Heartbroken mother forced to take autistic daughter out of school she "loves"

Charlotte Byrne with her daughter Emily Byrne.

Charlotte Byrne with her daughter Emily Byrne.

First published in News Times Series: Photograph of the Author by

A heartbroken mother is being forced to move her autistic daughter from the school she “loves”.

Charlotte Byrne, 33, of Blanche Lane, Potters Bar, applied for a place at Cranborne Primary School, where her four-year-old daughter Emily went to nursery.

Miss Byrne applied on time to Hertfordshire County Council for her daughter to progress into the next year group but missed out on a school place despite a doctor’s note stressing it is in Emily’s best interest to minimise her “difficulties” and “distress” as an autistic child.

Miss Byrne, who is a single mother, said: “When she first started the nursery she was screaming, biting teachers, hitting children and escaping from the classroom – this is normal behaviour for autistic children. She can’t write her own name and she can’t speak properly.

“But after about eight months she finally settled there as she started to recognise her classmates, the classrooms and her teachers and has been making really good progress.

“Familiarity is key for her. For example, when I changed my fridge Emily wouldn’t open it for three weeks because it was a different colour and size.

“It’s paramount to keep things the way they are for her and that’s why I desperately don’t want her to change school.”

In a letter handed to the council, Emily’s paediatrician said: “Emily has great difficulty coping with change.

“Transfer from the nursery at Cranborne to the Reception class there is likely to minimise her difficulties and limit or prevent distress for her as well as maximising continuity with the efforts of those currently involved and building up her current progress.”

Despite this, Emily was given a place at Oakmere Primary School, in Chace Avenue, nearly four miles away from where she lives, where she was due to start on Wednesday, September 5.

Miss Byrne said: “A child’s first day at school is the most important day of their life and it brings a tear to my eye that Emily’s missed it. It’s heart breaking.

"She loves Cranborne. She keeps asking 'mummy when I'm a going back'.

“I’m going to fight this with every breath in my body. They’re asking me to put her at risk but I’m not going to do that.”

Miss Byrne appealed the council's decision, but this was rejected.

The Times Series is waiting for a response from Hertfordshire County Council.

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