Read disabled Sunderland youngster’s emotional letter asking for a special school place

Chloe Errington wants to attend Barbara Priestman Academy.
Chloe Errington wants to attend Barbara Priestman Academy.

The family of a Wearside youngster is fighting for a special school place for their disabled daughter.

Despite her struggling with cerebral palsy and being autistic, Chloe Errington’s parents were left shocked when Sunderland City Council told them she couldn’t have a secondary place at a school for youngsters with special needs.

Chloe Errington has written a letter to education bosses asking for a special school place.

Chloe Errington has written a letter to education bosses asking for a special school place.

Instead, despite having endured ten operations on her feet and regularly needing to use a wheelchair, the 11 year-old Houghton girl has been told she must go to mainstream Biddick Academy, which has an autism unit.

Mum Gemma Errington, 33, said she was stunned when the local authority told her Chloe could not have a place at Barbara Priestman Academy, in Meadowside, or any other special school.

A council chief told the Echo that an appeals process was ongoing and that it would look to work with the family to take Chloe’s needs into account.

Gemma said: “We just couldn’t believe it. Chloe has just about managed through mainstream primary, but it has been a struggle and she gets one to one help. There is no way she can cope in a mainstream secondary school. It’s not fair on her, she has enough problems to deal with, without this.”

It’s not fair on her. She has enough problems to deal with, without this

Gemma Errington

Chloe, who was born prematurely at just 27 weeks into her mum’s pregnancy, has even written a letter herself to the local authority asking to go to Barbara Priestman.

Gemma said: “Chloe is very unsteady on her feet and walks with sticks, she has to use her wheelchair a lot and someone has to push it. When we went for a visit to Biddick, she was absolutely exhausted because it is so big to get around.”

The worried mum, who lives in Brinkburn Crescent with Chloe’s dad, David Simm, 35, and their younger daughter, Abigail, two, said when Chloe has undergone surgery, which she will need again shortly, she can’t even use the toilet herself.

Because of her autism, Chloe finds is very difficult to mix with other people and she also suffers from anxiety and OCD.

Gemma said: “As she is getting older her condition is getting worse and she just can’t keep up.

“This situation is so stressful for all of us. It is horrendous when someone is deciding what’s best for your child when they haven’t even met her. We know what is best for Chloe.

“I feel they want her to go to a mainstream school because it is the cheaper option, but as parents our main priority is Chloe. No parent worth anything would just sit back and watch their child suffer.”

Sunderland City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, Councillor Louise Farthing, said: “The appeals process is ongoing, and we will continue to work closely with the family to take Chloe’s individual needs into account.

“It would not be appropriate to comment any further until that process is complete.”


In her letter to Sunderland City Council urging them to let her have a place at Barbara Priestman Academy, Chloe said:

“I want to go to this school because it would be my very own life-changing experience, and would make my life a whole lot easier.

“Barbara Priestman also has very cool rooms where I can do physio and hydrotherapy, which every autistic child can enjoy for as long as their life can live. If everyone went to their very own perfect school, think about how happy they would feel.

“Also, if I DID go to Biddick, my legs would be absolutely knackered. They have stairs all over the place and I DO NOT want to use the lift because I don’t know how to use it.

“Barbra Priestman has a hydrotherapy pool, which I would really enjoy. I wouldn’t just love that, I would love all the activities they have to offer. Pet daycare, ICT, etc. I also need a teacher who takes care of me and notices when its hard for me. (People don’t really notice when im struggling, sometimes they don’t listen and I never ask for help throughout my life).

“I would also really make lots of new friends. (I don’t really have any.) And I would be the same as everyone else.

“So I really hope you all understand why I don’t want to go to Biddick.

“We are all counting on you guys to agree with all of us. If you would, I would really appreciate it. Chloe, 11.”