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Mum forced to quit job after eight-year-old son with ADHD is excluded from school

PUBLISHED: 11:52 06 November 2019 | UPDATED: 14:43 06 November 2019

8-year-old Harvey Baker and his mother, Charlotte Baker,  from Thetford. Photo: Charlotte Baker

8-year-old Harvey Baker and his mother, Charlotte Baker, from Thetford. Photo: Charlotte Baker

Charlotte Baker

A Thetford mother claims she was forced to quit her job to look after her permanently excluded eight-year-old son.

8-year-old Harvey Baker at Athena Education Support at the Charles Burrell Centre in Thetford. Photo: Emily Thomson8-year-old Harvey Baker at Athena Education Support at the Charles Burrell Centre in Thetford. Photo: Emily Thomson

Charlotte Baker is now calling for more support for children with special educational needs (SEN), and says her son Harvey, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), has been let down by the education system.

Harvey struggles in large groups of children and can become aggressive and disruptive, which eventually led to his permanent exclusion in July 2018.

Ms Baker, a former care worker, said: "I feel that the system has already let him down and he is only eight. He has recently been diagnosed with extreme ADHD but it has taken a long time. It's shocking.

"Because of his condition he can become aggressive and disruptive in school. Last year I had to give up my job because I couldn't keep leaving work to pick him up whenever there had been an incident, and then he was permanently excluded.

(From left to right) Sandra Govender, CEO of Athena Education Support, Julie Cox, pastoral support manager and Sam Burboyne, Business support manager at its Tuesday sessions for families in Thetford. Photo: Emily Thomson(From left to right) Sandra Govender, CEO of Athena Education Support, Julie Cox, pastoral support manager and Sam Burboyne, Business support manager at its Tuesday sessions for families in Thetford. Photo: Emily Thomson

"Harvey is lonely and isolated and its heart-breaking as a mum to hear your child say 'I hate myself and nobody likes me'. He is on medication for his ADHD now but there isn't enough counselling or wellbeing support for him or for parents.

"People assume you're a bad parent or your child is just naughty but that isn't the case."

Ms Baker, who was out of work until May this year, is currently in the process of applying for an education health and care plan (EHCP) for Harvey, which will outline his special educational needs and will allow them to look for more avenues of support.

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Determined to find Harvey the right help, Ms Baker has also been in contact with Athena Education Support, at the Charles Burrell Centre, in Thetford, which works to support vulnerable children and their families.

Athena is a registered alternative educational support service, which started in September, and has been helping parents like Ms Baker at its Tuesday sessions, which takes place every week from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. It offers a chance for families to spend time together doing activities and parents can ask for advice.

Chief executive Sandra Govender said: "It's about positive family functioning. Our funding is to support mental health and developing confidence and self-esteem, so that children and families develop resilience.

"I totally understand and empathise with the need for exclusion, but we need to ask ourselves how much we have done to support that child and the family before then.

"We give information that will help families, they can join in with activities and we talk about life at home, what is working for them and what isn't. Then we give them support and strategies on how to make change."

Now Harvey is back in education, and along with his new medication, his mother has said she is starting to see his behaviour slowly improve, but Ms Baker wants to focus on her son's mental health, which has been affected.

John Fisher, cabinet member for children's services at Norfolk County Council, said: " I am very pleased to hear that Harvey is now receiving the support he needs. We want all children in Norfolk to get access to the very best education which is why we are investing £120 million to transform special needs education in our county by creating 500 additional specialist places both in mainstream schools and at brand new schools.

"The programme is also working with mainstream schools to ensure that we can co-ordinate the services they have said they need to be able to offer local inclusive education for the majority of their children."

Ms Baker added: "I would like to see more of that going on in the community and other parents need to know they are not alone.

"I just want my son to have a happy life and to make friends. It terrifies me how things are going to progress for him. This is going to shape him for the rest of his life, his self-esteem and his confidence as a young man."

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