I have children with special needs. Two manage in a mainstream setting with some extra support, but one has more pronounced special needs, and more difficulty managing in daily life. I was forced into a mainstream nursery place when he was three, but they couldn’t cope with him. I fought for him to start off his school life within a stand alone special school, and from 2007 onwards school life was fabulous until mid April 2010.
Fast forward to today, and my child now has had no school since the beginning of December 2010. Just what could have gone so wrong in those seven and a half months - when you remember that nearly three of those months were holidays or in-service days ?
We are schooled under the Scottish State System, which means there are no statemented hours for any child with a disability, whether it’s diagnosed or not. Yes, they have their “rights” to have provisions made, but the education authorities are quick to tell us that their actual duty is simply to provide a school place, and extra support “within their means” to support any children with additional support needs. Actually, providing the legal duty is less than you might realise. The morals of it are quite different.
My child initially attended a fantastic stand alone special school, which suited him and other children down to a tee. The authorities decided to take that school away (and the land that had been donated for use by the disabled population) and join the school with a mainstream school who would accept the children from the special school within the walls. The powers that be pretended it was the merger of two schools, but it was never to be that way. The children from the special school lost their identity as the new school had parents of power. They peititioned and pestered for their school name to remain instead of starting a “new” school with a “new” name when the two schools were merged.
I can see it now, that the special school parent population were bullied by the authorities, and by the mainstream parents who only had the “status” of their original school uppermost in their minds. Not ALL the mainstream parents were like that, and some were supportive of our predicament, but the outspoken ones of influence could really do as they pleased. There were newspaper campaigns galore over them keeping their name for the new school. Many parents from the mainstream population were so sure that they were in the “right” that they assumed the parents, children and staff of the special school would bow to their demands as the “superior” rights that they had.
I even had one influential parent telling me that the discussion and outrage surrounding the name was silly, and I assumed that she meant that it should be a new name made up of the two schools. Not so – she wanted me to sign up to the fact that the special needs parents were in support of the mainstream name moving onto the new site once the school opened.
For the sake of peace, special needs parents decided to hold their heads up high and not stoop to the same pathetically juvenile tactics that we were subjected to. Every concern we raised was set to the side and we were assured that it would all be ok. When the doors opened, the mainstream school reputation kept its traditions, and the special needs children lost their identity.
We were promised that the environment for our children would remain static, but sadly many children could not cope with the move from a small special school into a building with 4 – 500 noisy mainstream children – who will be children at the end of the day. Yes, there are many comments made to the special needs children which are ignored, or denied, and while they are inappropriate and upsetting, they are also what many of our children have to deal with in daily life. It’s not good enough, but it happens and we can live with that.
Forcing special needs children who cannot cope with crowds into a mainstream environment is the biggest issue. The promised quiet rooms for lunch never appeared. The promised separate lunchtimes that might be needed never appeared.
The HMie report was scathing and showed a lack of respect for special needs pupils. This was not a surprise to some of us and despite some absolutely wonderful individual teachers and support, it was a huge reflection on the fact that the management staff were trying to force special needs children into an environment that they were not suitable for. The idiotic belief that all children should be treated the same is denying the fact that there are differences between the needs and learning of ALL children.
Is it surprising that children who struggle with life and need consistent routines and boundaries struggle to live with this enormous change to their daily lives? It’s certainly not rocket science to know that if you have a child who is behaving badly at being forced into such a busy environment, and that the same child coped in the previous special school environment, that it is not the parents or the disability that is at fault – it is the change of school, the environment, or how they are being treated.
Who are the bullies?
The “bullies” are certainly not who I would have imagined when children were integrated or “included” within a mainstream setting. Make your own minds up, but when a disabled child is excluded for showing symptoms of their disability and no-body, but no-body stands up for them, then there is something far wrong going on within the authority.
Yes – I may receive a cease and desist letter as a result of this - they certainly have plenty of money for solicitors and I have been keeping what has been going on quiet for many months in the trust that something would be sorted out for my son who could not cope there. I believe there are some changes that are being made in the school, but they were too late for my son.
Part 2 tomorrow will be my sons own story, and shows how he came to be out of school.
Why have I decided to post this? Well, that is easy now that I have decided. I have been talking to many many parents in similar predicaments to mine and most are too scared to tell their story. Perhaps reading about it might help just one more person to know that they are not alone.