Mothers fight for educational rights of their children in Sheffield

Charlotte Nuland, Sharyn Montague and Anne Shirling with placards in Sheffield city centre
Charlotte Nuland, Sharyn Montague and Anne Shirling with placards in Sheffield city centre
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Frustrated mothers, fed up with a fight to ensure quality education for their special needs children, took their desperation to the streets of Sheffield in their quest to be heard.

Sheffield residents Charlotte Nuland and Anne Shirling took placards to the Moorfoot Building in the city centre to make their concerns about their children's education clear, as the council admitted it had work to do.

It was part of their quest just to be noticed. The women say they have been caught up in what they call a 'crisis' of special educational needs in Sheffield.

They say they have waited more than a year to receive draft health care education plans for their children, who are due to begin secondary school in November.

Without the plans, which are provided by Sheffield's Special Educational Needs department, they won't be able to lock in a place at a special school for their children.

The process is supposed to take 16 weeks, according to Ms Nuland, who is campaigning on behalf of her daughter Paige.

Ms Nuland, a resident of Shore Lane, Crosspool, applied for her plan in November 2015. She didn't receive it until November 2016.

She said the department failed to honour a mediation agreement to update Paige's plan.

The mediation took place, Ms Nuland said, on May 9, and no action has been taken.

"Actions should have been completed by May 19," she said.

She called it a 'special educational needs crisis'.

Mrs Shirling, said the rights of her foster children were being put at risk.

They have anxiety issues which stem from being moved around families when they were younger.

"My oldest had 13 moves before he was three," she said.

They suffer from developmental delay and have other issues 'no one can pin down', Mrs Shirling said.

"They won't be able to function in a normal secondary school."

Sheffield City Council said it was working to resolve the situation.

Councillor Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for children, young people and families at Sheffield City Council, said: “Firstly I’d like to apologise to parents and carers who are upset with the service they and their children have received during the EHC Plan process.

“Although the council has made progress, we know we need to do more and we are working hard to continue to make improvements to the service we provide.”

A Sheffield City Council spokesperson said: “We are currently trying to improve the quality of our services by reviewing our practices and further investing in capacity, training and processes.

“We recognise the importance of having the right support in place at the right time and we are working closely with the Department for Education to ensure we bring about rapid change and improvement.”