A SEDGLEY mum fears that if the council don’t get their act together fast her disabled son will miss a year’s schooling.

It’s four weeks since children went back to school but her autistic son, 14-year-old Xander Tonkinson, has been barred.

The youngster is among 16 children at Old Park School in Brierley Hill who cannot return in the current Covid situation because of their conditions.

In Xander’s case he has a tracheostomy – an artificial airway in his neck - which needs suctioning several times a day.

Dudley Council say the school, which serves children with severe learning difficulties, cannot do that safely under current health guidelines and that they are working on solutions to allow the affected children back as soon as possible.

To avoid it being a virus risk it would require a special room for the procedure and for staff to wear protective equipment.

Mum Janine Keppy says she has been told that risk assessments are being done and work is being carried out to install portable ventilators, but she still has no timeframe for when Xander will be able to return.

“I am at my wit’s end,” she said. “I’m normally pretty strong, but last week I just burst into tears.

“Next week will be thirty weeks since he was last in school. He really misses it and his friends.”

While Janine has been told there will be special support for him to catch up when he does return, she says he has had no educational support at home.

“Its really frustrating. I feel abandoned and ignored. They just keep saying they are ‘working on it’.

“If someone could just give me a rough timescale. But all I get is excuses.

“With cases rising and the possibility of another lockdown, I fear he will miss a year in school.”

The other Covid complication for Janine and partner Paul is that the pandemic has reduced the amount of respite support they can get.

Janine has taken the issue up with her MP but feels she is just ‘going round in circles.’

And the irony is, she says, is that the health authorities who issued the guidelines agree they were meant for hospital patients, not people in the community, and are not ‘fit for purpose.’

But that doesn’t change the fact that Xander and others like him remain barred from their school.

Councillor Ruth Buttery, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “While we cannot comment on individual cases, we are currently working with the school and health services to try and resolve matters as soon as possible. This is very much dependent on a solution from local health providers to ensure it is safe to carry out any procedures at the school.”