By Helen Le Caplain
An autistic teen claims he’s been ‘thrown in the bin’ by a college who booted him off a course after a week – because tutors made an ‘error’ in enrolling him.
James Parker had been so excited about joining the ‘pathways’ course at City College Norwich that he told his mum he could cry ‘tears of happiness’.
However the 16-year-old was devastated when his mum Emma Parker was handed a letter on Friday [Sept 8] informing them he had been ‘enrolled in error’ – and demanding Emma ‘not to send James back to college’.
The youngster from Norwich, Norfolk, who wanted to pursue a career in engineering after college, started banging his head and crying when he heard the news.
Carer Emma, 40, said: “I was broken, my heart just breaks for the poor lad.
“I was handed the letter when I picked him up at 4pm and opened it there and then.
“When he found out what it said he started banging his head and crying – it was the end of his world.
“We thought college would be the making of him, he was over the moon to be going to college but now he’s had enough.”
James was accepted onto the City College Norwich pathways course after an hour-long interview in July where Emma claims his statement was fully disclosed.
But the letter Emma received on Friday revealed that a consultation had been carried out prior to his interview which said the college was unable to ‘provide the support required for James to have a successful year’.
Mum-of-two Emma said the blunder has left her son, who has autism and sensory and emotional difficulties, deeply upset.
Emma said: “He just kept crying when he heard the news – how dare they do this to my son?
“My eyes are stinging from the tears and sleepless nights I’ve had since Friday worrying about him.
“On that first day we had a picture of him beaming but now he’s had enough.
“Give the lad credit where credit’s due, I would have no enthusiasm in doing anything like that either.
“His dreams were crushed when it was all just taken away from him.
“He likes YouTubeing and gaming so wants to do something along those lines.”
James, who studied at a specialist school before leaving to embark on the college course, said: “I’m really upset, I feel that I’ve been thrown in the bin.”
The letter Emma received read: “Unfortunately, James has been enrolled in error at City College Norwich. Although an interview took place at the college, the tutor was unaware of a consultation which had taken place prior to the interview.
Norfolk County Council should have informed you of the outcome of this consultation, which was that the college was unable to provide the support required for James to have a successful year.
“The council should then have worked with you to find a suitable placement for James.
“Unfortunately, this process did not take place and James was enrolled in error on Monday 4th September.
“Norfolk County Council have asked if you could contact them directly to speak to the duty manager who will work with you to secure an alternative placement.
“We apologise that this error has taken place, and we ask you not to send James back to college but would like to wish James all the very best for the future.”
A City College Norwich spokesman said: “It is deeply regrettable that a young man with high support needs found himself in the position of having started college, only for his place to be subsequently withdrawn.
“As we are unable to meet James’s support needs this should not have happened and we offer our unreserved apologies to James and his family for the distress this has caused.
“Each year City College Norwich supports more than 300 students with Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), many of whom join our Supported Learning provision which is rated as Outstanding by Ofsted.
“Each application is carefully assessed in order to ensure that we are able to provide the right environment and support to meet the needs of each individual student.
“In March this year we conveyed our decision to Norfolk County Council that James needed a higher level of support and a different learning environment from that which the college is able to provide.
“Notwithstanding the family’s right to appeal that decision, this should have led to alternative provision being sought that could better meet James’s identified needs.
“However, a separate application for James was made direct to the college in July, effectively bypassing the EHCP consultation process.
“On the basis of the information that was available to our staff at the time, this led to a place being offered to James which was conditional on the right support and funding being available.
“As had been determined in March, the college had already assessed that we were unable to provide the level of right support and environment needed, but this only came to light when we cross-referenced enrolment and additional needs funding records.
“We are clear that this very unfortunate and isolated incident should not have happened. We are now reviewing our application processes to make sure that something like this cannot happen again.
“We are also working with Norfolk County Council to help find the right provision for James.”
A Norfolk County Council spokesman said: “We are very disappointed that this situation has come about because we have made repeated attempts over several months to speak to the family about James’s future.
“We remain very keen to work with James and his family to secure the best possible outcome for his education and urge them to respond to our offers of a meeting as soon as possible to talk through the options.”