It all started one lovely December Friday afternoon in an Aberdeen Primary School, when middlie decided to not cope with the lunchtime hall at his new school. Maybe this is where it all actually ended, and perhaps you need to know a little more background than you already know to realise where I am coming from.
Lovely son has global learning difficulties. Fortunately (for us), but unfortunately (for him), he doesn’t look disabled, and he can hold a conversation with you. The ADHD in him allows him to talk quite fast, but it doesn’t always make sense and is mostly repetitive around his obsessions. He is uncomfortable in crowds, and dislikes change.
At 6, he was placed in a lovely special school. There were older children there, and he loved having them around. A disadvantage was that he learned the bad language that comes with older children in playgrounds these days, but without the fully functioning control tower in the brain. When it is over stimulated, it is often the first sign that he is struggling with anything. The general idea is that if you hear him start to swear, it’s time to take him away from whatever it is that his brain is not coping with. Not coping = brain going too fast = no control over mouth = swearing. It’s an easy pattern to detect.
The powers that be, decided to close their special school, and use the site their school was on to rehouse a mainstream school onto the land, in a new, purpose built, all singing, all dancing school that would be a mainstream with a large special needs contingent in it. It was a guinea pig experiment. The school I told you about in Part 1.
Those of us who had concerns were placated. We were told that special needs children could have their lunches in a quiet area, rather than in the 400 strong dinner hall. They couldn’t cope with the noise and clamour that usually ensues in a mainstream school. They were also housed in the same corridors as their mainstream equivalent children.
The reality has been quite overwhelming. Children who were coping in the special school environment, and who had sensory issues did not cope with the new and noisy school they were forced to be housed in. Over time, this has led to some special needs children beginning, or increasing undesirable behaviours when their anxieties rose. You can’t expect a child with autism and a fear of crowds to eat lunch in a hall with noisy mainstream children without any support, yet that is what they were expected to do.
Leaving out the part where my son was not allowed in the main playground in case he got over excited when he was playing, and might offend the mainstream children, he was also not allowed to go on outings in case he ran away from the staff.
The staff should have ensured they had enough adults on the trips to cope with the children they were looking after. A risk assessment would have been nice. Anyway, the only way they let him back on a trip was when I phoned up and said that if they only way he could join his class was for me to go, then I would go with them. Suddenly, he was allowed back the next trip!
It was a build up of things, but the final straw for me was getting a phone call one afternoon, almost at close of school time to come and help them get him out of the toilets. I was not prepared for what they did to him, and have since withdrawn him from school because of it.
After a busy lunch (that he can’t cope with – too many kids around), he and another boy managed to lock themselves in a toilet (after both apparently being supervised 1:1). They locked themselves in and refused to come out. The staff called teachers, Deputy Head and the Head. The toilets were in an internal cubicle, one of those that you COULD just unlock from the outside, whip them out and if necessary use safe hold until they manage to calm down.
Did they decide to do that?? Of course not, that would have been too sensible. It wasn’t something that the kids hadn’t done before, but the Head in her wisdom decided to take this day to make an issue of it.
The head teacher, in her “wisdom” decided to leave the two boys in the cubicle as if they unlocked the door from the outside, it might swing back and hit one of the teachers. For goodness sake, there were about 7 adults there, and she is saying that none of them could have held the door as it was opened to stop it swinging out??
The two boys, becoming agitated, began to feed off the situation and began to shout. They had a captive audience. Frustration meant they began to swear (allegedly, see end of post) and kick at the cubicle. For them, there was now no way out.
They were in that cubicle for about 2 hours. They eventually kicked the cubicle so much it began to shatter (2 x 9 year olds wearing plimsolls).
Some mainstream children had approached the scene in the afternoon and were sent to other toilets (take note of this).
Dad arrives on the scene and defuses it instantly.
The two children are excluded for damage to school property and for swearing. (neither would have happened if the situation had been managed properly)
I took it to appeal. HT had solicitor, and the panel are made to rule on the acts, nothing regarding the circmstances leading up to it are taken into account. HT treated it as if it was a war with someone winning at the end of it all. Nobody wins in these situations.
The education authority devised appeal panel upheld the exclusion. The letter stated that the panel were happy that the exclusion had taught the 2 boys a valuable lesson about their behaviour (uh huh. Just what about global learning difficulties and sensory issues do they not get?) As if he cares a fig about being excluded. It’s a holiday to him.
In the appeal, there was MASSIVE emphasis placed on the children who had heard some of it (the ones sent away who saw nothing from earlier), and how they needed to be counselled afterwards. I am led to believe now that it was a lie. I wish I had known that a few weeks ago.
I have no grief with potential that children who don’t have disabilities might have needed some suppor, but the fact is my son got NOTHING.
The head teacher told me she would take the same decision again in the future, and that is was a safe place for him to be. They also told me that they would not use safe hold as the children might come back in 15 years and sue them. Constant supervision, high handles on doors, staff who can de-escalate and diffuse – all not happening.
I refused to let him go back. He has been out of school now for 4 months, with no prospect of school again until August at a stand alone special school.
The school in queston received a dire HMIe Inspection Report at around the same time saying that the special needs children are not being treated with respect etc etc. The head teacher has only been there for a year, so they are blaming historic influences, despite these children managing at their previous school.
And I will leave you with this. At the appeal hearing, the panel asked the Head to give an example of the bad language and swearing that was being used…………………………
Are you ready for this……………………
“Well I think he was trying to call me a f***ing wh*re, but it came out as “Huffing Horse”.
He has brain damage. He was calling her a Huffing Horse, and that’s the end of it. Whats worse, is that the panel believed her. I will never ever be able to look at her straight in the face again without being tempted to say “neiiiiighh”, or “giddy up”.
I bet the solicitor in attendance didn’t note that down.