Colleen shares this latest news on behalf of Save Our Schools IW.
The Isle of Wight council have responded here. Ed
On 30th May, in London and across the country, people will take to the streets to raise awareness of the crisis facing children with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND), and will ask for adequate funding in schools, the NHS, and for specialist services and family support.
There are fewer areas in the UK that have felt the effects of the SEND crisis more than our Island, if ever there was a place where such a demonstration was needed; it’s here.
Isle of Wight demo
That’s why a group of SEND parents have decided to demonstrate on the Island, on 30th May to coincide with the National demos, from 12 noon until 2pm, St Thomas Square, Newport.
There are so many kids and families being failed here – will you stand alongside them and demand better?
The Isle of Wight claims these shameful accolades:
- Island SEND children experience the third longest delay in the country for receiving their finalised education, health and care plan (EHCP). An EHCP outlines what support a child must receive in order to access their education. Children here can wait over 2 and a half years, legally it should take no more than 20 weeks.
- The Isle of Wight has the highest proportion of home-educated children in the UK, at almost one in 50. Not all, but many of these parents are SEND parents who feel they have no choice but to home educate because their child’s needs are not being met at school. Other parents, usually after a legal dispute, are forced to send their children to specialist schools on the mainland due to lack of available provision here. Many children with SEND are excluded from mainstream schools unable to meet their needs. Kids who are excluded from school are far more likely to end up in prison or experience mental health problems as adults.
- There are hundreds (estimated 400+ by April this year) of Island children waiting to be assessed for Autistic Spectrum Condition, many of whom have already been waiting for over 2 years.
Any SEND parent will tell you, the fight just to get the basic needs met for their child, the things other families take for granted, the things their kids are entitled to, like an education, or the opportunity to socialise, to be able to fulfil unique potential and have a decent quality of life, as we all deserve – is exhausting.
SEND parents often talk about being ‘warrior parents’, not because there is anything special about them, but because they are used to fighting for their children to receive what should be theirs by right.
System is fragmented, complicated and understaffed
When you become a SEND parent, your world changes. You have to learn a whole new language (SEND, EHCP, SENDIASS, Portage, DCIT, LA, DLA…I could go on).
You must fill out an endless stream of forms, be referred here, wait, be referred there, wait, attend an endless stream of appointments, wait some more, liaise with school, social workers, doctors, specialists, the DWP…wait some more.
You are told conflicting information from different professionals – not because they aren’t trying their best to help, but because the system is so fragmented, muddled, complicated, under resourced, understaffed and constantly changing, that it’s difficult for even them to know exactly what (limited) help is available to a child or family, and how they might access it.
It shouldn’t be this way.
Some of the cuts that have contributed to the crisis for SEND kids here, include: Island schools, already dealing with £11 million worth of cuts, now have to buy outreach services for SEND children.
The rate our local authority pays schools supporting SEND children has reduced, the diagnostic service that used to exist (albeit on the mainland!) for Autism Spectrum Condition closed, class sizes are bigger, schools have less staff, and there just are not enough specialist school placements, or services to help with the other issues that are often linked with SEND, such as mental health diagnosis and timely treatment.
Wait of several years for diagnosis
I am the very proud and fortunate parent of children with SEND. One of my children was diagnosed last month after waiting several years for an assessment – almost half their childhood.
I cannot tell you how sad this makes me – the right support, early enough, can make a massive difference to the overall wellbeing of children like mine. I wish I could say ours was an isolated case, but there are 100s of kids still waiting for their assessment on the Island.
EHCP application process
I am currently trying to navigate the EHCP application process. I am incredibly lucky in that I have a network of very knowledgeable SEND parent friends, but even blessed with them, I still think it’s an incredibly difficult process.
Many SEND parents do not have any support network at all – it can sometime be terribly isolating, just caring for a child with additional needs, there is often no support, and parents have to become expert researchers to find out what their child is entitled to and how to access it.
“Our children are being failed”
Another SEND parent who wishes to remain anonymous, told me:
“A lack of suitable provision forces Island children away from their families to mainland school, or to home education. Our children are being failed by a system which tries to force square pegs into round holes – destroying the pegs!”
Last year, an Ofsted director said,
“Children with SEND are also not always receiving the support and help they need.”
Our hearts break daily, but we keep going
We love our children, and we witness every day the effect cuts to funding imposed by national government has on them, in addition to the extra challenges they already have by nature of their condition or disability.
Our hearts break, but, as any parent would surely understand, we keep going, trying to make sure they have what they need to thrive. It’s such a simple ask, isn’t it? What parent does not want to make sure their child has what they need?
Join us on the 30th
That’s why we will be out on the streets on the 30th, asking for better funding for the services our kids need.
We hope many people, not just those directly affected by lack of SEND provision, will come out in solidarity with us and our children. We know they deserve better, and we know we as a society can do better, if there is the will to do so. We need your help to demonstrate there is the will to do so.
Nothing will change unless we demand it together
Taking care of children, all children, making sure they have every opportunity to thrive, is surely the most basic measure of our own humanity and success as a community.
We just cannot continue to let them down in this way anymore. Enough is enough…but nothing will change unless we demand it together.
Non-party political demo
This demonstration is strictly non-party political please – all are welcome. SEND children come from all walks of life. There will be guest speakers.
Children most welcome, please make placards if you can, come in fancy dress if you like, bring bubbles!
Join us. 30th May 2019, St Thomas Square, Newport 12-2pm
With thanks to Unison and The National Education Union for your support.