A north mum who claims her autistic son has not properly attended school for four years plans to sue the council over what she calls “discrimination”.
Barbara Irvine, whose 10-year-old boy Daniel Gourlay has basic reading and writing difficulties, was joined yesterday by parents from across the region with similar complaints for a day-long protest outside the council’s Inverness headquarters.
She claims he was not given full-time education for more than three years and considers that discriminatory.
Mrs Irvine, from Inverness, discussed the situation with education director Bill Alexander the day before but feels she made no progress.
She described the mood of some 200 Highland parents allegedly facing similar problems as “angry.”
Speaking outside the council complex as education committee members gathered for a routine meeting, she said: “A lot of our kids went through primary school and have developed social, emotional and mental health problems due to them having to fit in with mainstream settings.
“The council’s policy is inclusion – and it’s not working. There aren’t enough pupil support assistants (PSAs), teachers aren’t sufficiently trained and parents are often blamed.”
Miss Irvine has already spoken with educational law solicitors, who have told her she has grounds for a discrimination case, and the meeting with them next month will be to discuss moving that forward.
The number of pupils in Highland diagnosed with autism is said to have been fairly stable in recent years, with a figure of 610 according to the council’s February data.
Mr Alexander said he had met with Mrs Irvine more than once and was always happy to meet with parents.
He declined to speak publicly about an individual case, but insisted the council provided services that “meet children’s assessed needs.”
He said: “We provide additional support need (ASN) services for up to a third of the Highland school population and a proportion of those have got very high level needs and they’re met within mainstream schools.”
The GMB union has had longstanding concerns about “the erosion of ASN hours in Highland schools.”