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A Slight Return

It has been some time since I have returned to writing and providing commentary on my parenting journey. I will need to return to the past, July, end of the 2018 summer term to be exact as a starting point. Then we tried to have some optimism that things were heading in the right direction for my son and his schooling. Things were not perfect by no means, but we were hopeful that the next academic year for my son was the one where he would finally settle into his new school. However, that was not the case. The fact my son was illegally excluded again on the last day and afternoon of the summer term should have been a tell-tale warning sign to us as parents that this school could not live up to its own values of honesty, integrity and doing the right thing. We deluded ourselves thinking that the staff were trying their best with a lack of funding (a national schooling issue), and were just absent minded about the paperwork and we would give them a chance, and ultimately would any school deliberately set a child up to fail?

Summer holidays rolled on, no significant issues, he did have one meltdown at his first short notice full day at holiday club, which was planned last minute as my mum who helps us out with childcare a lot had to have a unexpected hospital visit. His behaviour to us at the time was no worse than any other child his age, but we realise he can have a short attention span and is very energetic. We had a follow up paediatrician appointment at the child development clinic, the only thing I was surprised at was hearing the full details of his school’s views. Something that despite yes, the few initial fixed period exclusions when he first started there and an enforced part time timetable that went on from end of January to early July, they were not forthcoming about it to us as parents. Despite several meetings we had with them that year I never really felt they were truly honest with us and I was in shock about how different our views were about my son and the fact the last meeting I had with the school before the summer holidays commenced, they were quite positive about my son’s progress and he was back on a normal school full time timetable. We were surprised ourselves that his timetable was increased so quickly from attending mornings only to full days again, but we had to have faith that the school knew what they were doing. In hindsight, I can say obviously not.

My son returned to school in September 2018 to his new class and teacher, everything was quite positive at first, getting thumbs up signs from his new teacher, coming home with regular good behaviour stickers and certificates. It was all going swimmingly well 3 weeks in, and then the phone calls started again, “your son is showing signs of agitation, and we are quite concerned, we really would like his time at school to stay positive, he has done so well and we don’t want him to fail, and think he would be better if he goes home this afternoon to cool down”, my reply as usual “okay, that’s fine, but I am concerned this is not an illegal exclusion as I am not comfortable with them”. Silent pause on the other end of the phone from his teacher, then “of course not, yes I agree the best place for your son is in school, I absolutely agree”. His teacher passes me on to the deputy headteacher, which I get the usual gibberish about I shouldn’t view them as illegal exclusions and we just don’t want to set your son up to fail, and your mum has been an absolute star, “I understand that Mrs name I cannot repeat for legal reasons, but I would like this afternoon’s exclusion put on paper and recorded as if it is not recorded the school will not get the help and support that my son needs to stay in school”. School finally agrees. This is the first one of many fixed period exclusions that happen over the next 9 weeks at school, each one increasingly becoming more concerning and severe. Yet after attending regular meetings at the school during this time, no change in tact, intervention or further support is brought in or agreed, just carry on with existing arrangements as that is clearly working I say ironically. I regularly report back to my son’s paediatrician about his difficulties in school and we are finally given a short notice appointment with him during one of my son’s longest fixed period exclusions, his teacher and Senco from his school join us at this appointment. However, to be honest our relationship with the school is reaching its all-time low, but my family despite everything are still trying to work with the school. Another reduced timetable is suggested with more intervention and support, we feel we have no choice to accept it, but are wary and concerned that another sudden change may escalate my son’s already temperamental and erratic behaviour. The part time timetable starts again in mid-November 2018 and as I feared it doesn’t start well, in fact second day into it my 5 year old son manages to abscond from school literally 5 minutes after being dropped off at the reception entrance. We are not informed about this incident until later in the day of course. Alarm bells should have been ringing? They were, and I really did have serious concerns about sending my son back to the school. I had already sent a parental request for an EHC needs assessment off to the local authority earlier that month and was awaiting a response. My main priority was trying to prepare for that and any rebuff that the local authority would make. I was in two minds about getting my son signed off by the doctor on health grounds as I was worried about the mental impact this school was having on my son’s wellbeing. However, later that week during the first week of the part time timetable my son appears to start settling down and even came home with another good behaviour award, and we started to think despite our doubts that maybe this timetable was starting to work.

Our bubble was burst finally on 19th November 2018, my son was permanently excluded from his school that we have been trying to work with since he started there earlier in January that year. My partner went to collect my son from school that afternoon and my son was discovered in a completely distressing state, so distressing that I am not going to mention all the details on here, his school completely failed in their duty of care to my son. My partner has always been the more optimistic one out of us, if the headteacher never made the permanent exclusion decision that day, we would have never returned him there anyway and my partner for the first time would have been in full agreement with me. The ironic thing is the local authority decided to accept my parental EHC needs assessment request a few days beforehand and started gathering evidence from the school on the same day he was permanently excluded from it, make what you will of that.

