'My son hasn't been to school in over 2 years - I'm at my wits' end over ongoing dispute'

Dare Olaifa-Oyeniyi and Abdul-Quddus Oyeniyi pose for photos in his house in Barnehurst in south east London, Britain 12 June 2024. Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon
-Credit: (Image: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon)

A Bexley mum said she is at her 'wits' end' after a dispute with the council has left her son out of school for over two years. Dare Olaifa-Oyeniyi, 43, has lived in her Erith home with her husband and three children for over three years.

The mum said she moved to the area in the hopes her six year old son, Abdul-Quddus, would be able to attend the nearby Woodside School, which specialises in teaching children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). She claimed Abdul-Quddus has ASD and sensory processing difficulties, as well as global development delay, and has had an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) in place since November 2020.

Ms Olaifa-Oyeniyi said she considered moving Abdul-Quddus from his nursery’s specialist provision after seeing a delay in his development there. She also said her son would often become distressed during the 25 minute car journey to the nursery, making her daughters late for school and requiring her husband to take night shifts at his job so that both parents were available to transport Abdul-Quddus.

The mum told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): "I couldn't drive with him in the car because obviously he couldn't sit in the car by himself anymore. He would try to open the window, he would try and get out of his seat or get up and come to the front. It wasn't safe anymore for one person to drive him."

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Abdul-Quddus Oyeniyi poses for photos in his house in Barnehurst in south east London, Britain 12 June 2024. Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon
Abdul-Quddus had an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) issued by Bexley Council in 2020 -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Ms Olaifa-Oyeniyi said she felt her son would benefit from a shorter commute and with Woodside School being only a two minute walk away from her home, she enquired about him starting at the school in September 2021. She then requested an emergency review of her son’s EHCP to have the school named as the most suitable provision for Abdul-Quddus. However, this was rejected by the council and Shenstone School in Sidcup, also aimed at teaching children with learning needs, was named as the preferred school for Abdul-Quddus to be sent to.

The mum claimed that Woodside School initially told her there was a place available for Abdul-Quddus when she enquired, but this changed when the council listed Shenstone as the preferred provision. She said Shenstone would not be suitable for her son as it was a similar distance away from their home as his current nursery was. She also felt the special transport offered by the council would not be suitable for her son’s needs.

Ms Olaifa-Oyeniyi said: "They called us saying they would pick him up at about 8am for a school that opens at 9.15am. How does that make any sense? You’re picking up a child that you know has stress, anxiety and challenging behaviour on transportation. I asked where he would be for the hour and 15 minutes and they said they had other kids to pick up. I said no because that [long journey] is going to trigger him."

The mum said that after being rejected by the council, she decided to take Abdul-Quddus out of his nursery in March 2022 due to the impact the daily journey was having on the family. She appealed the authority’s decision, but email correspondence seen by the LDRS showed that after considering the mum’s request, the SEND Tribunal decided in October 2022 that Shenstone remained an appropriate setting for Abdul-Quddus. The mum said she also enquired about receiving a personal budget from Abdul-Quddus’ EHCP to home educate him, but this was also refused by the council.

Dare Olaifa-Oyeniyi and Abdul-Quddus Oyeniyi pose for photos in his house in Barnehurst in south east London, Britain 12 June 2024. Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon
The mum said communicating with the council has felt like 'talking to a brick wall' -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Ms Olaifa-Oyeniyi said: "I thought he should come home instead of doing this journey which is stressing every body out and is making my girls late for school. It was affecting every body, the whole family, at this point."

She then provided the council with copies of reports from speech and language as well as occupational therapists which supported her claims that Abdul-Quddus experienced sensory meltdowns involving head banging when travelling in the car. However, the council’s SEND panel said in its most recent meeting that the authority had no obligation to make alternative arrangements as it claimed it had identified and named a suitable school in Abdul-Quddus' EHCP.

Ms Olaifa-Oyeniyi said Abdul-Quddus has had no formal education since March 2022, aside four home teachers who she claimed have been unable to tutor her son for more than a month respectively. She said her son has not received any of the occupational or speech and language therapy he has been allocated in his EHCP and felt council funding could be saved by allowing Abdul-Quddus to walk to Woodside School instead of being transported to Shenstone. She said she feels like she has been ‘talking to a brick wall’ when communicating with the council.

She told the LDRS: "It’s a very simple case, but they have just made it legally complex… Twice, they have had attendance officers at my door because they have given me a Section 437, which is an attendance order to take him to the school they want him to go to. I have had that for two years now."

Abdul-Quddus Oyeniyi poses for photos in his house in Barnehurst in south east London, Britain 12 June 2024. Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon
Ms Olaifa-Oyeniyi said her son's behaviour has gotten worse throughout the two years -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Ms Olaifa-Oyeniyi added: "It's just gone downhill. The behaviour is getting worse, he lashes out easily now because obviously he's not getting anything that he’s meant to be getting. I’m at my wit’s end... He wants to go. When his sisters are going to school in the mornings, he is crying because he wants to go with them."

A Bexley Council spokesperson told the LDRS that it could not discuss individual cases in detail. However, they said that the council’s priority was to address the best interests of each child while taking into account their particular needs.

They added: "With this statutory duty in mind, a place was made available from the point at which this child reached school age in an appropriate school, suitable for the child’s needs. The SEND Tribunal has agreed with our proposal."

A Shenstone School spokesperson told the LDRS: "We do not comment on the individual circumstances of children or their families. We can however assure you that Shenstone does not pressurise any parent to enrol their child at our school."

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