Please don’t patronise me – the verdict

3 Jul


So, here I am! Obviously not in prison but still feeling somewhat drained of every emotion in my body.

Please read my last post which will explain in more detail my reasons for writing this.

Basically, I was taken to court for my daughters school attendance which was said to be 80% (is now 95%). This wasn’t the first time! I’ve experienced this before as my last post explains I’ve been twice before. Having a child with special educational needs and Aspergers who refuses to attend school and when he does, he finds himself excluded as his needs can not be met, doesn’t seem to fall into the statutory requirements of “Special circumstances” and both times I was fined. As explained in yesterday’s post I was going to court this time for Alice. To be honest I was fuming as she is a child who has missed so much school in the past due to late nights (having a big brother who kicks of throughout the night isn’t easy) as well being made late when little man required all my attention of a morning only to refuse to leave the house. There are many other reasons as well as different parts that make up this story but as mentioned you can read yesterday’s post, I’m just to emotionally drained to go into it again today.

Well, Alice’s attendance went right up as little man started attending an independent special school and got transport half an hour earlier than Alice needed to leave. I also allowed her that bit of independence when allowing her to walk the two minutes to get to school alone.

Sadly during October to the end of Feburay Alice got every bug going. She also had a bad urine tact infection that made her attendance fall to 80%

Letters were written by myself and passed to the school. I even rang and emailed to cover my own backside. The current receptionist sent me back home with Alice on at least four occasions when I turned up with her reporting she had been sick during the night but felt well enough to attend (school policy I’m told). So can you imagine my horror at discovering the school and that of the attendance and welfare officer (AWO) were claiming these absences were actually unauthorised and I’d needed sick notes! The twist here was I’d signed a consent form which allowed the school to contact my doctors as they don’t like to write sick notes for schools.

I was fuming that I was going to court especially given the fact of our history and the reasons behind the erratic attendance of my son.

I went to look through my daughters school records and found most of the evidence needed to prove I’d been communicating. The rest just seemed to be amiss somewhere!

I defended my own case. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust a solicitor to do it better I just didn’t have the time required to get one. I was nervous but filled with anger, it’s the latter that keep me going.

If I was found guilty of the charge I was up for s444 (1A) then it was a very high fine or prison sentence I would be looking at receiving. Being up twice before it would seem the LEA wanted the latter, given they had made the point known that they didn’t think any of the other options were suitable for me (you know given I’m not a good “communicator” and all that)!

I had gotten to the point where I just felt victimised by my daughters school and that of the LEA. I had battled them both for years and won a discrimination case against them. I guess I just assumed that given little man had now left to attend a special school we could forget it and move on. God I was trying to lose any bitterness (and I had a lot to lose, why couldn’t they?)

I was most angry by the fact that my daughter had been sent home yet the register stated no reason was given for her absence. This was for more than 4 occasions. I was also fuming that the attendance print out that was sent to the court differed from the print out I had received from reception. This one had the reasons I had given for my daughters absence printed underneath each absence (you know them reasons I hadn’t given)!

The prosecutor who I understand was just doing her job was something of a bitch which I guess makes her ideal for the role. During the hearing I mentioned that I had won a discrimination case and how my child has SEN and Aspergers, I wanted it noted that the school seemed to be acting bitter towards me. The prosecutor just rolled her eyes and for a minute I felt like shaking the ignorance out of her. I just about held it together!

One thing that shocked me was they had a witness. This wasn’t made known to me and I felt cheated when she gave evidence. She was said to be in a Senior position within the LEA’s attendance and welfare departments.

I hadn’t received a letter about the pre court meeting which was organised by this women (someone I have never met) as soon as they wrote telling me I hadn’t bothered to show and was going to court I called her right up. She wasn’t there so I left a message explaining I never got the letter and could she call me back.

Of course she didn’t and I called my AWO who had prised Alice’s attendance and promised to find out why the receptionist wasn’t logging the reasons behind the absences including the times she was sent home. We spoke for 36 minutes but it would seem nothing was documented for court. Once I received the court summons I phoned her again daily… I’ve been ignored for months!

Now this witness was telling the court how I left a message saying I’d forgot about the meeting. My blood was boiling.

I had questions for her but she just answered in a way that displayed ignorance and the lies continued.

The court were a tad shocked when I produced the letters I had written to the school, ones I had taken from my daughters records. They also wanted to know why they hadn’t been given the attendance record that I had obtained the day before from the school. Of course they save some other crap excuse.

