Jonathan Wainwright, of Wath-upon-Dearne, is one of the campaigners at Barnsley SEND Matters and one of his three children, nine-year-old William, attends the special school Greenacre on Keresforth Hill Road, Kingstone.
Before lockdown, the school day was 9am until 3.30pm but, since the new school term started, pupils who are dropped off at school by their parents or caregivers have lost an hour of school time - with their hours reduced to 9.30am until 3pm to reportedly stop congestion.
Jonathan told the Chronicle: “The school has cut hours down for education and that just hasn’t happened at all in mainstream schools - they’ve just staggered the starting times.
“My son is losing five hours every week because he’s not taking the public transport, which we were encouraged not to do, and over the entire school year he’s set to miss out on 190 hours.
“And with the way Covid is going there’s no reason to believe that anything is going to change.”
Jonathan has three children and each of them attends a different school, meaning that collecting all of them can be quite hard due to finishing times.
When it was announced that William would have to finish school at 3pm, Jonathan and the nine-year-old’s mum realised they wouldn’t be able to pick him up on two days of the week - so they asked if they could send someone else to pick him up at 3.30pm.
This was subsequently turned down as it would reportedly increase congestion around school finishing times - but even when the offer to walk on to premises was made, the school kept its stance.
“We can do eight out of the ten journeys every week, it’s just Tuesday and Wednesday evenings when we can’t,” he added.
“We’re being encouraged to take the kids to school because we’re given 60p per mile so not as many children are on public transport.
“Essentially the school can’t meet his needs and so they have effectively excluded him by sending him home early because we can’t pick him up.
“I’ve been in contact with the local authority and they’ve been trying to do something but there’s been a ‘blanket policy’ put in place by Wellspring Academy Trust.
“It’s starting to get to the point where it’s their way or the highway.”
Coun Margaret Bruff, cabinet spokesperson for children’s services, said: “We understand that managing the safe drop-off and pick up of pupils is challenging for the school in the current circumstances.
“To facilitate this, Greenacre School have asked parents transporting their own children, to do so in a way that helps avoid the congestion, caused by a greater than usual number of taxis, cars and minibuses.
“Greenacre is the largest special school in Barnsley and the arrangements have been introduced temporarily to protect the safety of very vulnerable pupils.
“Wellspring Trust have assured the council that the current arrangements will be kept under review and only in place for as long as is necessary.
“I would encourage parents who have concerns about these adjustments to speak with the school about their individual arrangements.”
A spokesperson for Greenacre School added: “In common with every school in the country we have had to make some adjustments to manage Covid safely.
“The overwhelming majority of our parent and carer body understand the situation and are supportive.
“These are challenging times for all of us but, as always, the welfare of our young people is fundamental to our decision-making.”