A COUNCILLOR and mother to an autistic child has announced she will be attending a protest next month to “fight for the rights” of children with special educational needs.

The protest is part of a national effort with events across the country all organised by SEND Reform England – made up of 10 mums from up and down the UK who met via social media and formed the campaign in May this year.

The North East event will be held on Friday, October 13 outside the civic centre in Newcastle.

Labour’s Councillor Angie Scott, who represents the Prudhoe North ward on Northumberland County Council, said she is attending in order to call for improved Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) education facilities in the southeast of Northumberland.

Cllr Scott’s son, Joseph, has to travel 30 miles from Prudhoe to Morpeth to go to school.

Cllr Scott said: “I’ve been fighting the unfair system for many years. My son Joseph, who has autism and learning disabilities, is now going through the transition into the adult system.

“He attended Collingwood School in Morpeth from a young age, travelling 30 miles for the education he deserved. However, this has resulted in social isolation as Joe has no local friends and no voice in our community.

“I believe children should have the right to a fairer education close to home, have a voice in the community they live in and thrive with their peers. I would urge people with children with special educational needs to join us on 13 October to demonstrate the strength of feeling. The system for our children needs to be better. We should not have to fight or campaign for the things we need to enable our children to achieve their potential in life.”

SEND Reform UK was formed earlier this year following “disparaging” comments made by councillors during a Kent County Council SEND sub-committee meeting, where education, health and care plans (EHCPs) were referred to as the “in-thing”.

EHCPs are for children and young people up to the age of 25, and describes a young person’s needs and what provision will be needed to meet those needs.

Responding to Cllr Scott’s comments, Northumberland County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services Guy Renner Thompson said the council had a “solid plan” in place to improve education for all the county’s children.

He said: “We want every child in Northumberland to have access to a good school and inclusive provision that is as close to home as possible, but in line with the national picture, data from our schools tells us that demand for specialist provision is increasing.

“That’s why, in November last year, Cabinet approved our first SEND Capacity and Place Planning Strategy setting out the steps we’re going to take over the next five years to make this happen.  These steps will be taken by working closely with our schools and our communities and include a wide range of initiatives – some of which are complete, others are in progress or planned for the future.  

“For the vast majority of our SEND students, their local mainstream school is the best place for them to experience their education, so they can remain with their friends in their home communities, and we work closely with all our Northumberland schools to support this.  We know that every parent wants the very best for their child and that we have much more to do to tackle inequalities in Northumberland. 

“We have a solid plan in place and will continue to work closely with our excellent schools, partners and communities so that every child reaches their full potential.”