After a tough few months, my son is now settling into a new school, we have a draft EHCP agreed, waiting for a final to be issued. We have been through a governing body hearing and an independent panel review hearing with the help of a law student representing us, which we will always be highly appreciative towards as it would have been a lot tougher to go through those processes alone. It was finally decided on the 1st March that the decision my son’s previous school and headteacher made was unlawful and should be quashed, the school have chosen not to respond to this within 10 days, so it has later transpired that the school should be fined, fees adjusted. We would have rather not gone through this whole process and spared my son the anguish, and the effects this whole experience has had on his self-esteem, but we do feel vindicated and one can only hope the school learns lessons from this, but I won’t hold my breath on that one. My son still has no diagnosis, despite going through his first ADOS assessment in December last year, but the assessment was incomplete. As I said earlier we are still waiting a copy of my son’s final EHCP, which should release additional funding to my son’s current school to support him further. This does prove that EHCPs can be gained on a needs basis and a diagnosis is not always necessary, we also realise that the EHCP is just another beginning for us and we will have other hurdles to overcome no doubt. However, it feels like it has been a long time coming, 2 years to be exact.

https://schoolexclusionproject.com/

https://www.ipsea.org.uk/making-a-request-for-an-ehc-needs-assessment

Thanks to The Bluetones for blog title inspiration

Glossary of terms:

EHC = Education, Health, Care

EHCP = Education, Health, Care Plan

Senco = Special Education Needs Co-ordinator

ASD = Autism Spectrum Disorder or some people prefer Condition rather than disorder

ADHD = Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

ADOS = Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule

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Summer holidays so far (2018)

It didn’t start well, my son had a meltdown on his last day at school and we were called by the school to take him home in the afternoon. I gave in and said to my mum to collect him, and stop the school from losing face and embarrassment at the end of the school day from other hawking eye parents. I know it was another illegal exclusion, but I was thinking more of my son’s feelings, but this cannot go on into year 1. To be honest my son has been doing better and progressed to a normal full time timetable for the last few weeks of school, has been joining in and attending lunch time and playtime, and has coped without a major meltdown since April. The last one was at his first full day school excursion with his current school. I did ask the school for a full explanation of the end of term/academic year incident to pass on to the paediatrician at our next child development clinic appointment, but being the end of term/academic year and all, we didn’t get one and not holding my breath that we will get anything useful or accurate from the school about that now.

I did fear that summer holidays would now become something negative and ominous, but just a few days away from school, my lo appeared to settle down and become more relaxed, and much better behaved. He has been spending a mixture of his time at holiday club, with his nan, quality time with his dad and with both of us fully at the weekends. We have had no reported incidents at holiday club since April (his first session there) until the day we unexpectedly had to try a full day due to lack of childcare, my mum had to attend a short notice and urgent hospital appointment a couple of weeks back and we only had originally planned to send him for a half day morning session. Unfortunately he did not cope well during the lunch time session there, and had a full on meltdown. However, the holiday club are actually much better at communicating incidents to us and I have a written report, something concrete to pass on to our child development clinic appointment this week, although I don’t know how much use these appointments are right now. After 45 minutes he did calm down and rejoin activities, and the holiday club have welcomed him back and have been very professional so far. Fortunately for my mum all the test results came back clear, and she will be monitored for a year for a couple things that they did find on the scan, but so far looks like nothing nasty.

We have also started sending my son to summer school and getting him extra tuition, which I know seems a bit early as he is only 5 years old. However, one bedtime he told me he was upset about getting things wrong in his phonic lessons and it seemed to bother him, and I don’t want him feeling sad about that and it hasn’t been fair that he has missed almost half a year of school, because the school cannot manage his behaviour. I saw a local education centre that accepts childcare vouchers, we haven’t been using them much as we have been prevented from accessing wraparound care due to his reduced timetable. I had this education centre in the back of my mind as something we might use in the future, and not necessarily now as I didn’t want to put him under pressure. I really wanted learning to be fun for him, but I have fast track these thoughts as I want him to feel confident and not left behind, so far he has had one assessment and 4 lessons, and it seems to be positive so far and it is nice to see him feel like he has accomplished something after each session. He still has a long way to go to catch up, mainly early reading and writing, but it is a start, and we are continuing these lessons in term time after school.

The family holiday last week was so so, very good moments and then low moments. I can’t fault my son’s behaviour when out and about he was mostly fine, apart from the long journey back home, but think we were all tired and tetchy. However, every time we were back at the holiday cottage having some down time, my son was quite rude and obnoxious at times (hard to believe he looks like an angel), and completely different child to one when we are taking him out to places and doing activities. To be honest it tried mine and my OH’s patience, mine probably more so. Also we were struck down by what seems now as two tummy bugs, my son in the early hours of Wednesday morning and me on Friday morning last week. I thought the days of dealing with vomit on holiday was behind us, but obviously not. Also not sure whether that had a part to play in my son’s downturn in behaviour as it was really towards the end of the holiday his behaviour started to become grating or whether some of it was just boredom, he seems to get bored quite easily and better now we are home with his toys, which at least seem more exciting to him again. We both got over our illnesses quickly and I was pleased that I still managed to get myself ready to go on a seal boat trip that Friday morning, and not let anyone down. Although when we got back to our holiday cottage that afternoon, I started to feel bad again with a low grade fever so had to hand childcare duties completely back to my OH while I rested in bed and they had fun spending my money at a amusement arcade and going to a local park that has this fantastic playground ship, very realistic looking and lots of fun for kids. Although spitting boy incident (not my son I hasten to add) on it earlier in the week will always slightly taint the good memories.

Still back to reality, son is back doing some part day sessions at holiday club, last week of them and hope he gets on okay. We have our next paediatrician appointment later this week, not sure what to expect from it or whether I will get a ticking off for not arranging to attend the sleep workshop earlier in the year, but I cannot take any more time off of work to attend these daytime workshops plus cover childcare in school holidays to give my mum a break who has been supporting us throughout my son’s reduced timetable and my attendance is now being monitored at work due to taking one week off of sick, pah! Anyway just over 2 weeks of summer holidays left as I have previously said not sure whether I am looking forward to him going back to school as for one thing, although the childcare is difficult to cover over the school holidays particularly the summer one, the phone calls about my son’s behaviour or the fact they cannot manage it have ceased. So some external sources of stress has temporarily diminished. However, we shall see how he progresses into year 1 and whether he does really need an EHCP, as I am still baffled.