myself into debt, I have lost relationships, I've lost friendships. My entire life has been given up to make sure Malachi gets to where he's getting."

Malachi was excluded from mainstream education at the age of six Credit: Family Photo

Marie says she and other parents of children with special educational needs feel like their children are being "shoved out of county" and more families are entitled to bespoke EHCPs.

Freedom of Information requests show Cornwall Council has spent thousands of pounds sending children out of the county to access provision with at least one child being sent as far away as Scotland.

In December 2021, 3,568 children in Cornwall had EHCPs - a rise of 7.3% compared to 2020.

The Department for Education said the number of children assessed for an EHCP in Cornwall who were then not issued one was 1%.

However, the number of requests for EHCP assessments in Cornwall which were refused stood at 19.4%.

When asked to comment on the Marie and Malachi's journey to obtain an EHCP, Cornwall Council said they do not comment on individual cases.

They did however share this statement: "Our priority as a council is to always seek the most appropriate level of support for children with SEND as close to home as possible.

"Decisions may be informed by parental choice, judicial decision or as a result of a care order.

"The emotional wellbeing of the child is considered first and foremost alongside the level of support required.

"Where cases involve children with complex and profound needs the choice of placement may be limited – and we work with partner agencies, parents and carers to put the needs of the child first.

Today (18 May) the Prime Minister responded to a question about the number of children across the country being rejected for Educational Health Care Plans.

  • Boris Johnson in Prime Ministers Questions

He said: "That is why we have an SEND review and we will ensure that SEND children and young people can get access to the right support at the right place at the right time across the country."

Emma McNally is the Chief Executive Officer of the charity Tourettes Action she says there is a "misconception" that Tourettes Syndrome is uncommon and more needs to be done to educate teachers about how it affects children in the classroom.

She said: "There's no reason why they can't be in mainstream school but it's just getting the support around them to help them to flourish.

"I think things are changing. It's going to take time, unfortunately, but that's why we're trying really hard at the moment, especially through like Tourettes Awareness Month. We've created an awareness video which we want to get out to all schools. We want all the teachers to be educated on it so they can fully support children."

Malachi says he feels most relaxed when performing on stage Credit: Kids R Us, St Ives

Marie says Malachi has worked hard and has "put all this effort into completely changing who is he is as a person" to give himself a chance to re-access mainstream education.

Malachi says he wants to take on Truro College's Theatre Studies course because it makes him feel "more himself" and he doesn't "tic at all" when he's on stage.

After nearly a decade out of mainstream education, Malachi was initially told he would not be allowed to join the course, however after agreeing a compromise the teenager has been offered a place on a Skilled for Life course.

Truro and Penwith College said it "includes a personalised education plan to support Malachi’s gradual return to a college environment and mainstream education when he is ready".

In a statement the college said: "We recognise that an increasing number of young people have experienced time out of mainstream education as a result of the pandemic, and for this reason the College has invested in more staff to offer increased levels of support."

It is inviting electively home educated students and those in alternative provision to contact the college for a place on its Year 10 Taster Morning at Truro College on 28 June to learn more about the college and the support available.