EHCP – Not quite a silver bullet

EHCP – Not quite a silver bullet

By Cross and Ginger

So, my child has his EHCP.  I thought at the beginning, that this would be the end of the battle.  If you’re reading this thinking “Er, well surely it is!” sorry to say, it’s actually just getting started.

My son’s EHCP was so badly written that we are forced to Tribunal to get the amendments he needs.  We were prepared for this – as much as one can prepare for to fight for something you never wanted to need.  We also looked at his placement.  He detests school.  We can just about get him to go begrudgingly, and then he explodes when he leaves.  Daily we have tears, begging to stay at home, bargaining and finally the dreadful dragging sensation that I’m bullying my child to go to somewhere that is failing him.

There seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel when we found a very small independent school just up the road.  It seemed ideal – tiny classes, flexible schooling available, a strong nurturing ethos and around a third of the children having some sort of a diagnosis.  It’s fee paying, but wasn’t prohibitively expensive and so we thought we would move all three children there.  We had been to the Open Day and I went for a follow-up appointment.  The woman showing me around chatted, and I mentioned that we had his EHCP through.  She stopped, dead in her tracks. “Oh. Well we wouldn’t take a child with a statement.  It’s too much paperwork for a start.”  She quickly brushed the issue away, but as a first impression, it wasn’t a good one.

In the spirit of Due Diligence, and because we have friends with similar children there who are doing very well, we applied to move all three children.  In advance of their taster morning, we sent copies of reports and his EHCP,  and a glowing reference from his current Headmaster.  I had to be interviewed, and by that point I was hoping it was a tick box exercise and this funny little school would be the answer to our prayers.  Instead, I was told that really, a child with an EHCP was far too much trouble.  That if a child was “bad enough” for a Statement then his needs would be too demanding for there, and only the very most severely challenged children get a Plan.  That he might require a one-to-one (he doesn’t) and that perhaps his needs were more severe than they appeared and he had been “hiding” in a large class.  I explained that if anything, his EHCP paints rather a bleak picture and actually I had every confidence that he would be fine, which is why I was hoping to move him and his two siblings.

Then came a list of what IPSEA term as “common myths”.  They tried to tell me that he wouldn’t get any other therapy if he was registered at an Independent school.  That the County could come in and shut them down, that they were liable to Ofsted in exactly the same way as state provision (they’re not), and that if he wasn’t performing academically by year 6 then his place would be withdrawn.  I was leaning towards the door with my car keys in my hand by this point.  The problem, they said, wasn’t my child. They had met him and he was lovely.  It was his EHCP, which instead of being the silver bullet, suddenly felt like a weight around our necks. They said they would write and let us know.  And, somewhat chillingly, that there would not be a reason given in the letter “as we can hardly put something like this in writing, can we?”

I drove home dejected.  My Sensible Friend gave me a good talking to.  “Don’t send him there” she said.  “They don’t deserve him.”  As she pointed out, they may as well have ripped up his EHCP and said he had to conform or bust.  Mr. Ginger agreed.  I toyed with the idea of writing to them to tell them we no longer wanted the place, but they got in there first, and wrote the following day to say simply “sadly we will not be offering your child a place.”  I think we’ve dodged a bullet.

It is self evidently impossible for a school to describe itself as welcoming and inclusive when it bases its decisions on misinformation.  Alternative facts.  There is a part of me that wants to write back with a list of all the misplaced assumptions I’d heard during the interview, all the ways in which the very worst was assumed of my child, and of the way in which they would be “forced” to act.  Of course independent schools have the right to control their own intake, but it’s disingenuous to accept disabled children so long as they don’t have the legal protection of an EHCP, however badly it is written.

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8 thoughts on “EHCP – Not quite a silver bullet

  1. It strikes me that It is of no consequence how well or poorly your boys’ EHCP is written – they are not accepting SEN kids. If this is their reaction, have you really any belief in their abilities to care for your child? The last one that failed us so devastatingly lied from beginning to end…the first lie was, ‘Welcome to our Family’. Now that is disengenuous.

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  2. Hi, I’ve just read your blog. I like your style and I read your blog quite a lot. But I am a parent of a special needs child. This blog made me slightly cross. For most of it I read on and shouted at the screen “what are you going to do about it?” Because quite honestly it is easy to write a funny blog, gain support from fellow parents and campaigners, but then do nothing to deal with this type of school and attitude. Yes, we are all busy as special needs parents. But nothing will change for our children and those to come with similar issues unless we challenge, and challenge publicly. So write an open letter to the Head and Chair of Governors. Obviously be polite and even slightly flattering as you are in this blog. But make damn sure that publicly this school is named and shamed with its attitude. Once they reply, then carry on. Try the MP, Minister for Education (whoever that may be today). Even Ofsted (or more likely ISI) – if this school does not understand its compliance requirements with its regulatory bodies then it will fail inspection. Sorry I sound harsh. But I am involved with too many campaigns where always someone else will solve the problem (think domestic abuse in the family courts, children in england starting school before the compulsory school age, local charity work, etc).

