I think we’ve found the right school. I’m gutted.

We think we’ve found the right school for our son, who is disabled and has special educational needs (SEN), and it goes against everything I believe in, because it’s a school for kids with SEND. (The head isn’t keen on using the ‘Special School’ title, and I like that, because I never describe my son as having special needs.)  

We’ve visited several schools now,(mainstream and special) and what’s become apparent is that the ‘special schools’ are expecting increasing numbers of students in the next couple of years. There could be different reasons for that – fantastic school with outstanding Ofsted? Increased birth rate? Huge housing development being built next door? No. I believe the main reason is that the removal of the ‘bias towards inclusion’ that Sarah Tether talked about a few years ago has taken root. The seed was planted, and the government tried to dig it up soon after but it was too late. There’s the other stuff like exam results, which might deter mainstream schools from wanting to take on pupils with SEND, but I think it’s far easier now for schools to get away with just not wanting to take kids like my son, but to package it in a way that makes it sound like they would do everything possible but the cuts etc, etc, etc.  

I go on Twitter and Facebook, and I get a good feel of the good, bad and ugly in the SEND world.  And whilst I’m an activist, with what I believe to be sound values and beliefs, I hate myself for deciding (jointly with my husband) that no amount of ‘fighting’ could get my son a good education at a mainstream secondary school. I just know that to find a mainstream secondary school willing to do the right thing for my son is like finding a needle in a haystack. (If any Headteachers from a mainstream secondary school within 15 mile radius of Standish could offer a truly inclusive school place to my son, please do get in touch!) 

I don’t want you to think I’m anti ‘special schools’. I’m not. I just believe all schools should just be schools, which can meet the needs of all its students. So when I tell people we’ve chosen a special school for our son, it’s not that I’ve suddenly changed my view and I’ve now ‘seen the light’, or that I’m no longer in denial about the level of my sons’ needs, or that I’ve actually started listening to people who’ve been right all along or that I now realise that mainstream schools just can’t meet my sons’ needs. It’s none of those. It is not my son’s fault. It’s simple: LAs are denying children and YP the opportunity to go to school in their community, with their peers from their community, because the provision is not there. There is no choice. And that is wrong. It’s probably unlawful.   

The school we think is the one is a lovely place. It’s modern, lots of space, accessible for wheelchair users, has great toilet/changing facilities. The kids are really keen on having a voice, being part of decision making, and a large number of them can speak. Even saying this makes me so angry though, because many schools don’t have the basics required for disabled people – wheelchair accessible and toilet/changing facilities and in a way I feel as though I’m ‘settling’ for something just because it has what others choose not to have. *

I think we’re kidding ourselves if we believe that schools being afraid of lower results/poor Ofsted scores is the main cause of hands being tied. I don’t think so. If all schools were proactive in their equality duties, it would send a clear message to all the bodies who are perceived to be the barriers to inclusion, that actually, schools want to admit kids like my son, and do it well, and to treat him like he belongs there, and ultimately meet their duties of equality, but they don’t. Some do, but too many don’t.  

Stop making excuses. Kids like my son are just not welcomed by far too many schools, and I can’t put him in a place like that. 

I need to be positive about this and I think my son will love the school. 

*I don’t want you to think I mean settling for an inferior option.  Not at all.  There are just no other options!!

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Categories: Uncategorized | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “I think we’ve found the right school. I’m gutted.

  1. I’m super glad you found a school and it sounds wonderful. But I do agree with you that it is not how it should be. I will be going on a similar journey shortly. Will the local Mainstream be willing to be flexible to allow my son to live and thrive in his local community with his neighbours? I honestly don’t know, but it is becoming increasingly unlikely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Starlight, I hope at least the ‘bedding in’ is complete in time for your son. That would be something! I just worry though that the progress made in SEND equality (which is not great but I thought was going in the right direction) will be totally lost in a couple of years time. Let’s hope for great inspections!! 😉

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  2. I’m glad your search is over. Our children don’t have the luxury of waiting for inclusion to happen, and we need to choose a placement which is the best fit now.

    Good luck! I’m sure you’ve made the right choice and your son will love it x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your support. You’re absolutely right, and you highlight how totally out of our kids’ control the current situation is. None of our kids are to blame for any of this, yet they are getting such bad press at the moment. So wrong. X

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  3. I honestly don’t know. There is a perfect Independent Special School but it is 90mins each way. That is 15 hours of my son’s life a week, plus the cost of the placement, plus the cost of transport. I have no doubt we could win the placement.

    But, 15 extra hours a week, and some of the transport money, and some of the placement money SURELY could go towards making the local Secondary work. But the HT and SENCO there has to be willing to say that, and absolutely willing to ‘take the side’ of the parent.

    What is likely to happen is the Local Sec will not work with the parents, but with the LA to try to prove that they can meet his needs within existing provision, without adaptations. That will give us no choice but to appeal for the Independent Special School place at great expense to us, the LA and the tax-payer.

    Totally silly!

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s bonkers! Majority of kids can walk to school, but there just aren’t the schools to meet our kids’ needs locally. It is such a stark difference, which I think would be easier to address than battling on all sides for a place which no one really wants. Thanks for sharing your situation. Good luck 🙂

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  4. Dee

    We are about to withdraw our son from mainstream. Not because he’s struggling academically, he loves learning and loves maths and literacy. We are withdrawing him simple because the school are not providing the support that he needs as detailed in his Statement. He is meant to have 25+ hours support per week. Yet the teacher comes to me and berates me over the fact he needs to learn to zip his coat or open his own water bottle. Difficulties with fine motor skills are part and parcel of his disability. they can’t spare him 10 seconds to zip up his coat or open his bottle, never mind 25+ hours. There are many other issues such as the withdrawal of his specialist TA. He now shares the class TA’s with 30 other children despite his Statement, and he gets so frustrated when no one is there to help. Since they withdrew his TA, he began self harming. We are having an awful time. Yet the LA and other bodies don’t want to know as it’s an academy. The head teacher and SENco are a complete waste of time and blame home, despite countless home visits by professions, who all conclude my son’s anxieties are school related. The SEN Statement I feel is free money for some schools, with no accountability as to how it is spent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s not good. I’m sorry your son is having to go through this (and you too). What really hurts is how it’s so often turned around to be the child’s issue. I think we’re going backwards, sadly. All the best, hope things get sorted X

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