Tag Archives: Sarah Teather

Time to find your voice.

17 Jun

This is a post of utter urgency! It’s a plea  for help from the wider community. Does your child have autism, special educational needs or problems in school? Maybe they don’t, but who knows what the future holds!

I was sat at my mothers yesterday checking my emails when I came across something most frightening… A life line for parents of school age children faces the big axe due to funding cuts,’ THE ADVISORY CENTRE FOR EDUCATION’ better known as ACE.

Ace is an invaluable DfE telephone support service who offer advice to parents of school age children on education issues, the main one’s being exclusions, admissions, special educational needs, bullying and discrimination. If your child has ever been exclude like mine, then you have properly used ACE at some point, to advise you on your next steps and whether the exclusion was carried out in away that is considered ‘legal’. The service offers free advice and is normally a parents first port of call. Exclusion letters will often contain the telephone number for ACE, one day I decided to use them. I was offered top notch information that was inline with the education act, I was provide with much needed assistance when I didn’t know where else to turn. The following day I received a free exclusion guide in the post, considering it was 4:00pm when I had called, I considered it an excellent service.

Ace, highlighted some real serious problems for me, including the fact Little man had been illegally excluded twice! If I had never made that call I would have been none the wiser and my guess is the unofficial exclusions would have continued. I rang ACE a significant amount of times over a two year period, with every call I was offered beneficial advice. I feel so strongly about this and was most upset that this service that has offered support to thousands of families for the last 50 years, would no longer be able to operate as they have been informed that funding will stop at the end of the month.

Now you maybe thinking to yourself as you read this, that its of no importance to you, but how would you feel if it was? This is a life line for many and is just one services that parents like me will lose! Unfortunately this isn’t all we have to worry about! Us parents to children with special educational needs as facing a host of possible changes, that in my opinion will only see our children in a more disadvantaged state then ever before. The pending changes thanks to the green paper already pose a huge degree of uncertainty, resulting in possible changes to the law, yet a huge reduction in services to support parents through this worrying time. If that wasn’t bad enough, we face the prospect of losing the right to gain legal aid which many families rely on when challenging schools and local authorities by taking them to the SEN tribunal.

So, lets take a long hard look at the facts. Big sources of parental support face closure due to funding cuts; the new health and social care plan is still very unclear; the removal of legal aid for education cases will be withdrawn at this critical time! Anyone would thing it was some kind of deliberate attempt to reduce the amount of claims being brought against LEAs and schools, not because the child’s needs are being meet… No, simply because parents will no longer be provide with sources of information on their current rights; will lose the right to have access to the legal advice needed or even instruct solicitors! What’s even more terrifying… Parents will lose the lifeline they once had to gain independent medical reports to ensure their child’s needs have been fully documented by those instructed by the local authority!

People need to remember these are children we are discussing! Many will claim that the parent should not relay on such handouts, yet it should be acknowledged that many of these parents are not in a position to engage in paid employment, what with many of these children needing home educating or solely being left out of education due to there being no suitable school placements… I cannot see what a parent is left to do?

I had to apply for legal aid to ensure Little Man’s old mainstream primary school received training in special educational needs. We settled a few days before the hearing as we were given a full apology, the promise of SEN training and a re-write of the schools sen policy. I then had the comfort of knowing I had at least tried to stop the treatment my child received being inflicted on others. I also needed the legal aid service for yet another appeal to the tribunal, for the contents of little mans statement of special educational needs lacked details of current difficulties and provisions to address such difficulties. This time my solicitor applied for funding to gain some essential independent reports, that without… my claim would have little success of winning. Little man received three appointments for three independent assessments that would gain us reports for legal purposes! I wasn’t prepared for some of the things I read in these reports and although I knew my sons difficulties were far grater then any documented by the local authority. I was sadden to see just the extent of how different these were. Although the reports highlighted such valuable information, they would show the disturbing differences between the two. Without such reports it is likely I would have never of known the extent of my child’s difficulties! Although little man can speak I now know certain degrees of his speech and language are considered severely delayed! Other important issues included the possibility of dyslexia and Little mans impaired motor skills. Its extremely possible that my child who will now attend an independent special day school designed for children with an autistic spectrum condition, would have been left to struggle trough a mainstream school, face permanent exclusion or as once suggested… be educated in a pupil referral unit.

