Travesty of the SEN system – part four

In our desperate quest to find schooling for our aspergers daughter we have been forced to look  at schools further and further away from home.  This is what happens when there are no school places in your home town and no one has the will or otherwise to create places.  Officialdom are quite happy to send disabled children miles and miles away, irrespective of whether its ‘right’ for the child or the family.

And so, over the last few months we’ve been looking at schools on and off the internet.  One school we visited was a special school that focused on teaching pupils from across the autism spectrum.  It was located half an hour’s drive from home (doable) and held great promise (autism trained teachers).  Indeed, as soon as we walked in and chatted to the staff and other parents on the ‘school tour’ I immediately felt a great sense of solidarity.  It was quite something.  It felt like I had found my community, something that has been missing from my life for so long.

Unfortunately our sense of belonging was undermined by the tour leader’s prep talk on the ‘pupil premium’.  She clearly had a duty to tell us that children on free school dinners would receive extra support not least because some of us on the ‘tour’ may have had children that qualify.  Even so it was obvious that the teacher was uncomfortable telling us and it was also notable that our group had descended into a stony silence.  Why?  Were parents embarrassed that they could be singled out for more help or did they feel disappointed that their children wouldn’t qualify?

I don’t mind telling you that I felt the latter.  In fact I felt pretty crap that my children, through no fault of their own, would receive less support than those on free school meals.  I don’t decry the support offered to poorer families but I found it hard to hear that my daughter who has had such a miserable time of it wouldn’t get much needed one to one.  In the area of SEN and disability I think it is wrong to allot resources like this.  To focus on one group of children above others I think leaves us in danger of perpetuating the very problems that Clegg and co are trying to address.

Take my son for instance.  He has become disengaged from education because its too difficult for him to learn without one to one support.  Now he suffers severe anxiety (possibly depression) and his life has become more and more restrictive to the home.  This is not a life any young person should have and it troubles me greatly as to what will happen to him in the future.

Not surprisingly, what started as a hopeful visit ended up with me feeling that, yet again, the state education system was discriminating against my children.  A hopeless, sickening feeling.

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6 Responses to Travesty of the SEN system – part four

  1. That is a totally new one on me. Can I just check I have understood it right… people who get fsm get more support? In just that school or all over the country?

    • Aspie in the family says:

      As far as I am aware, children on FSM are entitled to pupil premium, an extra amount of money that can be used for additional support. So the question is should FSM be used a criteria for getting additional support when there are children who aren’t on FSMs (like my daughter) who would also benefit from more support? Conversely should we assume that all those on FSM’s need that additional support? Aren’t we in danger of labelling and stigmatising those on FSMs? Whilst there is a correlation between poverty and poor educational performance I don’t believe this is the right way to target support. It also makes a mockery of education that we have to do this. Surely if there is sufficient support in the first place, for everyone, we shouldn’t have to target those on FSM’s?

  2. Sue says:

    I know that hopeless, sickening feeling.

    @Karen: There’s a positive correlation between low income families and poor school performance. All kinds of reasons why that should be, but governments seem determined not to understand correlations and use free school meals as a convenient proxy for needing additional support. Ironic, when you think that they’ve designed the *education* system.

  3. Jen says:

    The local authorities allocate pupil premium based on a matrix of several things, the biggest and most important of which is Free School Meal entitlement. This is also how the SEN funding will be allocated, and has been allocated, since April 2013.

    • Aspie in the family says:

      … which leaves a situation where the state is happy to positively discriminate and leave other vulnerable pupils with a lesser quality of education. As I said, I’m for ALL vulnerable people having support but when it is being rationed like this then I am not sure this is the right way to go. Aren’t we going to create a divided system where those who don’t get the extra help look on with envy of those who do plus (more worryingly) are some groups going to feel labelled and possibly stigmatised for being on FSM’s.

      All I can say is that when you’re at the receiving end of this discriminative policy, it hurts, it hurts big time, particularly when your children have disabilities and have not received an appropriate education in all the time they’ve been children.

  4. Karen says:

    What on earth does qualifying for free school meals have to do with the need for extra support or not? What a crazy and really wrong assumption to make about people on a lower income – that’s rather insulting. Yes, sometimes it is true that people from lower income backgrounds might not have (had) access to certain areas of support, but not necessarily, and to assume that those who don’t qualify for financial assistance somehow don’t need the support in other ways is frankly astonishing in it’s short-sightedness.

    So sorry and disappointed for you :-(

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