I really did just about hold it together! Having someone ask you if you understand how important it is for your child to receive an education, especially when you do what I do is pretty frustrating. After all I really can not help it if my daughter is sick can I?

When the magistrates stepped out to make a decision I had to step out and use the toilet. I couldn’t let them see my tears and I was at the very point of letting them come out. When I returned I discovered the magistrates were already back… That didn’t take long!

So as to remind you, here’s what I was up against…

Failure to secure regular attendance without reasonable justification (s444(1A) of the Education Act 1996)
This is used where the LA thinks the parent knows that the child is not going to school but is not trying to do anything about it. This is a more serious offence than s444 (1) because the parent is accused of not taking responsibility for the situation. Parents found guilty of this offence can be fined up to £2,500 or sent to prison for up to 3 months.

I was told to stand to hear my fate.

In my head I knew I’d be handed another blow of injustice despite my hard work of gathering visual evidence.

One of the three magistrates declared that I was NOT GUILTY of s444(1A) she said their was clearly some confusion based over the communications made by myself (really, I’d call it lies rather than confusion)!

However here’s the twist….

I was still found GUILTY for s444(1) the less serious charge.

(1) Failure to secure regular attendance of a child (s 444 (1) of the Education Act 1996)

This is used where a child is absent without permission and is without suitable alternative education. Parents found guilty of this can be fined up to £1,000.

So because the school had chosen to not authorise ALL of my daughters time off I had to be found guilty of this charge because it’s the law and the law is shit.

I didn’t receive a fine, a parenting order or anything of this kind. Instead I was given a one year discharge. This means if I come back within a year I’ll be trailed for the same case too. This was said to be their way of not punishing me!

Yet… I felt patronised as the magistrates continuously asked me if I understood while telling me that she didn’t want to see me back there. I had to ask them if they thought it made sense that I would fight the battles I have fought to ensure my eldest son an education only to not bother ensure my daughter had one too?

Now my fear is the school will never authorise an absence when my daughter is sick… Come on they don’t even authorise the ones where she has been sent home.

For this reason and others I’m yet to write about, I’ve decided that in order for this not to happen again I’ll be looking into another school for my daughter to attend!

I will also be putting in a formal complaint against the school for not recording her absences in the way they should have done (mainly sending her home and stating no reason was given for her absence).

Lastly it would seem that if your child’s school decide to not authorise an absence and you go to court then unless you have a medical note from your doctor for every absence then you will be found guilty of s444(1) which is the less serious charge.

I disagree that this should be the case so I’m getting ready for some serious campaigning!

11 Responses to “Please don’t patronise me – the verdict”

  1. Zemanski July 12, 2012 at 8:54 am #

    This doesn’t surprise or shock me at all – the majority of parents with ASC children go through this, or child protection (often accused of Fictitious Illness Syndrome – aka Munchausens) because they are insisting there is a problem and the school, LEA, Dr’s are unsupportive, and the list of symptoms of FIS coincides with the list of symptoms within a family when an ASC child is not supported properly – read the NAS concerns about the closeness of these lists) or something very similar.

    The higher functioning your children are, the more likely this is to happen because the lack of resources and understanding of ASCs in many authorities is simply appalling and it creates an adversarial atmosphere between parents and authorities (see the green paper on SEN which highlighted this as a major problem within the SEN system, not just for ASC families, but for them in particular) – parents get desperate and push harder, LEAs etc resist with all their might and show little or no compassion in applying their rules – the child and their family needs get lost somewhere in the middle. It doesn’t help that ASC kids often have undiagnosed ASC parents who find it difficult to express themselves properly or react to the stress of the situation far more than would be expected of a typical parent.

    Several years ago I was accused of over-medicalising my daughter’s problems – I said she had dyspraxia (I was using the term loosely to describe her motor control problems which were evidenced by an OT report but because her problems were worse than my son’s and he had the actual word Dyspraxia in his report I made the mistake of thinking i could use the term to describe my daughter too), and said I thought she might have irritable bowel syndrome and AS.
    My daughter was almost taken away and I almost ended up with a serious prison sentence but fortunately we had enough supportive professionals and a good second opinion Dr who understood the impact of ASCs on a child and the family, and the charges were never followed through.

    These wonderful professionals rushed my daughter through a Developmental Coordination Disorder assessment – DCD is the more recent term for Dyspraxia and includes some of the sensory issues I was describing my daughter as having – proving that my concerns about Dyspraxia were well founded and, with a glowing report from social services, the case was dropped.

    2 weeks ago My daughter received 2 further diagnoses – Hyper-mobility and IBS – and we are back at CAMHs and looking at AS again.

