A FATHER said his disabled daughter returns home from school ‘dead to the world’ after enduring a round-trip that can take more than three hours.

Sophia Wilson, 10, was placed in a special school near Reading after Oxfordshire County Council told her parents there were no other suitable places available.

The Abingdon youngster, who has learning difficulties and motor delay caused by rare Smith-Magenis syndrome, is eligible for free transport but shares a taxi with five others – meaning she has to leave home at 7.15am and often does not return until 5.30pm.

Read more: Parents take children out of school due to special needs concerns

Her dad Paul Wilson, 47, said the family accepted the place after a council officer told them the trip would take 40 minutes.

In fact, with the traffic and other pick-ups, he said it is closer to an hour and 45 there and back.

Mr Wilson said: “She is absolutely dead to the world when she gets home, all she wants to do is flake out and sleep.

“It’s a scandal that the council seem to think it’s acceptable that a 10-year-old child should have to sit for nearly three hours a day in a taxi, because there are not enough special school places.”

In an email to Mr Wilson a council officer said the journey time would be ‘approximately 40 minutes,' adding that closer schools had wait lists for spaces.

In January a county council report highlighted an 'urgent need' to increase special school provision, stating that by 2022 the county will need an additional 400 places for children with special needs.

Read more: Council pledges to improve special school provision

Sophia had previously been at a mainstream primary school in Abingdon, but her parents felt her needs would be better met at a special school.

Her mum Svetlana Wilson said: “Sophia is completely isolated as all her school friends live far away. She does not have real friends and she’s struggling a lot because of it.

“It breaks our hearts.”

She said they have no issue with the actual education Sophia gets, but they never would have accepted the place knowing the journey would be so long.

When initially arranging transport in 2015, a council officer emailed Mr Wilson confirming that having alternative drop-off addresses for Sophia would be ‘OK in principle’ provided they were fairly close to her home address.

For three years Sophia’s taxi was allowed to drop her off at her childminder’s if her parents were at work, until she switched childminder last year and tried to change the address.

At that point, the family were told that it was council policy to not drop off at any other address other than the home address.

They appealed this decision just before Christmas, but were not successful.

Mr Wilson said either he or his wife could now have to cut their working hours to ensure they are home to meet Sophia.

He said they had played ‘departmental tennis’ as they were passed from the council's special needs coordinator to the transport team and admissions team with no clear idea of who was responsible for what.

The father-of-one added: “I dread to think how many examples there are out there, I think we are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s just been one disaster after the other.

“These are very vulnerable kids and they deserve better than the service being provided.”