Many of us are guilty of saying nothing myself included. We tend to complain once the affects have surfaced and we find ourselves and our child in a troubling situation. Its to late then, the damage is done. There are enough off us to get heard…

I ask everyone of you to consider the above and ask yourself if we are being provide with a service that will better meet our children’s needs or place us within a system that is far worse then the one we currently battle?

If you agree with me and my god, I hope you do! Please get yourself heard. Ace are asking for everyone’s support.

Here’s some suggestions on what you can do.

1. Contact urgently Sarah Teather MP and urge her to review the DfE’s recent decision not to fund ACE from the end of June this year.

2. Contact your networks of colleagues and urge them to write to their MPs.

3. Contact your own political colleagues, in the House of Lords or House of Commons, asking for their support for ACE.

4. Publicise our situation via your websites, asking for support and (if possible) donations to help us carry on our work.

5. Contact ACE to discuss how you can support us.

Please remember that without our help, ACE will lose there funding on the 30th June and will no longer be able to provide us with their expertise.

Other things you can do

You can also respond to the SEN green paper by the end of June

Join an online campaign to stop legal aid cuts, such as TREE HOUSE

Start a petition

Write the your MP

Aspirations Or Clever Financial Alterations! You Decide

12 Mar

We waited and waited and on the 9th, March 2011 we finally got to see  what the Coalition had in store for us in way of the ‘Green Paper’ titled ‘Support and aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability’


Talking as a parent i’m pleased to see that the  proposed education, health and social care plans (EHSCP) that are planed to replace statements of special educational needs will still give parents the same legal protection that a statement brings. The proposed plan would be aimed at 0-25 year olds not just school aged children. The plans will also involve support in the areas of health and social care as well as education, something that has been missing for too long! However I do wonder how this will affect those already with statements especially in terms of funding and the talk of allocated key-workers. Surely the statements will be reviewed in the same way as the EHSCP and so forth! The statements will therefore need to be maintained in-till the child reaches 25 and be amended to include the health and social care aspect.

Another proposal I welcome is the prospect of being given more choice on where our children are educated. I know many will accuse the coalition of  creating barriers to inclusive education in mainstream schools, but I am a firm believer that mainstream is not always the right way. People must remember that all children are different regardless of their special educational needs or disability, Just because society thinks that every child with sen/disability should learn beside their peers, In reality this isn’t easy for some (My son included) I believe that mainstream was seriously affecting his mental health which is the case for many children. I’m also very interested to hear more on the proposal of individualised budgets with greater parental control giving us a voice that allows us to express views on what services and provision such funding should provide. This is proposed to come into action by the year 2014. In till such date I will remain completely open mind. My mother used to tell me, “If something seems to good to be true, then it probably is.” For that reason I dare to get my hopes up.

Some maybe shaking there heads branding me a pessimist! Well, they would be correct, I’m just that!  Sadly it’s true but myself like many others have been made to feel this way when it comes to SEN & education. It’s my opinion that things will never be easy and we are used to battling for every thing our children need. I for one would be a little shocked to discover that I actually had some time on my hands to do other things instead of battling the system by way of phone calls, meetings, emailing, letter writing, campaigning and so on…  I really struggle to get my head around the idea that parents will be able to have an active part in the decision process surrounding their child’s provision & funding. We have to drag the local authority by the arse all the way to the tribunal just to get a little TA time or use of a laptop! So if this does plan out I for one will fill a little strange being suddenly heard and valued (Well, valued maybe pushing it a tad to far!).

Though some of the proposals look good on paper, I’ve been asking myself , “Are these just words being sugar-coated to look sweeter then they really are?” I mean, let’s not forget that the government are in the process of making huge cuts which will affect many of the services that have a role to play within this very paper. How will they be able to provide what is expected of them? Another important question to ask is, “How much are the Coalition planing to save through the implementation of the green paper?”

