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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