He was unable to attend his private nursery and unable to visit new school, and is now expected to start school in September without having met any staff, seen his classroom, and without the ability to socially distance due to his understanding and developmental delays. He has a severe speech delay and is struggling with potty training which are both big concerns for a child who we expected to have access to preparation by his private nursery, and primary school, that was originally planned and needed. I’m very stressed and I’m considering pulling my child from mainstream education completely.
Jade Hampton – 14th August 2020
Our child is Autistic and attends a specialist school. Getting the specialist school place took a year and eight months of going through the EHCP process and spending every day researching and writing and pushing for him to have a school place. Mainstream education doesn’t work for him and he spent nearly a year of being illegally excluded and restrained by untrained staff, they did not disclose this information at the time to us, a subject access request brought it to light.
I have been forced to tolerate accusations of being a bad parent because my child is autistic and I was asking for help. I have a cupboard full to the brim with paperwork, he’s only 7! It grows bigger with each passing day. Because my child was excluded from education because of his disability, I was forced to give up my career outside of the home, and forced to work from home and home educate my then 5 year old. School were most unhelpful and the entire experience left us exhausted, financially suffering and traumatised.
After months and months of being told this (wonderfully appropriate, needs meeting, specialist ASD) school was full, we were delighted to be given a place for him. There was only one other school that would have been able to meet his needs, and that’s a private school. We chose this one because even though it is an Academy there is still a little bit of recourse to the Local Authority. He started in late September 2018. He was doing well, with a few transitional hiccups but excellent progress when Covid hit.
In the weeks prior to lockdown the school emailed parents with increasing regularity and urgency. It was clear by a week before national lockdown that the school was expecting to have shut and was alarmed that they were still open. Waiting on notice from the government. The correspondance was great given the situation, clear and reassuring that the school was certainly taking it seriously.
When Ireland closed their schools, we removed our child for his safety. We have vulnerable family members and I am a carer to my mother,partner and son all of whom all have disabilities.
During lockdown the school communicated with us every week and within weeks had set up virtual learning platform and sent goodies and print outs to us on an ongoing basis. It was wonderful! and as before lockdown we felt that the educational provision was going above and beyond in difficult circumstances.
However since then, the communication and information about reopening and safety has been unclear,last minute and patchy. We have had one letter since school holidays and it just regurgitates the government guidance and asks for tidy haircuts (!)
It is clearly unsafe to return even with all the masks in the world. I have spent extensive time late at night collating the BRTUS research results. I know now beyond reasonable doubt that returning him to school in September 2020 is NOT safe and NOT sustainable and its NOT sensible. I remember the heads tone of urgency and look at the cases today which are higher than when he was so alarmed about safety before lockdown! I wonder what on earth they are thinking!
The fines and punishments for parents for not sending their children to school in this manner in September is a complete attack on children with SEND.
We face multiple issues.
A. Safety guidelines are weak at best and do not address aerosol transmission. Transport has little to no safety measures and punctures the bubbles. My sons school is 30 miles away and my son normally spends between one hour and a half to two hours on a 16 man taxi every day.
B. Behavioral contracts that our children can not abide by setting them up to fail.Risking a permanent exclusion for not adhering to social distancing measures. During lockdown and partial reopening we were told our son would not be allowed on site because of his inability to socially distance.
C.Therapies and accommodations that will not be made as they go against the coronavirus rules. Which means for most children they will be unable to go to school. Government are giving contradictory orders!!!
D. Fining us for not being sent in, but if we send him in we will risk him getting an exclusion and then fines and punishment because he cannot socially distance and has been excluded as a result.
We deregister and throw away all of our nearly 2 year battle and sacrifice as a family and his potential future education but are safe and free.
I am hopefull that the head will be open to allowing him to have virtual provision at least for a month, one cycle of transmission so we can see what is happening locally and nationally. I am not reassured by a local towns desert factory outbreak, as at least 27 positives had been found only a week ago and the numbers keep on rising. Its adding insult to injury to fine us after refusing our childs educational right for 2 years of chaos. Hark about Moral duty and parental instinct??!!! They have a nerve.
All of this requires transition and change. Something that Autists struggle with anyway – its a impossible situation and no matter what way we turn we are being ostracised.
Anonymous – 15th August 2020
My autistic son has had some support whilst he was still in primary, now he is transferring to secondary and they are expecting him to just deal with everything like he is a ‘typical’ child. No sendco meetings,no extra transition, no extra support in place for one of the biggest changes he has experienced, considering he struggles so bad with change. He is also so fearful of this virus and he hates that “bubbles” will be up to 150 pupils. There is zero understanding of send children and ther already extra needs
Anonymous – 15th August 2020
I am the mum of a 4year old due to start reception in September. He has anxiety, sensory processing disorder, and suspected ASD and/or ADHD.
We had a detailed plan, agreed with school 9 months before his start, for settling him in to accommodate his. This – no fault of the school- went out of the window overnight thanks to new guidelines.
Our long-awaited referral for Occupational Therapy and further assessment was postponed indefinitely in April. Not only postponed due to closures but we were told we’d actually been moved down the waiting list. We had fought for months for this, with the intention that suitable support would then be in place for him in school when he started. This now won’t happen.
My child has been particularly hard hit by lockdown because of the lack of his usual occupational therapy (we had been paying privately pending NHS referral), a family bereavement, and our household shielding (meaning he has not had any of his usual
routine, or any of his usual social contact).
Readjusting back to old normal would be difficult enough for him after this. Readjusting to a new normal will be a massive effort, and one that’s really not feasible given that this coincides with what was already going to be a hugely challenging transition for him anyway (starting school).
And I’m facing next year with absolutely zero support or modifications in place, and the threat of fines if I keep him home to avoid further traumatising him by sending him into an unsuitable environment at an unsuitable time.
Anonymous – 16th August 2020
My daughter Poppy, is 12 years old and has autism. She goes to mainstream school and is doing well there. She was fully aware of why we were in lockdown and she did all home learning set by the school. However, she is distressed about the thought of everyone going back so soon. She has nightmares about it. Her 84 year old gran lives with us until sheltered accommodation can be found and Poppy is terrified of bringing home a virus that could kill her vulnerable great grandmother. She doesn’t want to come back yet even though she misses her friends. But she speaks to them on the phone regularly and wants to wait it out and do home learning for now. I don’t think it can be underestimated how badly this is affecting her mental health. Forcing her back could send her backwards and destroy the progress she has been making. If a child is happy and safe learning at home, why are the government forcing these SEN children into school where it would have a detrimental impact on mental health? This is atrocious ‘one size fits all’ rulings by this government and I implore them to look at families and their individual needs and circumstances. For the sake of the mental health of children who are scared to death about schools reopening. Where is the compassion and determination to make the needs of children ‘paramount?’ They must look at this and act swiftly. Thank you.
Clare Reeve – 16th August 2020