A campaigner for autism issues in South Holland has challenged county education leaders to “think inclusively” when considering changes to special needs education in Lincolnshire.
Callum Brazzo (26), of Spalding, warned that plans by Lincolnshire County Council for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to go to a school near their home risked overlooking the specific issues facing autistic pupils.
We also need to think inclusively and teach people that those with autism aren’t aliens and their behaviour shouldn’t be feared or adapted to feed into a normalized majorityCallum Brazzo, of Spalding
The plans would see Gosberton House Academy go from being the only autism-specialist school in the county to ‘all needs’ status, possibly as soon as September 2023.
Nearly 5,000 people have signed a petition asking for a commitment from the county council not to allow Gosberton House Academy’s status as a National Autistic Society (NAS) accredited school “watered down” by becoming an all-SEND school.
The petition said: “The changes proposed are suggesting that autism is like any other disability and that ‘one size fits all’ provision will be adequate.
“The specialist environment at Gosberton House Academy is why our children flourish and these plans will inevitably cause the watering down of skills in order to meet generalistic needs.
“We want a commitment, in writing, from the county council that if it insists on these changes, the existing provision at Gosberton House is not put at risk so we can retain our NAS status.”
Callum said: “I’m an autistic man who sees the immense value in special schools, especially Gosberton House Academy where I worked from 2011 to 2012 as part as part of a course I took after my tumultuous experience of mainstream schooling.
“Being autistic varies from person to person and while they deserve all the basic needs we as humans require, we also need to think inclusively and teach people that those with autism aren’t aliens and their behaviour shouldn’t be feared or adapted to feed into a normalized majority.
“In no way am I wishing to see special schools like Gosberton House Academy scrapped.
“But we also have to think about fostering attitudes and practices to serve autistic people for generations to come.”
About 1,520 pupils receive special needs education in Lincolnshire at 20 schools, including Gosberton House Academy, Priory and Garth Schools, both in Spalding, Bourne’s Willoughby School and John Fielding Special School, Boston.
But with the number of SEND students having risen by 52 per cent between 2013 and 2016, with just 30 per cent of children attending their nearest school, Lincolnshire County Council wants to ensure that familes can access “the right education, in the right place at the right time”.
Heather Sandy, assistant director of children’s services, said: “To make special education in Lincolnshire more sustainable for the future, the county council has worked closely with the leaders from all our special schools and academies to improve provision.
“This review is about bringing accessible and inclusive education to all communities by minimising travel, enhancing provision and increasing the number of school places.
“We want all children to be able to access high-quality education and achieve their potential, as near to their family and local community as possible.
“In the case of Gosberton House Academy, it is the academy trust (Lincolnshire Educational Trust) that is proposing the changes to ‘all needs’ school status and the county council is fully supportive of this.”