‘Well of course he will never get a Statement, or the new EHCP. Never. He has to be working at half his chronological age.”
“Well of course the Ed Psych might well say he needs a sensory room, but how on earth can we pay for that? It’s all very well of him to say that but he isn’t paying.”
“There’s no funding attached to an EHCP and we’re already doing what we can.”
“We’re already bending over backwards for your child, why do you still insist on more?”
All things that my son’s school said to me over the past year. Before I start, let’s get one thing straight. It’s a good school, run by good people who genuinely care for the children. And they repeat what the Local Authority tell them.
Not unreasonably – we expect public sector employees, paid from the public purse, to tell the truth don’t we?
Is misinformation a lie? Possibly. The result is the same – that the very people who should be supporting and advocating for our children, are not equipped to do so. They believe what they have been told by the County. And the County believe they are right, even when they’re wrong.
Of course none of this is clear at the outset. We trust schools with our beloved children, and assume they know about This Sort Of Thing. It was only at our planning meeting for EHCP with the SEN, officer amongst others, and school, when my son’s SENCO and teacher sat silent, that I realised they had no idea what was going on, or who was in charge. When I challenged them later, they were incredulous. “That’s the Local Authority” they breathed in hushed tones. “You have to do what they say.”
They were equally incredulous when I asked where it was written that the SEN officer must chair the meeting. Or take the minutes. I asked why no less than four LA staff, including the Ed Psych, and the school staff all appeared to have a little meeting themselves before we were allowed in the room, and we were told “Well we always do it like that. We let the professionals in first so they can get their papers sorted, and then we bring in the parents.” The teacher, whom I think a great deal of, had the good grace to blush when I pointed out just how patronising and unhelpful this was, and how it instantly set the tone of “us vs them”, especially when “them” included them!
I don’t blame them. I blame the (well meaning) Head, who when faced with having to send his staff into effectively a legal meeting, didn’t brief them. On further examination, the head revealed he had taken the LA at their word too. He kept repeating “But I’ve spoke to the SEN officer and this is what she said.” Even sitting down with him with a highly annotated copy of the SEN Code didn’t make much of a dent. His faith that County wouldn’t lie, appears unshakeable.
What he hasn’t realised is that this fact in effect makes him Them too. Such is the adversarial nature of the SEN system that if he’s not with me, he’s against me. This doesn’t make for an easy relationship – I have long been That Mother, and that won’t change any time soon. I’m making Edward Timpson’s “agitators” look like tooth fairies. It isn’t personal, I have no real dislike for anyone I’ve come across on the EHCP journey, I just don’t want them to get in my way.
I’ve also, like many parents, had to become as expert as I can be, at SEN Law. I diligently did my online courses and studied hard, but what isn’t clear from the SEN Code of Practice, is how to deliver the news that those who are so sure of themselves, actually, aren’t even close. That those who should be able to fight and advocate, are deliberately kept misinformed. And that those who refuse to comply with the law and attempt to effect their own guidelines, are nothing more than obstructions. We are faced with the difficulty of having to correct those who we then need to deliver services. We are made to feel selfish and entitled for fighting for our children. The sheer burden of the emotions involved are treated as irrelevant. The legal battles we face are every bit as technical as say, appealing planning permission, challenging a dismissal, or the conveyancing on a property, but with one big difference. This will never end. My child’s disability will always be there, the battle will never really be over, there will never ever be a point at which we can crack open the fizz and say “we won.” Any win is pyrrhic.
Peter and Lily’s Mum says pyrrhic means “Someone who wins a Pyrrhic victory has been victorious in some way. However, the heavy toll negates any sense of achievement or profit.” … she had to look it up!
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