    That is 6 years on, and my daughter has suffered from things that might have been supported and treated if that consultant had listened and looked beyond the end of his nose – 6 years of suffering for the child and all the trauma the process put the family through – because a child protection obsessed paediatrician couldn’t accept I might be telling the truth and afterwards I daren’t take my daughter near a doctor for anything other than minor ailments.

    I can only wish you all the best and hope you feel less alone

    Stay strong!

  2. S July 9, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    This is just absolutely shocking!

  3. 1funmum July 8, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    This shocks me more and more everytime I read about this. I keep going over different parts thinking am I reading this. This seems so evil. To have a system set up to keep a child in school used to bully a special needs parent is just unreal. I have been in this position, but my school worked with me. Allowing me to sign my child in late no questions asked. And one school I had my kids in even changed the school hours for my child to accommodate his needs. I never was approached as if I was not trying my best. I think it’s a great idea to change schools cause it sounds like the school is unfair and setting you up for this. They could accommodate your attendance they just don’t want too. Over here if a child needs to a child could have it’s class time reduced if it would help the student cope with it’s special needs. Where is the special in your schools special needs programs. Where is the understanding. You are so amazing and strong may god put a blanket of protection over you and your family. Hugs

  4. Special Needs Mum July 8, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    Claire, this is really horrific. I think you need to get some legal support to help you – have a look at this post about Advocates for Education – she’s a barrister and is free.
    Thinking of you!

  5. A. Solicitor July 7, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

    As a solicitor, I would urge you to find a local law firm to review your case and examine the possibility of an appeal. From what you’ve described, it sounds like there were some serious procedural irregularities, especially the LEA’s failure to provide disclosure of the school attendance records, which was crucial to your defence, and it may well have prejudiced your ability to defend yourself. This might allow you to appeal against the conviction. You can find a nearby specialist at – select “Education Law” from the drop-down list.

    I can imagine that you don’t have much time to sort out stuff like this, but hopefully a good legal aid solicitor acting on your children’s behalf could help you get proper statements sorted out, hold the school to account, and prevent further prosecutions.

  6. mumofthreeboys July 5, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

    I’ve been reading your blogs over the past few days and have been just a tad too busy to comment, so I apologise for that. I can not believe what I have been reading, it sickens me to think that you have been put through all of this crap just because of someone’s negligence in the school. You are a brilliant mum who does everything you can for your children they should pick on someone who actually are keeping their children off because they can’t be arsed about their education. I hope it all settles down for you and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the new SEN and HT are better than the last x x

  7. Looking for Blue Sky July 5, 2012 at 6:48 am #

    Am I reading this right? Were you found guilty of the lesser charge because the SCHOOL did not record the absences properly? There’s something seriously wrong with a system like that.

  8. clairelouise82 July 4, 2012 at 10:49 pm #

    Oh yes, I’ve started this. Asked my daughter to take a letter into the head and told her that she needs to ask receptionist to sign a sheet of paper which I had written saying she received letter. I have also got an appointment at the school tomorrow as her educational record alerted me to the fact she was on sen register and I wasn’t told (same as her brother). No happy at all. Thanks for commenting.x

  9. lisamareedom July 4, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

    Defies belief! seriously had no idea this is what went on in the UK. In Ireland we joke that no one would call the truancy officer because the schools themselves will not take kids like ours and the department are a cluster-feck when it comes to planned provision.
    But to actually prosecute a parent living with an ASD?!?
    I really admire your use of paperwork to defend the greater charge. Boiling that they still got you on the lessor one though. Cannot blame you for seeking out a better school – if that was their attitude. Would also be looking for some kind of double entry ledger when the receptionist “sends you home” so that there can be no doubt. Keep your own records and have the school sign *your* paperwork!
    (like you don’t have anything better to do)

  10. Ann July 4, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

    I won’t patronise you with sympathy (though you definitely have mine) moreover I will support you and encourage you to find a school that is worthy of the label ‘school’ and everything a school should stand for. Never give up fighting for your rights and those of your children, make a stand for your own family and all those who may not have the strength or knowledge to do so and most of all make them answer for their inadequacies via formal complaint.
    Most of all – you’re children are very lucky to have a dedicated, loving and caring Mum.
    All the luck in the world. xx


  1. Coming out of the homeschooling closet! | Social Skills Success - July 8, 2012

    […]  a UK mum has a wonderful blog about her life with a child with Asperger’s, and in this July 3rd post, she writes about being taken to court for her children’s so-called unauthorized absences […]

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