Four weeks after the new school year started Jack Lewis is still at home – as his mum battles education chiefs over who pays to get him to class.
The 12-year-old has learning difficulties and attended a specialist primary school in Skelmersdale for five years but moved to a mainstream high school at age 11.
After only a year at Balshaw’s CE High in Leyland, it was decided he would be better at a special school and mum Joanna eventually settled on Hope High in Skelmersdale.
Joanna, who also has a younger son, said: “He wanted to try mainstream high school for his first year last year and he really struggled and it was decided that he should go back into special needs. I was given a choice of two schools to view for Jack. After viewing both the schools I decided that Hope High in Skelmersdale was the best for Jack.”
She was unwilling to send him to Moorbrook, in Preston, which is nearer to his Langdale Grove, Whittle-le-Woods home, near Chorley, because Joanna said there was a pupil there who had previously bullied Jack.
She added: “I expressed my preference for Hope High and this was accepted but transport was declined as Moorbrook is closer. This caused much distress to Jack which isn’t good when he is already such a vulnerable child. I was sent the appeal paperwork, which they lost/didn’t receive which means the cut off date was missed during the summer holidays, I only found this out by phoning them as I hadn’t heard anything.”
She said she was advised to appeal and didn’t expect any problems because several other children from the area travel to the school.
Because she hadn’t heard anything from the education authority Joanna sent Jack back to Balshaw’s, “to much distress to Jack after being told he was going to Hope High and attending taster days there to get him ready. “
Joanna added: “Jack had been in school for two hours when I got a phone call from Balshaw’s saying that he couldn’t come back due being taken off roll there and put on roll at Hope High.”
However, she is now at loggerheads with Lancashire County Council.
Joanna said she can’t get him to and from Skelmrersdale as she has a five year old at school and is now having to take time off work to look after Jack at home.
She added that Hope High had been “very supportive” sending work home for him but added that the youngster was getting distressed about going to school because his peers have already settled in.
The mum has appealed against the ruling but added: “I will not be forced to send Jack to the nearest school where there is a child there that assaulted him. Why give me two schools to view, I pick one then say no sorry he can’t go there?”
Lancashire County Council provides a home to school transport service for pupils with special educational needs however if parents choose a school the authority doesn’t think is the nearest there is no duty to provide free transport.
Brendan Lee, Special Educational Needs and disability manager at Lancashire County Council, said: “Where children qualify for free transport, the county council will pay for transport to their nearest appropriate school.
“In this case, Mrs Lewis was fully aware that she would be responsible for the cost of getting Jack to and from Hope High School, where she had chosen to send him, rather than to Moorbrook School, where his transport costs would have been met by the county council. It was, of course, her prerogative to appeal the decision.”