By Rosie and Jo’s mum
There’s a new word for parents like me.
I realised that the education system was failing my children very badly, I found the guidelines their educators should be following and I spent time, energy and, eventually, money on making sure their needs were met well enough for them to have equality of access to the curriculum.
That means that I am now known as an agitator.
This was the word I heard used yesterday by Edward Timpson MP, Minister of State for Vulnerable Children and Families, to describe parents like me to a room full of SENCos.
Today I am reading articles about how pushy parents obtain diagnoses for their children to get them independent school places and extra exam time.
This feels a little like the government’s labelling of benefits claimants as scroungers to garner support for cutting disability benefits.
Despite their loudly declared intentions to promote cooperation between educators and parent/carers in the SEN Code of Practice, I wonder if we are about to see a divide and conquer campaign which will set SEND staff against SEND parents, maybe even followed by further reductions in SEND funding.
Let’s do our best not to fall into that trap.
We know that the vast majority of parents are not only fighting simply to enable their children to learn in equality with their peers but an awful lot of them are spending their precious spare time supporting other parents who are following them down the same road. Our battles are absolutely not about gaining advantage over others. We help and support each other.
Sadly, I know there are parents out there who cynically use the system to gain advantage for their children, just as there are rotten apples in any barrel but the opportunities to exploit the system in this way are few and far between, as are the parents who take advantage of them. The existence of these selfish few cannot be allowed to sour the already tense relationships between parents and school staff.
Please, when you hear the word agitators used to describe parents who are committed to protecting their children’s education and well-being, challenge it.
The problem is not the parents who can hold authorities and educators to account. The problem is that many children’s needs are left unmet because there is nobody to advocate for them. The problem is that any parent ever needed to fight in the first place.
We need, now more than ever, to work in cooperation with each other to support all children with SEND. Let’s not allow anybody else’s agenda to destroy our ability to do this.
All of our children’s futures depend on it.