Banbury and Oxon parents share extraordinary, stressful experiences of SEND provision

A Banbury parent and an Oxfordshire mum have shared devastating experience of trying to access special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision for their children.
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The story comes in the light of a damning report on Oxfordshire’s SEND provision following an inspection by OFSTED, highlighted by the Banbury Guardian.

Olivia Ashton said: “My son turns five next month and is at nursery; he can be there lawfully until the end of this year and then he has no where to go. He is not there by choice, I have been forced to send him back to pre-school as there are no suitable placements for him.

“Stanley’s application was sent to Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) SEN office in June, 2022. We are currently working with our fourth SEN officer; the other three have quit without anyone informing the families,” she said.

Olivia Ashton and son Stanley who has SEND. Mrs Ashton is a campaigner for decent SEND provision for children with special needsOlivia Ashton and son Stanley who has SEND. Mrs Ashton is a campaigner for decent SEND provision for children with special needs
Olivia Ashton and son Stanley who has SEND. Mrs Ashton is a campaigner for decent SEND provision for children with special needs

"Stanley received his draft education, health and care (EHCP) plan in June 2023 a whole year later. Stanley had all three special needs diagnoses by March 2023; his educational physiologist report completed in October 2022 and had been receiving speech and language therapy since summer 2022.

"They had reports from community paediatrics at the JR from September 2022 saying Stanley was likely to have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). From December 2022 I rang 3-5 times a week. Every other time it was escalated; I was promised someone return my call, they agreed it was not good enough. No one higher than a SEN officer ever returned a call.

"I only ever spoke to two of the four officers Stanley was assigned. When his draft was finalised this June 2023 it was outdated. He had ‘no diagnosis’, he was still in nappies, the information was in the wrong place.

"You have 14 days to amend the draft before they send it to schools. They did not give me those 14 days and sent off the incorrect paperwork and he was refused immediately.

Olivia Ashton and son Stanley. Mrs Ashton is a campaigner with SEND Reform group. She says as of September 4, 18 children did not have a school place for September in the countyOlivia Ashton and son Stanley. Mrs Ashton is a campaigner with SEND Reform group. She says as of September 4, 18 children did not have a school place for September in the county
Olivia Ashton and son Stanley. Mrs Ashton is a campaigner with SEND Reform group. She says as of September 4, 18 children did not have a school place for September in the county

"Eventually after three attempts – in August 2023 - Stanley had a final EHC – over the legal timeframe. However now no specialist provisions have places and mainstream schools cannot meet need. As we did not have a EHCP we could not even look at the schools.

"When I complained about the lack of communication to OCC they dropped my complaint as the SEN office was ‘amending my EHC Plan’. I am unsure how this makes my complaint void,” said Mrs Ashton – a campaigner for SEND Reform.

A Banbury parent said: “I have three SEN children, two girls and one boy. My son was diagnosed with ASD in pre-school. His pres-chool helped us to secure him an EHC plan. However, he did not get into a SEN school for some time and so we had to navigate the mainstream school system for him.

"As his mainstream provision didn't have enough trained teaching assistants (TAs) and my son required full-time 1-2-1 support as per his EHC plan.

Stanley Ashton, who will be five next month. He goes to nursery and can be there lawfully until the end of this year but then he has no where to goStanley Ashton, who will be five next month. He goes to nursery and can be there lawfully until the end of this year but then he has no where to go
Stanley Ashton, who will be five next month. He goes to nursery and can be there lawfully until the end of this year but then he has no where to go

"He was unlawfully forced onto a reduced timetable which actually equated to fewer hours attendance than he was on at pre-school. As there simply were not enough TAs to support him.

“He is now thriving in a SEN provision, although we are continuing to experience issues with his transport provision. There are inconsistent drivers and chaperones, which cause issues with meltdowns and lateness,” said the parent.

“I have little option to not use this as I also need to get both of my girls to their mainstream school. My eldest will be off to secondary school next year and her mainstream school has said she will benefit from SEN provisions, so I am now going through the lengthy process to obtain her that SEN school placement. My youngest is currently okay in the mainstream setting.”

Mrs Ashton described the case of another parent’s child who started Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) in September 2022 with an EHCP and full diagnosis.

“However he has not done a full day regardless of the funding the mainstream school receive. They put his hours straight down to one hour in the afternoons and gradually increased it to three by the end of the summer term. His mother was unable to return to work,” she said.

Mrs Ashton said she believed the only thing the Government and the local authorities are worried about is saving money. She said: "Agreements have been made between local authorities and the department of education to help clear their debts, these are:

  • Taking SEND children who are already settled and thriving from their SEND school and force them back into mainstream
  • Providing fewer SEND provisions and more overcrowded mainstreams
  • Making it even harder to get an EHCP, which is already a fight for most families
  • Removing EHCPs from children they feel are not 'severe' enough.

"As a parent who has already gone through the EHCP process, we have to provide numerous pieces of medical evidence for our children to receive an EHCP. The way the new SEND and alternative plan (AP) reads, it will be the decision of non-medical professionals making these decisions, all predicated on cost,” said Mrs Ashton.

"There are thousands of children currently out of education due to not having a school place. This does not just affect the children with special educational needs and disabilities, this also has consequences for all mainstream schools, for children without SEND and for teaching staff who we are aware are already considerably overworked and under-resourced.

“The general public can no longer turn a blind eye just because they don't have a SEND child, this affects ALL children. Our children's education and futures are at stake.”

Oxfordshire County Council said: “We are urgently focusing our efforts on improving services for children and young people with SEND. We are determined to make significant changes so we can provide families with a better quality of service at the time they need it most.”