A Swindon mother is joining a national campaign after she ‘hit rock bottom’ trying to give her son an education.

Parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) will be taking part in a rally this October calling for change.

SEND Reform UK is an organisation holding regional protests to demand system reform, so that SEND children can access education that meets their needs.

Rachael Edwards, a mother from Swindon, is just one of the campaigners who has faced unimaginable struggles trying to educate her son.

“I have two neurodiverse children, and I am also neurodiverse myself, so it's extremely important for me to make sure that my children have access to education appropriate for their needs,” she said.

Swindon Advertiser: Rachael Edwards will be joining the rally this autumn, after battling the system for years.Rachael Edwards will be joining the rally this autumn, after battling the system for years. (Image: Rachael Edwards)

Rachael first became frustrated with the system when she tried to enrol her now seven-year-old son Mason into school in Swindon.

“Mason was diagnosed as a SEND child at age two and he was hardly speaking,” she said.

“We were able to get an EHCP (educational plan) before he went to school and so I thought ‘you know what? I've nailed this. He’s been diagnosed and I've got an EHCP so I’ve done everything I’m supposed to.’

“I really thought he was going to go into school with support,” she added.

The reality was very different, as Rachael was told that her son couldn’t attend a SEND school because there were no spaces, and instead had to enter him into the mainstream system at Millbrook Primary School.

“The school tried their best to cater to Mason's needs and support us, but they just didn’t have the funding to meet his needs. He was given band three funding when he started, which is basically the lowest level of funding that a SEND child can receive.

“It guaranteed him hardly any additional support in school, which is nothing for a child who should have never even set foot in a mainstream school,” she explained.

The impact that this had on Rachael’s neurodiverse son was catastrophic.

“He did year one for not even a couple of months, and his speech deteriorated. He became non-verbal, dropped two kilos of weight and was showing signs of depression. I’d have to carry him in screaming,” she said.

“We were rejected from CAMHS three times and we had to go to tribunal to get his speech and language therapy specified in his EHCP. We did everything to try and get the right provision for him,” Rachael explained.

The distraught Swindon mother was eventually forced to pull her son Mason out of the school, almost losing her job in the process.

“My emotional and my mental health was at rock bottom trying to fight the system."

Rachael’s son is now educated at home, funded by an EOTAS (Educated Otherwise Than At School) package – but she believes he shouldn’t have to be.

“We're so so lucky and grateful for it, don't get me wrong. 

"The local authority were very supportive of our school rejection issue, we had a great caseworker, and Millbrook Primary School did nothing but try to help and support us when we had to pull Mason out of school - but it shouldn’t have gotten that far," she said.

“He should get the opportunity to go to school and be with peers and have friends. There should be a provision that can meet his needs."

Now Rachael and her fellow campaigners are asking for exactly that, a change to the system of education for SEND children.

“It's a broken system, and we're just a handful of people but every story is just heart wrenching," she added.

The protest will be taking place in Bath on Friday 13 October between 11am-2pm in Abbey Square, and Rachael has urged other parents and supporters to come and support the cause.

The Link Academies Collaborative Trust, which runs Millbrook Primary School, and Swindon Borough Council have been contacted for comment.