The stepson of a North East man could be forced to go without an education this year – and his son is also struggling to find a place, due the lack of funding at special educational needs (SEN) schools across the region.

Graeme Stevens revealed that both his stepson and son, who he wished to remain anonymous, are struggling to find places as the special educational needs sector suffers from a perfect storm of too few staff and increased applicants.

Mr Stevens’ stepson, aged four – who suffers from Angelman Syndrome – could be without a school to go to in September due to the severity of the situation.

The father-of-two, based in Blaydon in Gateshead, has launched a petition - which has so far garnered over 1,200 signatures - calling for more funding from the Government to address the issue.

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He revealed that he had seen the problem coming “for nearly eight years now” and that many disabled youngsters had been forgotten about after Covid-19.

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However, it’s his stepson who Mr Stevens is most worried about.

He said: “Now, the local authority that he is under have been unable to offer a specialist provision for him because they’re full.

“Myself and my current partner have looked at several schools in the North East – you’re talking five that we’ve spoken to and they’ve said they’re full as well.

“So it is highly likely that this young man isn’t going to be going to school in September.”

His son, aged 11, recently experienced a difficult transition between schools and is also looking to find a place at a new specialist school and both children are awaiting the result of tribunals.

The Northern Echo: Graeme StevensGraeme Stevens

“You want to help other people you want to do a good job and be happy in work, but when you’re not paying your bills and buying food is difficult that adds on to everything else.”

According to Mr Stevens, the issue is widespread in the North East and after speaking with other parents with SEN children, they revealed they were also finding it hard to find places.

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A spokesperson for the Department of Education revealed it would be investing £2.6 million to create “tens of thousands of new places for children with SEND.”

They added: “This includes establishing new special and alternative provision free schools, to increase capacity in the system.

“Every child should have access to a high-quality education, including those with special educational needs.

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“Councils are responsible for providing the right support for children in their areas but we know there is variation in how the system works across the country, which is why proposals in our SEND and alternative provision green paper will create a fairer, more inclusive system.”

A spokesperson for Gateshead Council said: “Supporting children and young people to thrive is at the heart of everything we do here at Gateshead.

“While we do everything we can to ensure those with SEND can access the right support, we cannot always allocate places in specialist educational provisions as requested.

“Our dedicated Special Educational Needs Improvement Team work closely with our maintained schools and academies to prioritise inclusion and have plans in place to further support school leaders in providing the best SEN provision possible.”

The petition can be viewed and signed here

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