A charity has warned of possible “unwanted outcomes” after autistic twin brothers were allocated places at two different schools.
Jasper has been offered a place at Hob Moor Oaks School, in York, leaving Reuben to attend a mainstream primary.
The four-year-olds’ parents, Pete and Rhiannon, are taking their case against City of York Council to a tribunal.
Ahead of the hearing, Twins Trust said separation could cause psychological issues “for years to come”.
In a statement, Shauna Leven, chief executive of Twins Trust, said: “In the vast majority of cases, separation of multiples into different schools against their will can bring about unwanted outcomes for all concerned. The psychological effect of separation can create problems for years to come.
“Often twins like Reuben and Jasper are together from birth, then throughout nursery school. They become emotionally dependent on each other and can be distressed when separated.
“We strongly urge decision makers to find ways to allow families to be at the centre of decision-making regarding their school placement.”
Ms Leven added it was “preferable” for children “to have as much time as possible to prepare for transition to primary school”.
Both boys are non-verbal and have Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) detailing “significant” difficulties.
City of York Council has told the family that Hob Moor Oaks School is “over-subscribed” but has previously pledged to work with the family to find “suitable provision” for Reuben.
Subject to a ruling to the contrary from next month’s tribunal panel, Reuben will attend a mainstream primary that adjoins the special school.
Pete and Rhiannon said their sons’ consultant paediatrician has also submitted a letter of support for the tribunal.
Former special needs teacher Pete said: “Although Jasper and Reuben would technically be under the same roof the provision would be very different. One is a special school; the other is a mainstream primary school.
“They are identical twins with the same needs. Since Jasper was offered his place in January, it’s been really stressful. It’s caused a lot of sleepless nights.”
Meanwhile, York Central MP Rachael Maskell said she had met with a senior council official last week to discuss the case.
She said she understood the family’s concerns but added there is “a shortage of SEND [Special Educational Needs and Disability] provision” in York and North Yorkshire.
Martin Kelly, City of York Council’s corporate director of Children and Education, said: “The allocation of special school places always takes account of the circumstances of individual children, and where children are in enhanced resource provision or in mainstream provision this is considered by the admissions panel with school places allocated on this basis.
“In common with local authorities nationally, York has seen a significant increase in parental requests for special school places since 2020. We are addressing this increase by implementing capital plans which both increase specialist and enhanced resource provisions, and support appropriate adaptations in mainstream education.”
The Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal is expected to hear the case on 14 September.
By Kevin Shoesmith