I am struggling with what has happened to my son. I thought I did everything right – getting a statement, finding what I thought was a suitable special school and then helping him through his anxiety issues. I was so sure that I was doing the right thing by him that I am feeling totally shattered by the behaviour of his school; the school he says he loves so much. I am finding it confusing that he says he loves his school this much considering the indifference shown towards him. Perhaps the familiarity of the school is more important to him than the quality of the support? If this is the case it makes him particularly vulnerable to bad practices that may be going on in the school and which I may not know about.
What I do know is that communication between school and parents is poor. Even during our most difficult days when we were dealing with school refusal we have struggled to have any meaningful discussion with staff. I have been alone helping my son get back to school and even when I have succeeded no one has been there to help him settle into class. It has often been left to me but I did it because my son loved his school and I was determined that he should feel better and of course it worked. My son can now go to town, enter a coffee shop and enjoy himself. More importantly he can even travel slightly further from home without having a panic attack so our efforts have worked. I have to keep reminding myself of that.
Even so I am left asking what has actually been going on in school. Has he had so little support that he couldn’t do the work or were the lessons so mind boggling boring that he just switched off? Only the other day he said that he spent two hours doing nothing and that because he hasn’t done all his written work he can no longer complete the practical assessment. I found it so sad hearing him tell me he couldn’t do the practical work. This is the boy who loves hands on things but who is now denied this opportunity because no one has helped him to catch up or to complete the work. I haven’t got all the facts at the moment but what I don’t understand is why he can’t do the practical work anyhow. He may not be able to sit the formal assessments but surely he could do the task? I find it poor. I mean where’s the creativity? Where’s the flexibility? Where’s the will to make things happen for my son?
I don’t get it and yet the Ofsted report says it is a good school though interestingly in the report it states that pupils who receive the pupil premium make much more progress than those who don’t receive it. As many of you know, I am not a fan of the pupil premium because I think it’s discriminative against those who don’t receive free school meals (or who don’t wish to claim it). I know there are plenty of people who think the pupil premium is the next best thing to sliced bread. They would probably argue that the pupil premium is necessary to help level the playing field and to improve the prospects for children from poorer families. It’s hard to argue against that but we need to be mindful that there are SEN children not on FSMs who also need additional support, children like my son. (Conversely there may be children on FSM’s who don’t need it.) Either way I have to ask whether FSMs are a fair way of deciding who should receive additional support. Certainly in my son’s school it has become quite apparent that a number of other SEN pupils are receiving additional support. I am not sure how that support is delivered but it is somewhat galling to hear that other children are getting support whilst my son isn’t.
I know there will be people who will think it’s OK for people like me. They probably assume that children like my son come from a wealthy middle class family and thus don’t deserve extra support. Well unless you are extraordinarily well off (and I hasten to add I’m NOT) I don’t think its OK for most families in the UK who have disabled children. Services are stretched beyond recognition and its getting harder and harder to get support (or even an education) for our children. Many of us are forced to fight for services and while you may argue that people like me are lucky to be able to fight I would answer that just because I can doesn’t mean I should. Fighting for our children is exhausting and on top of everything else can place incredible strain on relationships and lives in general. This is not a life to be envious about, believe you me.
And yet it seems there are people who envy or even dislike children because of who their parents are. Only the other day I came across a mini film of a young person talking about their home education. It attracted a number of comments including several from those who clearly disliked the young person for coming from a middle class family who had the resources to devise such a programme. I found the comments quite appalling because it seemed to me that in the midst of their envy they forgot that here was a young person who should attract our respect and support. I mean they are our youth, the people who will one day run our world. Regardless of their social class, we should be supporting them all, not hating them because of who their parents are. Unfortunately it is something that I’m seeing a lot of within our education system; a palpable envy for the middle classes because it is assumed that they have the resources to get what they want. It was an attitude that was used against me when I first tried to get help for my son (you know the sort of attitude; pushy middle class mum who’s trying to get an autism diagnosis for her child and so obtain resources above everybody else). Yes that one!
Anyhow it feels as if this attitude is being used against me and my son again. I hope I’m wrong. I hope that because I’m feeling vulnerable that I have misread the signs. Unfortunately the more I read into my son’s situation the more it looks as though he has been unfairly denied support which could have prevented the dire situation we’re now in. Its been particularly hard to hear how our educational psychologist’s request for evidence from the school to possibly fund additional support was overlooked. Why? Was it an administrative error or did the school not think it important? Whatever the reason I won’t give up. I will try and remedy the situation through the official complaints process.
PS I have just come across a document that has detailed the supports funded by the pupil premium at my son’s school. These include help with self esteem, anxiety, social skills and managing emotions, the very issues that my son needs help with but can’t access. Is it any wonder that I am so upset. Surely a special school should be providing every pupil with autism this sort of help and not just those who qualify for pupil premium.