A NORTHWICH mum who can’t get a special school place for her five-year-old son says she she's been 'hit hard'. 

Maylinda Gaunt’s son James is autistic and non-verbal, and has been a pupil at Barnton Community Nursery and Primary School for two years.  

Barnton is a mainstream school, but it’s also a ‘flagship centre of excellence for inclusion’ and has special provision for students with complex needs.

However, last week, Maylinda had a meeting with the school to discuss James’ needs going forward.

Northwich Guardian: James, 5, may benefit from a place at a special school in the near futureJames, 5, may benefit from a place at a special school in the near future (Image: Maylinda Gaunt)

It was agreed if James’ behaviour becomes more challenging as he progresses through primary school, there’s a chance Barnton may not always be the best environment for him.

Maylinda says Barnton is a 'wonderful place', where staff 'have a special place in their hearts' for James, and she would be more than happy to send James to a special school when the need arises. 

But after making enquiries, she was told there are no places available at all anywhere in the borough.

“It hit me really heard,” she said.

Northwich resident Maylinda says she has no idea what the next steps are for her and James.  

Northwich Guardian: James (right) and his dad, Darren GauntJames (right) and his dad, Darren Gaunt (Image: Maylinda Gaunt)

The mum-of-three is now campaigning for change and has now launched a petition urging Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC) to invest more money in special school places.

“Rosebank and the Russett Schools are both full," the 42-year-old said. 

"They say there’s no way they’ll be able to take him.

“But what are we meant to do next? That’s what I need to know.

Northwich Guardian: Maylinda Gaunt believes inadequate special school provision is less a matter of money and more a matter of 'priorities'Maylinda Gaunt believes inadequate special school provision is less a matter of money and more a matter of 'priorities' (Image: Maylinda Gaunt)

“And it’s not just us having this problem. Lots of other parents feel they’re going through the same thing. It seems like many are forced to home school their children.

“But I want my son to have a future. With the right support, he could grow up to be a scientist or a doctor. You never know.

“Everyone deserves a chance to achieve something, but kids like James aren’t getting that.

“The only answer I ever get is it’s a question of money, but I don’t believe that. It’s a question of priorities.”

Northwich Guardian: Five-year-old James is happiest when he's outdoorsFive-year-old James is happiest when he's outdoors (Image: Maylinda Gaunt)

Barnton Primary is run by the Weaver Trust academy group, and CEO, Annette Williams, says the school is ‘committed to providing the very best education for all children’.

She added: “Barnton has three special resourced provisions for pupils with specific and complex needs.

“In October 2023, Ofsted commented that pupils in each of the specially resourced provisions thrive.

“They also found all areas of the curriculum are successfully adapted to meet the needs of pupils with special educational needs, including those who attend the specially resourced provisions.

“Barnton works tirelessly with parents and the local authority to ensure that all children are placed in a provision which best meets their needs.”

Maylinda has written to her MP, Mike Amesbury, and asked him to investigate the lack of special school provision in the area.

Mr Amesbury replied while he would fully support all drives to increase special school provision, it is up to CWAC to identify the need, and to put a funding bid together.   

A CWAC spokesman said: “There is a national challenge regarding the demand for children with special educational needs and their access to an appropriate setting.

“The number of places currently available does not meet the number of places being requested.

“CWAC would welcome any additional resource to support the ever-increasing demand for provision for our children with special educational needs.

“The council’s Education Service are doing all that they able to support our children and young people to be educated in the right place, at the right time, with the right support.”