Why a mum and son are living in a caravan to attend Ingfield Manor special needs school near Billingshurst

A Dorset mum and her seven-year-old son are living in a caravan Monday to Friday to allow the youngster to attend special needs school Ingfield Manor.

Dr Helen Hunt and son Wilf, who has quadriplegic cerebral palsy, have spent term-time weekdays for the past two years living on a campsite 120 miles away from the family home, because she was unhappy with the standard of education he was receiving from their local specialist school.

After appealing to Dorset Council, Wilf, who also has global developmental delay (GDD), is non-verbal and has severe learning difficulties, was awarded a place at Ingfield Manor in Five Oaks. Ingfield Manor School follows a Conductive Education curriculum which focuses on developing the potential of each individual.

Since attending the school, which was recently rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted, Wilf has shown significant improvements in his capabilities and is noticeably happier at the end of the school day.

Dr Helen Hunt and son Wilf, who has quadriplegic cerebral palsy

The council’s funding for Wilf’s place is reviewed annually, and both the family and the school wish for his education to continue at Ingfield Manor, despite the unusual living situation.

Helen said: “Life in a caravan is challenging. I have to top up my water supply each day, dispose of my waste water and empty my toilet. Showering in a caravan is a bit of a squeeze and washing a child with cerebral palsy is even more awkward.

“For Wilf, and for many other cerebral palsy children, adequate educational provision is the difference between learning to use a spoon or eating with hands, it’s the difference between learning to support his own weight when transitioning from his wheelchair to a toilet rather than having the house kitted out with hoists.

“It is the difference between him learning life skills that parents of neurotypical children take for granted, or him retreating further and further into a world where I, his mum, cannot reach him.

“I’m delighted with Wilf’s progress at Ingfield and I just hope he can continue to attend until he finishes school. He’s animated and excited when I pick him up, he can use cutlery and walk through parallel bars, and loves listening to everything from The Beatles to Johnny Cash. The school has been amazing for him.”

Nicola Dodds, principal at Ingfield Manor School said: “At Ingfield Manor, we support students with multiple neurological motor impairments, and we understand how important it is to have a tailored educational plan to suit each individual child.

“Wilf has joined the school under quite unusual circumstances, and we commend his Mum and Dad – Julian, for fighting so hard to get him the educational opportunities he deserves.

“We will continue to support Helen and Julian every time they are required to make the case to the council for Wilf attending Ingfield Manor.”

Ingfield Manor School is managed by specialist education provider Ambito Care and Education, part of the Salutem Care and Education group.