Tag Archives: Sen first tier tribunal

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

The Highs And Lows…2010 in a nutshell (part 1)

31 Dec

What a year!!!

So much has happened in 2010 and looking back through my diary and reading some past post, I’m shocked at how much we’ve squeezed in!

Though it’s pretty clear from my reading that sadly the lows far out weigh the highs… …  It’s still them few highs that I believe have kept me sane throughout 2010 and helped my family pull itself through them Oh to many low days!

So Now I attempt to write a post that looks back over the 12 months of 2010…Regular readers can reminisce alongside me and those of you that are new hear can discover life so far in a nutshell!

January….

… The year 2010 started off as an amazing one! With my new son born on the 11th December 2009… I couldn’t have been happier. Little man was and still is crazy about his little bro. My family was complete, with three beautiful children I wanted for nothing. Sadly my baby became quite ill in the January at just 5 weeks old he had a bad chest infection (Severe Bronchiolitis), refusing to take a feed or just vomiting the whole thing up (exorcist style) we took him to hospital… Where we stayed for the next week and a half. He was fitted with a feeding tube that went through his nose, and had to be given oxygen for hours at a time to keep his stats up. I worried about my baby so much… But also had the added worry about leaving little man and his sister for so long. How would little man cope with seeing his baby brother with all these tubes? of course I worried about my daughter who was almost 7 but I knew she was stronger than her brother in terms of managing with her feeling and fears, She found it easier to discuss her fears and ask questions on things that would worry her (She was much easier to reassure and comfort during times like these)

The children visited and I would do my best to reassure them their baby brother was recovering well. Little man was becaming very distressed with the sight of all the tubes, as was his sister. A few days into our stay the baby got worse and contracted H1N1 and pneumonia. Myself and his father tried to stay strong for the sake of the children but we were going out of our minds with worry . A no visitors rule was imposed… Only myself (who stayed at the hospital) and his father were able to be with the baby. Little man was broken he couldn’t visit his brother and worried himself sick. His father would come and stay with the baby for a few hours while I would spend them few hours with the children. It was an incredibly hard month!

At last our baby came home and slowly I settled back into a routine of being a mummy of three.




February ….

… Having baby back home was  amazing. Little man had been having a few issues at school during January but I put this down to the change in routine (me staying with the baby at the hospital ect…) However things went belly up after extensive works started on our house. Our ceiling had fallen down in 2009 and was still not complete and the Walls had now started caving in around us. The job was a huge one that meant knocking down all remaining plaster (taking the walls back to brick) and re-doing them all from scratch! Works were planed to take a week. This was no place for a recovering baby and two young children… One who had sensory sensitivity… we knew we couldn’t stay and moved to my mothers. I visited my home every few days to check on things and collect my post ect.. I would leave in tears as it was like a builder’s yard with massive piles of dust. The works went way over schedule & we were at my mothers for what felt like forever! (No offence to my mum but we needed to go home)

Little man was stressed all he wanted was to be at home. Problems at school grew more difficult and I noticed I was getting more and more phone calls & letters from the Head & Deputy Head teacher. I wanted to ask the LEA to assess but was told by his school the LEA would not agree as there was more the school could be doing. Little man was given two unofficial exclusions on this particular month. Looking back now It’s very clear to me he was dealing with a hell of a lot and wasn’t handling stuff as well as I may of thought he was at the time… We were not at home and everything was different. Yet he was keen to attend school for the first time ever… He had even started to make some friends.


March….

… On the 1st March I made a parental request for a statutory assessment. Outreach services were asked to come in to school to observe, advise the school and work with Little man. This was the month Little man received his first official fixed term exclusion on the 3rd March… Things just kept getting worse. The relationship between myself and school was rapidly breaking down over my concerns about the lack of support and understanding that was being given to my son. On the 18th of March little man received his second fix term exclusion… And at the end of March I attend court for non school attendance for the period June-Dec 2009 (Little man was not sleeping at all and refused to attend school daily) As I stood in court like some harden criminal being fined… The school was busy imposing the third exclusion of the month via voicemail… Little man’s third exclusion within a few short weeks! Things were serious.

