Yesterday was a rather productive day.
Its a day that two years ago, I longed to see.
Yesterday was all about reaching out, creating awareness and getting heard.
It was those important factors above, and a few more besides that encouraged me on the given tasks I had been set. Tasks I thought would never happen but was now about to suddenly surface.
The task was that of sharing our story with the world.
Two years ago I felt as if no one would listen. I was able to successfully bring every aspect of our story to light and people would take notice… Every aspect but this one! Now I’d been given an opportunity to change this.
It all began when the charity “Contact A Family” sent me an email with an attached survey surrounding the topic of “Illegal exclusions from school” Of course I had a lot to say on the given subject. I hoped that others affected would have too. The results could finally prove the extent of the problem and finally a campaign set in motion.
Thankfully this is what happened! The results have lead to the charity “Contact A Family” launching a national campaign highlighting the results of the survey entitled “Falling Through The Net”…
The charity’s Falling Through The Net survey, collected the opinions off over 400 families of children with disabilities or additional needs.
The results indicated that more than half (53%) of families have been asked to collect their child during the school day because there are not enough staff available to support them.
• More than half (56%) of families have• been told by the school that their child can’t take part in a class activity or trips because it is unsuitable for them.
• Almost a quarter (22%) are illegally excluded every week and 15% every day.
• More than half (53%) of affected disabled children are falling behind with school work and 43% feel depressed because of illegal exclusions.
• Half of parents (50%) are unable to work due to being called to school frequently.
The charity is making the following recommendations to improve the situation:
• Where exclusion is necessary, schools must follow statutory procedure to ensure decisions are lawful, reasonable and fair.
• The most frequently illegally excluded pupils with a disability or additional needs are those who have conditions which affect behaviour. Schools should take early action to tackle the underlying cause, and to put in support before a crisis occurs.
• Schools and teachers should work closely with parents to understand a child’s condition or disability and their extra support needs and ensure the child gets the help they need.
• Ofsted has an important role in identifying unlawful practice in the course of an inspection. School should be offered additional support to help them improve their practice. A grading of “inadequate” should be considered if schools continue to illegally exclude children with a disability, SEN or additional need.
Looking back through some of my blog post that I had written back when Little man was being regularly excluded from school (both officially and unofficially) I am reminded of the sheer frustration and anger this situation was causing for both myself and my child.
I’m reminded of them painful days full of tears and disbelief as we struggled to get of a never ending rollercoster of emotional terror.
My post remind me that I am in fact a much stronger person than I myself give credit too. Despite the forming of depression and a certain degree of hopelessness, I never once give up… even though I often found myself close to the edge I remained there by a thread… A very thin one.
It wasn’t just our family feeling the pressure, although at that specific moment in time I felt like the only one and that felling was a somewhat lonely one! There was many more like me and it was during those months that followed that I discovered many others like myself living in fear of the daily phone calls from their child’s school demanding they collect their child for whatever reason.
The Boy With Aspergers Facebook page which is an addition to this very blog has some 5,800 + members, many looking for the same answers, huge numbers struggling to work together with their child’s school in a productive manner. Instead these parents found themselves on our page asking the same question… “Are they allowed to continually request I collect my child from school and bring him home?”
Yes, they are…. But only if the statutory procedures are carried out by the school. Its when they fail to put these procedures into action to ensure such decisions are lawful, that they then become unlawful.
What happens to the schools who chose the latter? In most cases if not all… Nothing!
You see the Education Act states that it is a parents responsibility to ensure their child is educated once they have reached compulsory school age. If parents fail to ensure regular attendances AWOs (Attendance and Welfare Officers) likely step in and local authorities proceed to take parents to court if they fail to fulfil this parental requirement (for whatever reason). This can leave parents with a hefty fine to pay or even in some cases a prison sentence to serve. The thing is parents can be found guilty of an offence under section 441 or 441(a) regardless of the reasons behind the absences. Its simple if you are (a) the parent of the child and (b) they never attended school everyday regardless of the reasons, then that parent is automatically found guilty of 441 (the lesser charge of failing to secure school attendance) and will end up with a fine or find themselves on some type of parenting order. Its the law, plain and simple!
