Discovery Academy: Sheffield mum’s frustration after little girl with brain injury, 9, turned down from school
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Alice Jessop was just four years old when she suffered a brain injury brought on by encephalitis. Today, the bright, funny nine-year-old also lives with autism, epilepsy and struggles with regulating her emotions.
All together, it would make learning at any mainstream school difficult.
Over the years, mum Rebecca Bailey has fought single-handedly to get an EHCP plan put in place for Alice and get her the help she needs. When she still struggled, she made the decision two months ago to put her hopes on earning her daughter a place at Discovery Academy, Sheffield’s leading specialist school.
But after months of work, Rebecca was told by the City Council this week Discovery had turned her down as she is ‘too complex’ for them to help – leading her to ask where she is meant to turn to next.
Rebecca said: “It feels like my child is now a child who they are saying doesn’t belong anywhere. Do where does this leave her?
“A child psychologist at Ryegate Children's Centre once told me that Alice is the most complex child neurologically they have on their records currently and she needs a SEN setting in order to succeed academically.
“Alice is one of hundreds of children who are being let down by the education system because of their greater need. Something needs to be done. I for one, will not just accept this as my daughter's fate, she isn't a statistic and can achieve.”
Rebecca worries any more delays to getting Alice into a school that can help her will only hurt her chances to succeed later in life – and feels the same must be true for countless parents across Sheffield.
It’s been a long road. In the first years after her brain injury, Rebecca was frequently called to collect Alice from her current school, Gleadless Primary, because her needs were often overwhelming for staff. She currently attends alternative provision twice a week at the “brilliant” Hugihub, which Rebecca was told was a temporary measure to help Alice get some support each week. Since she has been turned down from Discovery, the Gleadless mum has been advised the best they can offer now is to bump Alice up to three days a week.
Now, all that’s left is for Rebecca to get Alice an academic assessment at the end of May in the hope she can appeal the decision in time for the new school year in September.
“It’s taken a hell of a long time to take that step and say ‘Alice needs to move to a specialist school’, and to be shot down so soon is such a blow.
"Alice is so funny. She’s vibrant, and bright and a joy to know. Everybody that comes across her says she’s beautiful and has an energy coming from her. When she’s in that zone where she struggles with her emotions she can be challenging. But we’re talking about a brain injury – every day we learn more on how to help her.”