A MUM has been left fuming after her partially sighted daughter was refused transport to and from school by the council.
Shari Richards says her daughter Nevaeh, 11, also suffers with mental health issues and needs full-time, adult supervision while she is outdoors.
The single mum from Plymouth says the application for transport to Devonport High School for Girls (DHSG) in September this year has been rejected.
Nevaeh had been hoping to attend the school at the start of the new academic year.
She was accepted in the top 50 out of 300 pupils and Shari says her daughter “deserves” to attend the school as it meets her academic needs.
Those plans though appear to have been dashed after Plymouth City Council’s school transport department declined the application and subsequent appeal.
The council said the application had been refused because it was not the nearest school and that she lives less than two miles from DHSG.
Shari has branded the decision as “ridiculous” and the policy needs to change in order to better suit children’s needs across the city.
She is concerned Nevaeh will have to attend the nearest mainstream school, rather than the grammar school she worked hard to get into and sat extra exams for.
A spokesperson for Plymouth City Council said its policy follows national guidance and locally agreed protocol.
They added the council was happy to consider a new application if Neveah’s circumstances changed or if there was new evidence.
Shari told Plymouth Live: “Nevaeh did her 11+ and she got in the top 50 out of 300 plus kids which I thought was brilliant. She has mental health issues and suffers with severe social anxiety and generalised anxiety and uses the mental health team at Livewell Southwest.
“All of the professionals that work with her have said there’s no reason why she shouldn’t be granted school transport by the council.
“I applied for it and it was turned down despite all of the professional evidence which says Nevaeh can’t be outside on her own as she needs adult supervision at all times due to being partially blind. Especially on a sunny day – she can’t see at all. I either have to hold her hand, or guide her with my son’s pram when we are out.
“Recently she couldn’t even go on a school trip because the teachers didn’t think she would cope in the hot weather, so she missed out on that. We are not exaggerating, she can’t be outside on her own without supervision which all of the professionals have said in the evidence report.
“Nevaeh was refused transport by the council despite medical evidence, and when we appealed it, they said no again.
“The reasons were because she isn’t going to her nearest mainstream school which I’m not going to choose to put her in if she has got in the top 50, that school meets her academic needs.”
The school transport team suggested that if she were to attend the nearest mainstream school, UTC Plymouth, she would be accepted for free transport, the news outlet reports.
Shari added: “The other reason was because we live 1.9 miles from the DHSG and you need to live two miles or more from the school to be accepted – it’s ridiculous.
“The other reasons were because she hasn’t got an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. It is actually going through the motions now and will be finalised on August 10 – which the council knows. I have emailed local councillors in the area.
“I think they should be able to make exceptions for my daughter. In the first letter they sent me refusing the transport, they said if she was going to free nearest schools for example UTC – she would get it. I live near Mecca Bingo and they have admitted that she needs the transport for one of the nearest mainstream schools. I think it is ridiculous.
“It’s not like she even goes out with friends, she has a couple of friends but she can’t even do that. It’s not your typical 11-year-old child, she is very mature and clever don’t get me wrong but even when catching a bus – she can’t even see a bus or what number is coming.
“The council said download the Citybus app, but it lags and it’s not going to help. If she missed a bus, or caught the wrong bus. She would be so upset and wouldn’t know what to do. I feel angry, disappointed and upset for my daughter. It shouldn’t have come to this. I don’t understand how they can refuse her to be honest.”
A Plymouth City Council spokesperson said: “Our policy and criteria for support with school transport follow national guidance and locally agreed protocol.
“Under the current policy, if a child is eligible for support for medical reasons, this will only be provided for the nearest school that meets that child’s medical needs. If a parent chooses to send their child to a school that is further away they will not be eligible for that support.
“If a parent believes their circumstances have changed since their last unsuccessful application or appeal we would, of course, be happy to consider a new application with the additional supporting evidence.”
Despite the setback, Shari has vowed to get Nevaeh to DHFG “somehow”.
She said: “To make it work for her, I will have to take the bus with her every morning. I have two other children in year six and four and will have to put them in the breakfast club and then take my three-year-old on the bus with me. I’m a single mum so it’s difficult.
“I can only reapply when her EHC has gone through, but that still can’t be promised because we live 1.9 miles away from the school. It is a constant battle for what she deserves. I told her I will get her there somehow, and I’m like that with all my children. If they want to do something and if I can get them there, I will do my best.”