Following on from my earlier post about Wigan council claiming that a group of families’ desire to raise awareness of failings in safeguarding procedures was politically motivated, I’m reminded of a couple of incidents during my short lived term as a parent governor at Wood Fold Primary School.
The first one happened during a full governing body meeting in an autumn term, where an item on the agenda was to decide who had what roles on the governing body. As I had quite a bit of experience of SEN, and I was an Advice Line Volunteer for IPSEA (https://www.ipsea.org.uk) I expressed an interest in being the governor for SEN. (This is how it went, you said what you fancied, and if the person who was already doing it didn’t want to do it any more, the job was yours -skills analysis was to be a thing of the future). The parent governor who had been doing the SEN governor role for the previous year said she wanted to carry on as she’d learned a lot and was enjoying it. She had no SEN experience as far as I knew. So I said ok, what about the governor for equality, that sounds just up my street? Again, considering I have the experience, certainly in the area of disability, but a passion for equality generally, it appealed to me. It was then, that one of the other governors asked ‘could it not be seen as a conflict of interest?’ [because you have a disabled son]. I said I believed equality was everyone’s responsibility. Later, when I thought about it more, I realised what she meant: the risk of ensuring the school met its equality duties to pupils, staff and the general community meant that people protected by the Equality Act 2010 might just be treated fairly and without discrimination. I can see now how that can be considered as a conflict of interest. Not.
The second incident happened in July 2013, at the governing body meeting where I am claimed to have brought the school into disrepute. (That’s for another time.) The LA had sent a memo out to all governors in Wigan advising them of the new SEN processes that were being followed from that September, as Wigan was a pathfinder council. I’d queried the information provided by the pathfinder Lead, that children who didn’t require a certain level of funding or one to one hours would have their statements ceased to be maintained, and I’d received a bizarre response, expressing delight that I agreed with the new process!! I raised concerns with the LA governor services that governors were being given duff information, and received a response along the lines of ‘not my problem’. So, back to the governing body meeting, I explained my concern that children would slip through the net and as a governing body we could be failing in our duty towards children with SEN if a statement was ceased for the reasons being spouted. At this point, the Chair of Governors asked me “so how does this affect you?”, seemingly implying that my son would be adversely affected by this illegal practice and that was my main concern.
What I can’t get my head around is why people are so despicable in thinking that a disabled child might receive something ‘better’ or ‘more’ than a child who doesn’t need extra support, and specifically relating to my position as a governor, how I could somehow get ‘perks’ that would advantage my son so much that it would disadvantage the other children.
More generally though, why is it that such unpleasant cynicism can be used to dismiss any form of positive action to ensure disabled children are not harmed, or that they receive the education to which they are entitled to and have a right to? Has equality really moved forward?