April…

… It was nice to get away from the stress of Little man’s school situation even if it was for just a few short weeks! Unlike many parents, I found myself dreading the Easter Half term coming to an end & the children having to return to school. It was nearing the end of April when Little man returned (two days after his peers as he was given a 4 day exclusion at the end of March that carried over to the new term) From the word go we encountered problems. I had a meeting at school which didn’t go well, I found myself losing trust in the school, and I felt though things were serious but no one was taking it that way as every concern was brushed aside! Little man was now always angry and his self-esteem was at an all time low. The LEA were not following the statutory time limits when it came to the six-week time limit for making a decision on if/if not to assess Little mans Special Educational Needs under the Ed Act 96 & the code of practice! I found myself having to chase people for answers… Only to then be told that they have decided to take it to panel on the 17th May weeks after the required time frame with no explanation offered! I felt like I couldn’t enjoy my new son due to always suffering the worry of the phone ringing, the fear of further exclusions or being asked to prepare my child to miss his break/lunch time or both, normally for incidents said to have happened a day or more before… I was becoming so down and feared that depression was setting in.

It There was one or two highs to the month… My birthday and spending it with the children, and the phone call informing me I had been accepted onto the Early Bird plus programme (dispute Little man being a tad over the age limit)

was world autism month and I was busy raising awareness for autism through blogging and my facebook group (that seemed to be touching the lives of more and more families thanks to the great support of members and the fantastic admins now on board)I started to notice that over time I had required some truly inspirational contacts & friends, who are some of the nicest, kindest people I know… All because of Autism.

May….

… For me, May was the month that I thought… “Can it get any worse?”,  “Was the straw that broke the camels back” so to speak! Having Only just returned from exclusion a few weeks pervious the exclusions started up again! On the 5th of May my little dude was excluded for one day! This was also the month the Allotment project started, resulting in what I can only describe as continuous acts of discrimination. Little man was either brought back from the allotment… With the school only informing me of such incidents a week or more later… Or he wasn’t taken at all. There were also weeks he found himself excluded on the same day as the project took place. Little man was given two exclusion this month on the 5th and 13th. We had a multidisciplinary meeting at school at the end of the month and it was agreed that the school could not meet my child’s needs, yet….  It was also this month that I found myself yet again chasing up the LEAs decision on the statutory assessment. I finally discovered by phone the request had been refused on the grounds his school could meet his current level of need and he was making adequate progress. This was my first real insight into the sheer twisted system supplied by LEAs… There was penalty more insights to come!

Although things were appalling at school, I started to gain more skills through the parenting classes for parents off children on the autism spectrum (Early Bird Plus) Meeting other parents who nodded when I spoke because they related to what it was I was saying was just heavenly. This was one of my reasons for creating the blog and the magnificent Facebook page… “I just love that page” I wanted to connect people as it can be a pretty lonely world if no one relates to you or your child, even if they pretend they do!.. Meeting parents of children like mine was uplifting and really brought me up from the lowness I had recently started feeling. I could speak to the staff running the programme without judgement, they even visited me at home… I was shown how to create social stories & the benefits of using visual aids (That we now can’t do without) I looked forward to Tuesdays and remain extremely grateful to the staff for agreeing to my attendance on such a beneficial programme.


June…

… After yet another blissful Half term… The children returned to school. Little mans sleeping problems were really showing its ugly head once more… despite the use of Melatonin. The month of June showed little or no improvement with the schools over use of exclusions… They just refused to take note on the effect they had! It was only impacting on his own mental well-being and his behaviour become more challenging not less. At home he was starting to have huge meltdowns and failing to cope with any day trips through fear of being rejected from them (even with his own family… he had lost all faith) Little man was excluded once again a few days into his return to school on the 10th of June (another allotment trip consequently lost) The LEA carried on rule breaking, resulting in letter writing on my part as a way to obtain the important letter refusing to assess in order to appeal to the tribunal… This I finally received it at the end of June.

Although things seem less than rosy in June it had a number of perks… Things may have gone overly sour in regards to Little mans education, but things started to look up for me and the family as a whole. I received an email from Nas inviting me to be interviewed for the training course to enable me to become an adviser for the Advocacy for education TSS service (Tribunal support service) We also received a fabulous gift from Merlin’s magic wand… Four tickets to Chessington World Of Adventures was much appreciated, and brought huge smiles of happiness across Little man and little sisters face! The sound of pure excitement filled the house and gave the family something fun to look forward to. Merlin’s went all out and helped us make up for all the school trips and activities my little dude was currently missing. The plan was to take the children to the theme park during the summer holidays that were almost upon us.


Well…… As you can see and it isn’t for me not trying… I just can’t seem to pack one long busy year into one single post without achieving some kind of world record for the worlds longest blog post (That’s if I don’t already hold the title!) So…. Time for me to wrap this up and continue from July through to December in part 2 tomorrow (Well it will give me something to do 🙂 ) I’m hoping you will all return to read about the highs and low of the last 6 months of 2010 🙂

TO BE CONTINUED…………

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