I felt it appropriate to leave my scheduled ‘National school choice week blog‘ as it was and to write another post. That way you can see the good with the bad.
Isn’t choosing a school for your beautiful offspring flipping hard or what?! There’s so much to consider, so many unanswered questions and decisions to make.
As per my previous post you will know that I/we had 99.9% set our hearts on Preston Primary. This is a small village school about a 15 minute drive from home. I looked around the school twice and just fell in love straight away. The layout was as close to perfect for Riley as I though we’d get. The outside was clean, spacious and fenced right around with some climbing equipment. The classrooms were bright, airy and clean with air conditioning. All the staff seemed kind and approachable (the 1st & 2nd visit anyway!) even the SENCO seemed spot on. It was everything I’d hoped for after such bad experiences at other school visits.
I had an in-depth chat with the SENCO – Simon Clay. He seemed very nice, easy-going and extremely accommodating. He practically sold the school to me. He said that as soon as I had Riley’s EHC (Educational health care) plan to get in touch and we could sort out what needs to be in place ready for September for Riley.
Simon told me about his previous experience working within a specialist school and how Mrs Clements (the very kind lady who showed me around twice) was a SENCO in her previous job. I couldn’t believe my ears, everything seemed far to good to be true.
Last week I had a visit from the lady who’s been sorting Riley’s EHC plan at KCC. We had a thorough conversation about what comes next for Riley and what he’s ‘actually’ entitled to etc. It was all perfectly clear in my mind and I was adamant that we wanted to go ahead with Preston 1000%
I was thrilled, finally the decision had been made that had lost me so much sleep these past months, whether or not to go mainstream or specialist. I know deep down Riley isn’t anywhere near his developmental age and I have learned to be fine with that. As long as my little boy is safe, happy and cared for I am happy.
My/our main reasons for mainstream were that Riley would be around ‘normal’ children doing ‘normal’ things living an as ‘normal’ (whatever that means) life as possible ready for the real world. He would constantly have role models around him, talking and singing which would hopefully bounce off Riley. Also we felt it was a good way to try and raise awareness for ‘normal’ children to be around a child with SEN (special education needs) and for them to grow up to understand and appreciate that everybody is different and to respect one another.
Someone close to me asked me the other day ‘how will you cope when Riley is flapping and the other children and parents look at you’ In which I replied ‘fuck everyone else!’ I will stand by my kids through thick and thin and if either of them want to break out in a flapping dance I will always have their backs and join in.
Before Christmas I dropped Simon (SENCO at Preston) a line via email to ask whether or not it would be an option for Riley to continue with his current 1:1 at Preschool as they both seem to have a great bond and it would mean less transitioning with a familiar face to be at Riley’s side. Someone who I have grown to really trust and someone who completely understands Riley’s needs and generally GIVES A SHIT!
A few weeks later after the odd email bounced back and forth between us I was asked by Simon to go along to the school for a meeting with him, Mrs Clements and the head (Mrs Taylor – who I’d not met or heard of before nor did I know I had to seek her approval first)
Tuesday morning came and I was up bright and early, showered, I’d eaten breakfast, dropped the kids off at school, managed to do a quick shop at the farm shop and butchers. Popped home to put everything away and off I drove to Preston for 11am. There I was sat in the reception, clutching so proudly onto my sons EHC plan that I’d fought so hard for since the summer holidays last year, 2016. We’d finally chosen a school, I have the EHC plan set in stone, I was feeling a huge relief.
Then I was called in. Just imagine a tiny room, 3 sets of eyes on you and the radiator on maximum! I was told to ‘be careful’ of the chair they’d given me because it was broken. Thinking back I wish it had broken now as I’m sure there’s some sort of health and safety issue there! They’d all prepared themselves with a cup of tea and I sat there like a child in the middle, no offer of a drink and felt intimidated to say the least.
I wish I’d have just walked out to honest. Mrs Taylor the head, I felt talked at me rather than with me. I thought the school had received Riley’s EHC plan and I was there to take notes (I even took a notebook and pen ready) and discuss how we can make sure everything was in place ready for my son in September. 5 minutes into the conversation I learned that they’d not even seen Riley’s EHC plan, nothing…sweet fa! The head asked me to tell her about Riley. I felt the same anxiety you tend to feel at an interview, like I had to sell my own son in order for him to get a place in the school. I was getting hot and bothered and I was flipping confused.
In November Simon seemed so accommodating and I received nothing but positivity from Mrs Clements. 2 months later and I’m sat here in a completely different scenario. I mentioned Riley was still in nappies and straight away the head replied ‘we couldn’t accommodate him then, we don’t have the space’ WTF? I told Simon all of this in November in which he didn’t mention that back then and said they’d find a way.
