A short post from a parent who attended the Whole School SEND event at the end of February.
My friend and I were delighted and grateful to receive tickets from The Special Needs Jungle to attend this event. Our expectations were that we would be able to understand more about SEND provision from the point of view of the providers and we weren’t disappointed! Our experiences throughout were that the team of organisers were inclusive, thoughtful and exquisitely well organized.
It was helpful to visit the variety of stands of which our experiences were mixed. Overall our feelings are that the involvement of parents often comes too late in the process and this was reflected in some of our conversations. For example parents may be involved in the delivery of some education sessions, but when we inquired as to whether they were involved earlier in the process; to help to decide what was included in the sessions, we were met with faces of ‘oh no, we don’t do we?’! It was heartening that we felt that our thoughts were genuinely considered and we hope that in the future the involvement of parents and carers will be considered at all parts of the process.
Other discussions were interesting but less enlightening. Our discussions with the Speech and Language experts on their stand were frustrating. We wanted to discuss the communication issues faced by bright children with in mainstream school. These children may have an outstanding vocabulary, but many also experience significant issues with communication: we were repeatedly advised to attend the autism stand. We hope that perhaps this is something that can be considered more in the future by Whole School SEND, as it is our belief that good SLT support to schools for these children could both prevent mental health difficulties and school breakdown.
The plenary sessions were engaging and as part of the audience we felt that we were in safe hands with both Anita and Simon. They were interesting, informative entertaining, slick and professional (even when things got tricky….).
No feedback from parents attending this event would be complete without the mention of the use of the phrase ‘agitator’ by one of the plenary speakers. Regardless of the intent, it wasn’t well received. It isn’t helpful to ‘group’ and ‘categorise’ parents in any case, but especially based on ill-informed judgments. I think that this illustrated beautifully the ‘institutionalised parentism’ that many of us experience.
Assumptions about, and the classification of, parents, along with the presumption by parents that ‘schools can’t / won’t help’ are perhaps some of the biggest barriers to progress. It was disappointing, to say the least, to hear that this approach continues to be modelled at all levels within SEND.
The workshops were a little confusing at first, as were were expecting two way discussions. However, once I got my head around the fact that they were more like ‘interactive poster presentations’ I enjoyed them and found them to be both informative and helpful.
I was grateful to be able to ask a question of the panel at the end of the session about their views on the change of culture required to fully embrace the sentiment of chapter 6 of the SEND Code of Practice; about the removal of ‘targets’ and the use of ‘targeted provision’ to support identified ‘barriers to learning’. The answer was just brilliant and I only wish I had a transcript of what was said.
Thank you again for inviting us to attend.