I’ve also been thinking about the legal side of things. Given the position I’m currently in (Advising parents on their appeal rights on LEAs sen decisions) I see a lot of re-training heading my way if the green paper is fully implemented. The law would need to under go a radical overview, with large areas, especially section 26 and 27 of the Ed act 96,  needing to be rewritten from scratch and the publication of a new code of practice.

But one of the biggest concerns for me is the proposal of a “single, multi-agency assessment” on the same day, rather than separate assessments on separate days. As much as I welcome a speeder assessment process then that of the current statutory assessment (10 week assessment, with the overall process from start to finish taking 26 weeks) but to propose just ‘one single assessment’ with the involvement of all professionals (and possibly even voluntary agencies) is quite honestly barbaric!

The paper has empathised that those children considered to have the most complex needs, will be the children assessed and issued with an education, health and social care plan, therefore how do they propose to assess a child with such complex needs in one single assessment? Children on the autism spectrum will be just one group of  many children who’s needs may be completely missed due to the child’s particular mood, environment, behaviour, anxiety , etc., on the chosen day of the assessment. I know that my own child would not cope with such an assessment, what with all them eyes on him and questions fired at him! What would it even involve? Are we talking about sending an autistic child (or any child for that matter) into a room with a large number of professionals sat with inquisitive prying eyes, clip boards, and a list of questions as long as their arm? If yes, I guess they can expect a shock at the response they get! It just isn’t going to happen… Surely complex means ‘COMPLEX!’ my definition of  such a word would be, “A complex issue or range of problems that take time to fully resolve” The government is forever banging on about children being placed on the sen register at the drop of a hat, well, I can see a situation being created leading to children dropping of it just as quick!  My son can just about cope with an assessment with one or two professional, any more then this rather than being chucked off the register, he will likely be labelled as a child who is dangerous because he will likely hit out as an attempt to escape the highly stressful situation that he has been placed in. Although I agree it’s not ideal him or any other child with sen having to undergo a range of assessments over a course of time, the one day method wont make things any better but a great deal worse!

Let’s be honest would you or I enjoy being sat in a room with a range of people staring at you like some caged animal reporting your every-more?

26 weeks is way too long but one day! Seriously there is no in-between with this government. I mean do the they really have the child’s best interest at heart?

We have to ask ourselves, has the green paper been created with the  ambition of improving the life chances open to children with sen, and  to offer better support for family members, or is it really their ambition to do away with essential services and provisions with little uproar, while at the same time attempting to reduce the number of  children that are placed on the SEN register?

It’s those children considered to have less complex needs that I’m  seriously worried for!  What defines less complex needs? I’ve spoken to many parents hundreds in-fact that have battled in the past  and present with both schools & local authorities to prove just how complex their child’s needs actually are! I know from past experience that schools won’t except this in-till your child is pushed to the point of self-destruction or has become a complete failure at everything due to the stress they have been placed under. Parents of children with Aspergers or high functioning autism find this to be the case a huge proportion of the time. School’s and LEAs say the same thing over and over again, “Your child isn’t an underachiever, therefore warrants no provision to be made for him/her!” Yet there they are whacking their heads against Walls with the frustration of the work load or noise levels in the classroom, they are always running into social difficulties, becoming isolated from their peers and even excluded on a daily/weekly  basis. It’s ludicrous!

By doing away with school action and school action plus I fear these children will suffer a great deal more than they are currently made too already! What with schools being able to commission the services and put the provision in place that these children are said to need, in this current financial climate is like playing with fire. Much more detail and reassurance is needed and although I know that we are once more welcome to give our views on the paper, I just feel given the length of delay in publishing the paper, including some finer details within in it as to make things a little clearer would have been most welcome!

Ministers have to give the public more information in regard to the finer details that make up the aspirations of the green paper. Including the legal aspects, cost (including how much this new system will put back in to the governments pocket in way of savings) and very importantly the statutory duties of those involve

To some parents this paper means nothing! To others it’s the prospect of a better further for their child in both the early years and that of early adult life. Making provision for children aged 0-25 in all areas of education, health and social care is long awaited. Will this be the start of something promising or just another unfulfilled promise by another Government?…. Only time will tell!

 

The waiting game

8 Mar

Is it just me or is the rest of the country wondering when the hell this ‘green paper’ is going to be published?

