Mum plans 'free school' to help autistic children
GIVING children the best education possible is something most parents would place at the top of their priorities.
But when Therese Lord sent her son to school she said her eyes were opened as to how difficult it was for parents of children with special education needs.
While her son Jacob is academically able, he is also autistic, which means he struggles to cope in a mainstream school environment.
Within just a week of starting at his Lincolnshire secondary school, the now 14-year-old was expelled.
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After 18 months of home schooling, Mrs Lord, 43, transferred him to a special school – only to find that he had to travel to a grammar school for some lessons that the school could not provide
Speaking to other parents Mrs Lord, who also has a daughter, found she was not alone.
She is now hoping to set up the first "free school" in Notts for pupils with special education needs.
Mrs Lord, who lives in Waddington, in Lincolnshire, was looking to open the school in her home county but Lincolnshire County Council said it would not place children at the school because it believed its schools provided well enough.
However, Notts County Council has written to her, saying it would be prepared to consider placing pupils there on the same basis as any other special school.
Where in the county the school would be depends on where demand is highest for it.
Free schools operate independently of local authorities and are given more freedom over timetables.
Mrs Lord is now looking for parents to register their interest so she can present her case to the Department for Education.
"The crux of it is that these children are academically able to the point where they are similar to mainstream schoolchildren but because of their special needs they are not normally able to function well in a mainstream setting," she said. "So parents are faced with a dilemma of choosing either a special school that gives them a good setting but that might not stretch their child's academic ability or choosing mainstream school that does provide lessons of their academic ability but which doesn't necessarily provide the nurturing and support they need to succeed."
If it goes ahead, the Therese Lord Independent School will be aimed at pupils from Year Three to Year 11 that have special needs but who are academically able, such as children with autism, Asperger's syndrome and other neuro-developmental difficulties, including dyslexia, dyspraxia, and ADHD.
The curriculum would be similar to a mainstream school, with its 90 pupils sitting GCSEs at the end of Year 11.
In addition, there would be an emphasis on business and enterprise and students will complete social and emotional skills training, which would equip them with the skills to learn about their own special needs and how they can overcome the difficulties they cause.
Mrs Lord said: "It's all about the end product which is simply that we want the children to be able to become independent adults who can then be a complete asset to society."
The New Schools Network, which helps people set up free schools, has already given its approval to the plan and will help Mrs Lord develop and get permission for the school.
Two public meetings will be held for parents and children to find out more about the school and shape its future.
The first will be at the Richard Herrod Centre, in Foxhill Road, Carlton, on Saturday from 10am to noon. A second meeting will be held at Bowbridge Primary School, in Bailey Road, Newark, on Sunday, December 18, from 2pm to 4pm.
To register your interest in placing your child at the proposed school, click on the registration link at www.tlordschool.co.uk.