I am a firm believer that a school only meets the needs of a child, if the child is enabled to be fully included in the life of that school. I have discussed in a previous article how so many children end up in unsuitable school environments leading to unnecessary stress, anxiety and heartache.
Now I want to look at one way that both mainstream and SEN schools are “meeting needs”.
There are many, many autistic children and children with Sensory Processing Difficulties who are “attending” certain schools, yet in reality are on reduced timetables or even being educated at home, by tutors provided by the schools for a couple of hours a week. This is not, in my opinion, meeting a child’s needs! If a child is so stressed due to their school environment that they can not cope for longer than an hour a day or even at all then they are clearly in the wrong environment.
The arrangement of leaving children at home for all or most of the day sends far too many negative messages to that child and their family. It leaves families struggling financially with parents unable to work. It leaves children feeling unwanted, uneducated and like they aren’t good enough for school.
Section 13A of the Education Act 1996 places a general duty on LEA’s to promote “the fulfilment of every child concerned of his or her educational potential“
Article 23 – Rights of Disabled Children paragraph 2 , states “Recognising the special needs of a disabled child, assistance extended in accordance with paragraph 2 of the present article….shall be designed to ensure that the disabled child has effective access to, and receives, education, training, health care services, rehabilitation services, preparation for employment…..in a manor conductive to the child’s achieving the fullest possible social integration and individual development“.
Special educational provision 6.19 says “children with disabilities are entitled not to be discriminated against in the provision of education and associated services, and not to be refused admission to, or excluded from, a school for reasons relating to their disability“
I know a child who, at the age of 15, has attended school for half a day a week for the last year. She has a tutor sent from the school for a few hours a week. She is academically very bright and would have been able to take her GCSEs but isn’t being put in for any because she literally has not been taught enough. Believe it or not, this child is registered at a SEN school that is “meeting her needs”. She was moved there when it eventually transpired she couldn’t cope in the mainstream high school that, according to the LEA assessment team who never met her, also “met her needs”. There is a SEN school ten minutes from her house that her mum has been trying to get her into for three years. This school costs more than the one she is registered at.
I know another child who went three years of his primary education with no school because three different mainstream primary schools were “meeting his needs” so well he had to leave each of them in turn. He now attends a SEN high school that’s properly meeting his needs. He is however three years behind academically. The school he is at now also has Primary age classes.
I know children, including my own, who were isolated from their peers at school, sent home for lunch, only allowed in school two hours a day, banned from school trips and excluded from class activities. They attend schools that apparently meet their needs.
None of these children are meeting their potential academically. None of them are achieving the fullest possible social integration and individual development. Many of them are depressed, suicidal and insecure.
All of them are being failed by a system set up to help them.
I personally, to this day, can not understand how someone I didn’t know, who had never met my son or listened to a word I said about him, decided that a completely inappropriate school could meet his needs. I can not understand why I had to fight to get my son into a school that could so obviously meet his needs in every way possible. I know I am not alone in this.
I want to beg the LEA’s and say please, please, start pairing children with the right schools. Don’t pair them with the cheapest place that says they can “meet needs” based on a half an hour observation or a piece of paper. Instead pair children with the schools where they can thrive, be happy, achieve and succeed!
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