A little delay is fine, if anything we expect it, but this is fast becoming a joke

Children’s, families minister Sarah Teather has been promising to publish the green paper for months, first announcing it back in July 2010 it was said the paper was scheduled to be published in the autumn.

Sarah gave parents like me a glimmer of hope. Getting our children’s special educational needs met is something of an up hill battle at present. The green paper could potentially make things a tad easier, given that the views of parents and charitable organisations have been taken into consideration when first called upon.

With the promise of giving us parents more say when it comes to where our children are educated mainstream or other, and just how that education should be given sounded a blessing.

However this is just looking less promising by the day! I’m starting to wonder if this paper really exists at all. First it was November then it was  February now March, and so far no sign of any paper.

We as parents really don’t need such delays. All over the country our children are failed by the system on a daily basis. local authorities take forever to make important decisions regarding our children’s special educational needs and once made, these decisions are all to often the wrong ones!

Most have to endure the long drawn out process of appealing local authority  decisions to the tribunal just to get their childs special educational needs met. Even if a parent does manage to win their appeal nothing is set in stone with some local authorities failing to carry out the order of the judge.

The system is full of blanket policies and empty promises. The criteria children are expected to meet before a statutory assessments is carried out is unreasonable and it’s often the case that parents are given false information regarding the reasons surrounding a refusal whether that’s in relation to a refusal to assess or statement. The subject on timescales being met is a whole different matter altogether!

The prospect of a statement is undoubtedly small, those that do receive a proposed statement u can bet your life it needs amending. Then there’s those that look good on paper but contain many hidden little twist, wording that I can only describe as fluffy! Opportunities,often, assess to and my favorite by far, ‘regular’ are all terms often used within the childs statement meaning the provision isn’t as specific and clear as the parent first thought.

Then we have the subject of delegated funding. This one really bloody rattles my cage. To many LEAs are trying to wiggle out of their legal responsibilities when it comes to providing what’s in a childs statement informing parents the requirement to fulfil this duty no longer lies with them but the school instead. This is just pure horse s***!

Whether the school delivers the provision in the childs statement or not, the local authority have a legal duty to make sure that the child receives the provision stated in the statement. If they don’t it’s them who are in breach of the law, not the school!

I am sick of waiting for this system to fix up! I’m not suggesting for one minute the green paper will be the answers to our prays, “Not by a long shot” however this is a start and one that can’t come soon enough for some, myself included!

The word on the grapevine (well goggle) is that the paper is now complete, ‘said with rolling eyes and slight shake of the head.’ It’s contents will be but before a group of ‘leaders’ during the ‘green paper summit’ on Wednesday the 9th of March at Westminster.

This group of leaders will be made up of head-teachers/governing bodies of both primary and secondary schools, leaders of early years settings aswell as those of PRUs and of course members of the local authorities. Speakers at the conference include Sarah Teather herself, Charlie Henry (principal officer, special educational needs & disability, Ofsted) and Phil Snell (DFE) All will have the opportunity to respond to the paper, discussing any concerns etc. “Oh my god how I would just love to be a fly on that wall!”

The summit isn’t some ‘free’ event, but one that cost a rather nice tidy sum of money, £195.00 per delegate to be excate! Something tells me this won’t be coming out of their own pocket. I’m also wondering why on earth they would pay to attend especially those from the local authority, after all £195.00 is a great deal of money to those that don’t really give a damn about our children’s needs and are offering statements worth less. Is the money collected from the ticket sales going to be put back into the system in order to deliver the provision our children are all to often denied? Mmm, maybe it will be used for something much more important, I dunno like, “holidays and supplies of dog chum for snot nosed MPs”

Come on guys we are hanging out for this paper too! Are we ever gonna see what’s in it?

If the White paper anything to go by then I smell trouble

Here’s hoping that the wait proves worth it, and the green paper is a cut above the rest!

Were counting on you Sarah, every single one of us parents who has a child with SEN are preying you make us proud.

Note at the time of publishing it was discovered that the Government have proposed to publish the ‘Green Paper’ next Tuesday. This I will believe when I see it!

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