One of the goals in Riley’s EHC plan is for his 1:1 to work alongside him with potty training. The lady from KCC mentioned how in her previous role she had done this many a times by breaking it down and training the child to stand whilst they are changed whether it be a number 1 or 2. To eventually teaching the child to go to the toilet like a ‘regular’ child. When I explained this to the head she looked a bit taken back and said she’d never heard of that before.
Mrs Clements stepped in and explained that she was a SENCO before her role at the school and she had heard of that before. Whilst the conversation was as calm as it could be although I was ready to blow. It moved from not having the space to giving Riley, some dignity…! I said ‘what if I applied for funding for a care suit’ straight away the head said ‘there’s no space and it absolute wouldn’t be ready for September’ Talk about shoot you down?!
I guess she doesn’t know me. I have the determination and motivation to go after what I want whether it’s for my family of for myself. I could have gotten that funding and I would 100% have pushed to ensure it was ready for September. I would have even gone one step further helping when needed, volunteering, fundraising for the school and getting as many resources to benefit what would have been my children’s school as possible. I think really what the head was getting at, is that if they are a school known to have an on site care suit its attract more children with SEN and no school wants that, right? That’s been made more than clear enough. Not all SEN children can produce the grades, schools are monitored on their grades, who wants kids dragging them down right?!
It was first said that each child is different. Then it was clearly said to my face that Riley is still young and that the ‘behavioural issues’ start around 7 years old. WTF, can we just take a moment….Every child is different, but yours has Autism and around 7 years old he will start to be naughty?! Tell me how it is, yeah?! She moved on to say they’ve had kids in the past stay until they were about 7 years old by which they were then advised (because they had a close ‘relationship’ with the parents’) the child would be best in a specialist school?! And how it was affecting the staff and other children in the class!
So basically in a nutshell you can fight and fight and fight for your child to go to mainstream school and live an as normal life as they can but come 7 years old (usually) they will be pushed out of school ‘anyway’ because no one gives a fuck to get trained how to ‘include and unite everyone’ whatever the differences many be. Feels a little like everyone wants to just do their job, take no risks, not break the cycle, not go above and beyond! Hate to imagine the world in 20 years time! I feel like sending my ‘normal’ daughter just to give them a hard time, they’d have hihdefinitely pulled the short straw with her meltdowns!
The last and final point I am going to make about the conversation held on the day before erasing all positivity about this school is funding. I said that Riley has his EHC plan and he’s entitled to a 1:1. The head said how the school has a pot of money for the children and that KCC don’t pay for anything, the school does. I defensible said ‘so there’s no incentive for you or any school to take a child with SEN (special educational needs) because you have to use more of the ‘schools’ funding’ She replied, ‘every child is given the same chance to apply’ Bullshit!
Little did she know that I’d already done my homework! First off if I want my son to go to that school then he will go. The school cannot deny my son a place. My son gets priority over all ‘normal’ children who have already applied. The school can however appeal that they don’t have the right materials required. In which KCC will challenge them back and say ‘deal with it’ in so many words and so on and so on. Secondly the school DO NOT pay for your childs 1:1. The school has to apply for a high need funding (Mrs Taylor you can brush up on your knowledge by clicking on the link!)
By the end of the conversation I was holding back the tears. My face felt as red as a tomato, I was overheating, out of breath with suddenly a huge weight back on my shoulders. I don’t think I have ever let anyone make me feel so infearer, it was almost like I was back at school.
Hey ho…there was more, on top of that already heeped up pile of shit. The head felt it imperative to highlight what the correct process is, SHOULD Riley be accepted a place in the school. It wouldn’t be acceptable for Riley to continue with his current key worker he has at the preschool as they are a federation and have their own TA’s, blah blah blah! Talk about lecture!
I’d heard enough and started putting on my coat, what a real shock to the system! I arrived feeling confident and happy and left feeling low in the dumps and upset. For the head teacher this is probably a regular occurrence highlighting the negatives of their school to make them seem un-accommodating, although of course they wish they could do more, but ‘their hands are tied’ LMFAO!!!!
I wonder just how many other SEN parents have been in my position and have been made to feel shit because let’s be honest a SEN child creates MORE work, MORE paperwork, MORE time and needs MORE money. Why would you choose a SEN child to go to your school over a perfectly ‘normal’ toilet trained child?! I guess people think it, they just don’t have the bollocks to say it!
You missed out Preston! My beautiful, innocent, clever little Riley has given you the middle finger. As part of National school choice week I will be sharing the shit out of this post to raise awareness it is NOT OKAY to accept being treated like this. Mick, Riley and Summer’s Daddy has emailed the school, Simon in particular to highlight the wording the their ‘inclusion’ section on their website, guess what…no reply! Hence why I have taken it to the blog & social media!