a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions.
This week has been a frustrating one, a hair-pulling, head-scratching, teeth-gnashing frustrating GRRRRRRR!!!!
My SENCo and I met with a SEND advisor from the local authority, most of the discussion was around a child in school. The crux of the discussion was we weren’t doing enough for the child to warrant an EHCP, not whether the child did or did not need one but the fact that we weren’t doing enough to show we were spending £10000 supporting this child. Equally we were told we need to evidence this over 2 cycles. Again not whether the child needs support but whether we as a school were spending the money.
For us this boils down to it simply being a capacity issue. We are a single form entry primary school. We currently have twelve children with EHCPs in school. (Anyone with an inkling of understanding will know that the funding does not match the spend). We are isolated geographically which means parents choose to keep their children in our school rather than access specialist provision and who can blame them. Other schools locally say they can’t meet need and the children are guided our way. This means we struggle for capacity…we know what the child needs but don’t have the capacity to fulfil those needs because we can’t fulfil the needs and evidence we have spent £10000 we can’t get the child assessed for an EHCP. A complete perfect CATCH-22 situation. What is worse is that as an inclusive school it feels as if we are being punished for being inclusive. Is it legal…I don’t know but I’m sure as hell gonna find out.
Every-time you feel like you’re getting there the powers that be move the line, the criteria for assessment is constantly changing becoming harder and harder to get across that line. Our trust have been amazing at supporting us with the pressure this creates. We would have given up long before now without their unfaltering help.
A tweet thread this weekend showed that our issues are just the tip of a very big iceberg. That doesn’t make it feel better just makes me realise the battle is going to be a lot tougher. Shouting on our own won’t solve this however, we all need to shout loudly and keep shouting.
I wrote an article a year ago for the TES. I would it’s got easier but I’d be lying.
In our town, we have a reputation for being the school that deals with special educational needs and disability. We are a one-form entry primary school with 10 high-needs pupils below the age of seven. We have 14 high-needs pupils in school altogether. A significant number of these children come from outside our school catchment.
When a parent comes to our door and asks whether we can accommodate a pupil’s needs, we bend over backwards to do so. And parents knock on our door a lot. The nearest specialist provisions are an hour’s drive away.
Unsurprisingly, no parent wants to send their child on that journey in a taxi at the age of five. Neither should they. So they come to us.
Many of the children are not yet on an education, health and care plan (EHCP). This is mainly because, in our local authority, getting a plan for such young children can be incredibly difficult. The pupils’ needs cover a huge range, including Down’s syndrome, autism, Rett syndrome, visual impairment, hearing impairment, foetal alcohol syndrome, and a range of communication, speech and language difficulties.
What irks is that we are left on our own to develop this, both in terms of finance and local support. On the latter, there is no viable alternative for these children in our town.
In the primary sector, more and more schools seem to be saying that they can’t meet pupils’ needs. Some of our pupils are with us because the parents were told that their nearest school “couldn’t meet the need”.
Accessing funding is challenging, as getting an EHCP is challenging. Sometimes I just wish the people making the decisions would come and see the children in school. The system seems set up to put barriers in the way of us getting the funding the children need.
That said, I know full well we can’t hit all the specific needs of some of our pupils, however much we try. In some cases a truly specialist provision is required. Equally, as the children get older and the gap widens, addressing specific needs can become increasingly challenging
If this sounds like a moan, you could not be further from the truth: that we are an inclusive school is a source of huge pride. The benefits for us far outweigh the costs. To watch the pupils playing together is a huge confirmation of the positives of being inclusive. Our children are tolerant and understanding of others’ needs; they are supportive and caring.
So anyway rant over. I have let it out. I will however be contacting ipsea.org.uk/home to look to those constructive next step. Time to start shouting even louder.