Family of West Wittering boy with learning disabilities told special tuition represented 'inefficient use' of council resources

The family of a 12-year-old boy from West Wittering, who has been out of school for five years, have said they feel ignored by the authorities.

Wednesday, 11th August 2021, 3:02 pm

Raymond Martin was diagnosed with chromosome 22 deletion before he was seven-years-old. The condition affects his learning ability and verbal communication skills.

His mother decided to take him out of a mainstream school in the Chichester area as bullying continued 'unabated', and he was 'not receiving the specialist tuition' his condition needed.

"Just going to school was making him ill," his grandfather Ray said.

Raymond Martin was diagnosed with chromosome 22 deletion before he was seven-years-old

The family were able to meet with Chichester MP Gillian Keegan, who subsequently contacted the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) department at West Sussex County Council (WSCC).

"She was excellent and sympathetic," Ray said. "Her also excellent office staff were instrumental in getting the SEND department of WSCC to contact us.

"However, four years later WSCC have still not found a placement for Raymond in a suitable and appropriate special needs environment."

The family were informed that three special needs schools in the area 'declared they cannot take him'.

Ray added: "None of these schools actually met with Raymond to assess his needs, and no reasons provided for not being able to take him. The schools may already be oversubscribed, or unable to meet his needs, but we have not been informed why.

"I accept that things may be different with Covid but I don't see why, 18 months down the line, the SEND people can't come down and see the boy and see first hand the problems that he's got.

"He looks normal, physically, like the rest of us but [you can't see] his mental ability and lack of memory. You can't judge that from a phone call or writing it down in an email. I think it's wrong to dictate someones life by hearsay."

A fourth school did ask Raymond to visit them and invited him back for an academic assessment. However, because he has never had any 'formal education' provided, the school identified that he was too far behind.

"This unfortunately would require additional funding but the length of time one-to-one needed was unqualified," Ray said. "All we received was an email advising us that the additional one-to-one funding at this school represented 'inefficient use of WSCC resources'.

"I thought was a despicable term. To imply that to a kid who have been disregarded for four/five years, to me, is just unacceptable.

"Having sent Raymond to the school, which he was extremely comfortable and relaxed with, I made the analogy to WSCC that it was like giving a child the best Christmas present he wanted, and then taking it away from him on Boxing Day.

"My grandson needs to interact and socialise. He's got no friends and, as we all know, you make friends for life sometimes if you're lucky in your school years. He's not had any of that."

The youngster's mum, Tracey Martin, said the outcome the family want is for him to go to school and 'give him the future that he deserves'.

She added: "We have been told that every school they [the council] have approached can't offer him a place because of the extra support he needs.

"He's not been in school for five years.

"It has been really difficult [to home-school him]. Because of the learning issues he has, his memory isn't the best.

"You can sit and read with him and the exact words you've just read, he can't recall. I don't have the skills to unlock that and it gets to the stage where he gets upset.

"I'm trying to do teaching in every day life.

"It's a situation that I never thought I would find myself in."

Tracey said it has only recently been suggested that Raymond may be entitled to a home tutor 'while things are sorted out', adding: "We are hopefully going to hear back about that."

West Sussex County Council told the Observer that it 'continues to engage' with this family to 'identify a suitable school place'.

A spokesperson added: “We are committed to supporting every West Sussex child of school age in receiving the education they need to fulfil their potential, including any specialist support they may require."

Mrs Keegan, meanwhile, said she and her team 'are on hand to help local people access the services they need'.

The MP added: "Although I cannot comment on individual cases, we are always available to help with almost any issue, including international travel, visas and immigration, and access to key services like housing, education, mental health, health and social services.

"So far this year we’ve had over 12,000 casework emails and counting. I fully encourage people to write to me if they need support or help, all my contact information is available on my website, www.gilliankeegan.com, where you can also read about some of the cases we work on on the what people think page.”