Your child’s school phones you up, sometimes on a daily basis and requests you collect your child as they are unable to contend with their challenging behaviour. You take your child home as the school requests you do, only the official routes are not put into motion… There is no exclusion letter setting out the reasons for your child’s exclusion. This therefore means that the local authority have not been notified and your child’s school have broken the law. Maybe you don’t know this at the time but when you eventually discover this to be the case you take action. Written complaints to governing bodies, LEA officials and ofsted! Yet nothing at all happens… Instead the school seem completely disregard it all and continue to operate in such a manner! How is this allowed to continue? If parents are taken to court and hit with hefty fines then why ain’t schools? After all laws are laws.
When I was called at the ridiculous hour of 8.30pm and asked that I keep my child away from school on the same day as a planned Ofsted visit I had finally been pushed enough. I took myself and child to the school and as he throw himself around the reception area in sheer anger and frustration I just stood demanding I speak with the visiting ofsted officer.
Next thing I knew she was stood behind me, placing her arm around my shoulder as she lead me to an empty class room for a chat. I remember it all becoming to much and I sat telling her through sobs and tears, the extent of the schools treatment towards myself and my child, paying particular attention to the ongoing illegal exclusions (including the one he was currently meant to be serving). I passed her evidence I’d collected, diary notes and some written thoughts from the little man himself. She agreed that the schools activity was illegal and promised to investigated. I tried making contact with the officer as the weeks turned to months but never had any luck. I was horrors with the schools final report and grade of a “Good” school. There was absolutely no mention on the subject. It even stated the schools understanding of children with SEN and certain disabilities. To say I was horrified is an understatement! I then lost every bit of faith I had left in a failing system.
Yesterday morning I gave a live radio interview to Paul Ross on the BBC LONDON 94.9 Breakfast show.
That same afternoon I found myself agreeing to a LIVE TV interview with SKY NEWS. Now I’ve done TV interviews before and have appeared on the news as well as sharing stories in national and local newspapers, but a LIVE interview was something new to me and admittedly as I stood waiting to enter the news room my stomach did an array of huge summersaults making me feel a tad sick!
I had to constantly remind myself of the pain we suffered… How awful life was for little man during those dark days attending mainstream school. I then collaborated a huge mass of messages in my mind, all surrounding the questions parents of excluded children would leave on our Facebook page messages I’d read on the Facebook page all searching for answers and support.
I just had to remember that by doing this I could help contribute somehow to making a difference for children like my little man and their family’s too! This combined with the great encouragement given to me from some great supportive people across social networks such as twitter and Facebook, was the virtual kick in the butt I needed to get in that news room and go for it.
Thankfully I was joined by Srabani Sen, Chief Executive of Contact a Family and the whole thing went pretty well.
So… Here’s hoping together we can bring much needed changes to the way schools deal with the challenging behaviour of children with additional needs.
Would be interested in hearing from others who like myself and many others have had fight this battle. If your interested in featuring in a post I’m planing on this subject please email me via the address on my contact page.
Links to media articles on this subject…
An article on the guardian blog from a teacher who says illegal exclusion needs to stop! Click Here
An Article in the guardian newspaper (I myself contributed too under a different name) plus it features the wonderful Mama Owl (aka Juile Sheppard) and her beautiful boy Logan. Click Here
Enable – The official Contact A Family Report featuring mine and little mans experiences Click Here
Contact A Family Article on their findings Click Here
I’m afraid I haven’t been given the permission to broadcast the Sky News Clip as yet. It was showed at 1:50pm on the 19th Feb 2013 live on Sky news (Sky and freeview). If you are a Sky account holder You maybe able to view this on Sky Go today if you would like to see it. I will share on the blog as soon as I have permission to realise the clip.