Oakham mum Tracey tells of struggle to find special school place for her son

Photo: SM160712-010ow'Tracey Harvey, and son Harry, six, from Oakham. Harry has Angelman Syndrome and Tracey is having problems finding a suitable school for him.
Photo: SM160712-010ow'Tracey Harvey, and son Harry, six, from Oakham. Harry has Angelman Syndrome and Tracey is having problems finding a suitable school for him.
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A MOTHER from Oakham is struggling to secure a special school place for her son because a rare condition makes it difficult for him to travel.

Tracey Harvey’s son Harry Henderson, six, was born with Angelman syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that causes development problems, speech impairment and issues with movement, balance and sleep.

Harry has been a pupil at The Parks School in Oakham since he was two and was due to move up to a primary special school in September. The Parks School caters for children aged two to six.

Tracey, 40, of Willoughby Gardens, had hoped to find him a place at Birch Wood School in Melton Mowbray.

She needed a school as near to home as possible so Harry’s strict sleep routine would not be disturbed by a long journey in a taxi.

But Birch Wood was oversubscribed, so Rutland County Council found Harry a place at Kingsley School in Kettering, 20 miles away.

Tracey said travelling 40 miles each day would ruin Harry’s sleep routine and have a knock-on effect on her life and that of her other son Owen, who is nine.

She said: “Being unable to sleep is a common problem with Angelman syndrome. Harry’s brain is just so active.

“We were surviving on two hours’ sleep until we took him off one of his medicines and managed to get him into some kind of strict bedtime. He now gets about six hours.

“But he would be so exhausted after a full day at school he would just fall asleep on a long journey home. It would have a detrimental impact on my life. Owen has to get up for school at Catmose Primary in the morning too. Life would just be horrendous.”

Harry’s condition means he cannot speak or communicate and has no sense of danger, so can often be violent towards others or himself.

Tracey, who is a single parent, added: “To strap him in a car seat with no way of communicating, while he bites himself in frustration, it seems very unfair. It wouldn’t be allowed with a normal child.”

Tracey turned down the place at Kingsley School in the hope that Harry would be able to stay at The Parks School for another year.

She intends to appeal against the decision to turn him away from Birch Wood, despite being told she has little chance of success.

She said: “I am a single mum and I have been battling this on my own for a few months.

“But I’ve got to keep on fighting for him.”

A Rutland County Council spokesman said the authority understood Tracey’s concerns but said it was unable to find a place for Harry closer than Kettering.

He added: “Rutland County Council does not maintain a specialist school for primary and secondary age disabled children, so we always face the challenge of securing places in neighbouring areas that meet the needs of the young person, but are within realistic travel time for parents.

“We identified Kingsley School in Kettering as meeting the needs of the young person involved, but we understand that Miss Harvey has contacted the school directly to turn down that offer. The school has now re-allocated that place elsewhere.

“Rutland County Council understands that Miss Harvey only wants the best for her son and will continue to work closely with her to identify other alternatives.”