Mum ‘left in limbo’ waiting seven months for council to arrange tutor for SEN son

By Joe Coughlan, Local Democracy Reporter 

A mum said she was “left in limbo” after waiting seven months for the local authority to arrange a tutor for her child with special educational needs.

Gemma Ekrem, 39, had three children attending Old Bexley Church of England Primary School, in Hurst Road, Bexley, until the most recent school year.

Her six-year-old son, Harley, has a form of delayed development and an autism spectrum disorder, with an education, health and care plan (EHCP) in place to address his needs. 

Ms Ekrem took her three children out of Old Bexley last year after an incident on March 30 – recorded on CCTV – showed Harley running out of the school site towards traffic.

After taking her children out of the school, Ms Ekrem said she had a call with an educational welfare officer at Bexley council in April, who said they would be sending officers to Ms Ekrem’s home.

Ms Ekrem said: “They put a threatening letter through our letterbox, threatening court action.

“There’s just no compassion with what we’ve gone through and they just weren’t even interested in my side of the story. It was all about getting them back into school so they can tick boxes.”

Ms Ekrem said she had asked for a tutor to be provided by the council for her children after they had been out of school for 15 days, but was told the authority would arrange for school work to be sent to her home instead. But, Ms Ekrem said the work provided did not cater for her children’s needs.

Gemma Edwards took her three children out of school after an incident captured on CCTV showed her son running out of the gates towards traffic (Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga)

She filed a complaint against the council on how the educational welfare officer acted. She received a response two months later which led to Harley receiving a tutor last November. 

While the response led to Harley receiving a tutor last November, Ms Ekrem felt the process of obtaining one became more complicated by several council officers resigning.

She said: “I was in limbo for two months thinking my kids have no speech and language lessons.

“I should have had this within 15 days of them being out of school.”

An Old Bexley Church of England spokeswoman said: “Addressing any concerns raised by our parents is of utmost importance to us.

“Our commitment to maintaining a safe and secure environment for all members of our educational community is unwavering. 

“We take every complaint seriously and handle them in accordance with our comprehensive Complaints Policy.”

A Bexley council spokesman said: “We believe that education is vital to our children and young people and it is because of this that officers from a number of departments have been in contact with Ms Ekrem over the past few months.

“We have supported Ms Ekrem’s family and will continue to do so. We are keen to address Ms Ekrem’s concerns and would welcome the opportunity to meet with her to discuss them.”

Pictured top: Gemma Ekrem, 39, shown in her home in Sidcup (Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga)

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