THE mum of a County Durham teenager with autism is taking part in protests against funding cuts for pupils with special educations needs (SEND) after her son spent 29 months out of school.

Emma Parker and 13-year-old James, from Dipton, near Stanley, are going to London today to stage a protest against funding deficits for SEND education.

James, who was diagnosed with autism when he was 11 and ADHD when he was 9, has spent 29 months of the last five years out of school as a result of exclusions and reduced timetables.

Now, his mum, a primary school teacher, is concerned he will struggle to catch up and says the system is isolating children with special needs.

She said: "It's had a catastrophic impact on James' education. He was exceeding when he did his Sats in primary school. Now he's probably working at the level of year four or five.

"In three years he's gone backwards instead of forwards. Can he ever catch up? I don't know. That's heartbreaking as a parent."

James will be handing in a 14,000-name petition at Downing Street, while Mrs Parker will be speaking at a rally in Parliament Square – one of 28 taking place nationally to highlight the funding gap, which has been estimated by the Local Government Association at about £500 million this year.

Earlier this year, Durham County Council confirmed it would plug a £5.5m short fall in SEND funding with money from reserves but said further cuts could be necessary.

The Northern Echo:

Emma and James Parker are going to London today to protest funding levels for SEND eduction

Mrs Parker said: "We've got kids who could be in mainstream schools but we are breaking them to a point where mainstream is no longer an option because they haven't had that support and they don't have the emotional development and are so far behind their peers that they need those smaller class sizes."

She added: "Seven per cent of autistic adults are in the workforce. Is that because only seven per cent are able or is it because they are being written off? The way we are treating our children means they will end up in the benefits system because they don't have the knowledge to go and have a job.

"Our children are amazing, they are quirky. They can do so much but we are not giving them the support they need to find their way."

She added: "Yes, our children come with complexities but also with amazing attributes. We need to stop capping our kids and writing them off."

The Department of Education says it allocated £6.3 billion this year in high needs funding and has launched a "call for evidence" ahead of the spending review to see if funding is being allocated in the best way.

Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “Our ambition is for every child, no matter the challenges they face, to have access to a world class education that sets them up for life. Funding for the high needs budget is a priority for this government and we know that councils and schools are facing pressures – that’s why in December, we provided an extra £250 million up to 2020 to help manage these costs.

"This takes the total amount that we have allocated for high needs funding to £6.3 billion this year, compared to £5 billion in 2013.

“At the same time, the Education Secretary has been clear that we are working closely with the sector as we approach the spending review, we have launched a call for evidence to make sure the funding system is getting money to the right places at the right time and we are revising the SEND Code of Practice to improve ways to identify and meet special educational needs."