Following the release of the BBC programme Katie Price: Harvey and Me, which documented Katie Price’s journey as she researched the best options for her son as he turned 18, Kelly Hull, the Principal of Beechwood College in Penarth is urging Welsh parents in a similar position to follow in Katie’s footsteps and consider all the options available to them and their child.
Much like the college that Harvey hopes to join in Cheltenham in September, Beechwood College offers education to young adults with Autistic Spectrum Conditions, tailoring their provision to match each individual’s complex needs.
Ms Hull, who has worked at Beechwood for seven years, said: “For any parent, their child’s journey into adulthood can be a challenging and emotional time. However, as anyone who will have watched the documentary will have seen, for parents of young adults with complex needs, the choices they face can be incredibly daunting.
“The first thing I would say to any parents in Katie Price’s position would be to do as she did and research fully the options that are available for your child. Unfortunately, as the programme showed, sometimes the best option might not be local to your family. However, we are incredibly fortunate in Wales as there are numerous specialist colleges and provisions available here so for Welsh parents, hopefully there will be something that suits your requirements.
“What will have become clear watching Katie Price and Harvey meeting other young people with varying complex needs, is that each student will have very different aspirations and goals. These can range from the attainment of formal qualifications to the development of essential life skills and it is vital that you find something that fits closely with your own child’s abilities and needs.
“My next piece of advice, and I can’t stress this enough, is that once parents have decided where their child would be best placed, they shouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer when you put forward your placement request to your Local Authority. As was stated in the documentary, once a family selects a college, applications must be made to the family’s local authority. These are often turned down in the first instance because this level of specialist care can be costly. But the Local Authority has an obligation to provide the right level of support and, as was repeated a number of times in the programme by parents, ’you know your child better than anyone, if it doesn’t feel right for your child it probably isn’t right’.
“Unfortunately for parents of children with special educational needs, the reality is that they often have to then fight to get the best care for their children. We, and other providers like us, do all we can to support their case with the local authority but it can be a long, arduous process.
“I am so grateful to Katie Price and Harvey for helping to shine a light on the challenges that can be faced by families transitioning from school to college. I feel sure that Harvey will thrive in his new college setting and I hope that by watching the Price family’s journey, other families in similar positions realise that they aren’t alone and that there will be options out there for them and their loved ones as they move into adulthood.”
Beechwood College, which is well-respected for its education standards and outcomes, offers an integrated learning approach which involves the active participation of the education, clinical and residential teams. The college has both day and residential students and provides each student with a learning environment tailored to their specific needs.