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    1. Hi, I feel I have to reply to this post. I don’t think you sound harsh (trust me I have seen harsh written c**p) but I do feel you have assumed that the blogger is not still fighting or that the blogger is about to stop fighting. I don’t read it this way. A SEND Tribunal is necessary. I apologise to you if I am mistaken but IMO you raise valid points which need further discussion. I am not on Facebook or Twitter and I know nothing about Itmustbemum or about Spice and Ginger (other than what I have read online) but speaking personally I can honestly say that no amount of informal or formal campaigning (Head Teachers, Governing Bodies, LA’s, councillors, MP’s, DfE, Ofsted, Children’s Commissioner, etc) makes a blind bit of difference. I was even a school governor with access to irrefutable evidence. Please trust me, Ranks close to prevent Reputational Damage. It is not children who are being protected but adults. In my experience, the evidence clearly exists to prove due process (the key issue in proving the substance of any complaint) has not been followed i.e. in my case x2 SEND Tribunal appeals upheld, x1 UT LA SEN appeal dismissed, and x2 LGO SEN complaints upheld. I keep fighting (I have another complex complaint with the PHSO) but the scales of injustice seem more weighted than the scales of justice as far as vulnerable CYP with SEND are concerned. Yes, we all know of parents who are disinterested, and of parents who jump on and off the bandwagon when it suits them, but TBH we all know that’s life. I suppose all I am trying to say is that people like S&G (and me) try their best. But there comes a point (for your own sanity) at which people have to say enough is enough, let the children play their silly games. For me, as long as you know you have behaved with integrity you can feel entirely justified in walking away with your head held high. I am a great believer in the truth coming out in the end. I may not live that long but at least I will die happy in my belief!

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  3. Thank you so much for commenting – here is a reply to your questions from Cross and Ginger 🙂 “Unpalatable as it appears, Independent schools are within their rights to do this. They also don’t have to conform to the SEN Code of Practice, I have discovered. There are no Governors, there are Trustees and the governance is entirely different to State provision, so I fear there is nothing to be done. The Trustees are aware of the decision and of the thinking behind it.”

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  4. They are actually not independent; they depend on parents who pay fees (very occasionally, they provide scholarships or accept children funded by local authorities or charities). They may appear welcoming on the outside, but they maintain the appearance of a “good school” by not taking children who would make more work for them. Apart from racial discrimination laws, there is no barrier to them doing this (even less than with a selective state school). I saw the tweet that called this an “indie” school, which may well have been to save on characters but it made it look hip and trendy, when in fact it’s just a cosy little private school that shuts out anyone who might upset the apple-cart.

    A few years ago, I read a report in the *Observer* by a mother who had put her daughter in a local private school, and found that her daughter was bullied and excluded from playing with other girls who refused to play with “the poor girl”. When she complained, she was told that the culprit was the daughter of lord so-and-so and thereby untouchable. She withdrew her daughter. There was also a case reported on TV a couple of years ago about a girl who had won a “full bursary” to a big private school in Leeds (“The Grammar School At Leeds”) but found that the bursary did not cover the uniform or bus pass required and that teachers expected pupils to provide iPads (she had to borrow one from another girl). In the end, she left after just a year because she was made to feel like an outsider. Her single mother had ran up debts to pay for the school’s on-costs.

    Private schooling in this country is a scandal; most of them that do not provide a genuinely specialised education should just be closed, and I would recommend that those schools should have to accept children funded by the local authority. If our ruling class used state schools, we wouldn’t have very many bad state schools.

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  5. Read all of your blogs with interest and want to say a huge ‘Thank you.’ Having a child with SEN is difficult enough, and you feel very isolated when school repeat that there’s nothing wrong and blame every aspect of parenting, even when they know that is not the real cause. We have had Children’s Services thrust upon us too by school who claim CP issues. All have been disproved. Interestingly, a six day delay in reporting followed the last referral. Surely that speaks for itself. Truly believe they are trying to bully us out of the school. We have had GP and Paediatrican side with school, even tho no diagnostic testing was carried out and access to school EP denied becuase son is “academically fine.” We went private out of desperation to know what we were dealing with. Diagnostic testing- results very clear ASD and ADHD. Sadly, this is the beginning of our fight. We were refused a statutory assessment for EHCP becuase school said he was fine, and their EP, to whom they had denied son access to, wrote a report saying he was happy and settled, and problems were to do with home. This was depaite never having spoken to or assessing J. We trust a tribunal will be fair….who knows after our faith in the system has been shattered.

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    1. Keep plodding on … I am so so sorry that it is horribly hard. Your son sounds typical of many that are deemed to be ‘fine’ with no decent assessment etc. I have never been to tribunal but i generally hear from parents that it is the first time that a fair and objective approach has been taken to their child’s needs. I hope you have sound advice and good support. X

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