‘Return to school after lockdown is difficult for the children I help with special educational needs and disabilities‘
Our inquiry line is ringing constantly. We thought returning to school after lockdown would be difficult for many children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send), and we were right. The coronavirus rules mean that what they’re used to has changed.
One child with autism won’t come out of his bedroom as he’s too anxious about lunchtime at school. Another young person with significant mental health difficulties is missing the teaching assistant who can’t meet her anymore, because she has been put in a different bubble. A new starter in reception, who has obsessive compulsive disorder, is terrified of everyone in masks and of catching the virus. I try to be reassuring, explain the challenges schools are facing, and suggest the parents contact the school and be open and honest with them. They are fearful that if they don’t get their children into school the attendance officer will be in touch.My working week: ‘When I see kids so excited to eat again, I know how vital my food bank is’Read more
My job is to help children and young people with Send navigate education, health and social care, and I constantly wonder how to make our systems more flexible and responsive to those in need.
I speak to three mums whose children should be starting in mainstream secondary school today. They don’t want to send them as they want places in special schools to support them with their complex needs. They all want advice about going through the Send tribunal process. For a parent with their own difficulties, often around literacy, this is a daunting task. Each mum tells me they’ll do anything to get their child the best support. I believe them, but I also know I must be impartial and there is a limited pot of money with not enough special school places, although the local authority is working hard to get more. I’m glad I’m not the judge.
Parents can contact us in lots of different ways; most of them phone, lots email or use the web form, and there is information on our website. We wonder whether young people might prefer a webchat facility, so today I’m looking into that.
Today’s hardest-hitting call was with a mum whose child has been permanently excluded from school and is struggling to attend the pupil referral unit he’s been sent to as it makes him so anxious. His mum feels his needs haven’t yet been met or understood – I suggest asking for an educational psychologist’s assessment. The calls and emails are still flooding in but I don’t have time to respond to all of them.
I meet with our team of volunteers this morning, who attend school meetings for us (currently via Zoom). We talk about how we can better capture the real voice of the child and how often the adults in the room overlook the feelings, anxieties and dreams of the children we are working with. I’ve been in touch with 15 families today, all with different stories and needs.
Today’s inquiries include school transport; admissions for school next year; accessing new online Send systems; how to get a dyslexia diagnosis; getting a translator in to support a child with complex needs whose family don’t speak English; trying to help sort some education for a child who’s between schools; issues with a social worker (this isn’t our job but you’d be amazed who calls our inquiry line); and a parent angry at the length of the waiting list for an autism diagnosis. It’s a non-stop job, often a bit overwhelming and sometimes depressing, But it is great to help families navigate very complicated systems and really feel like I’ve made a difference.
Let us know what your week is like, we would love to share it on our page.