I’m writing this because I’m really angry. I’m writing this because I feel desperately sorry for parents of children with significant SEND. I’m writing this for the unwanted children who are passed from pillar to post as school after school look the other way. We’ve had one such case this week. The parents had visited another local school and in no uncertain terms had been made to feel like their child was not welcome, that the school was not right for their son. Then somehow our school was mentioned and they were directed our way.
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 8 high needs pupils below the age of seven and 14 high-needs pupils altogether (Our percentage is way higher than the national average). A significant number of these children come from outside our school catchment. Some of the children are not yet on an education, health and care plan (EHCP). The process to getting a health-care plan can be lengthy. In the meantime school just have to make do. 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. We’re a mainstream primary school, we don’t have a specialist provision, we’re not a specialist provision.
Problem is the nearest specialist provision sits 25 miles . 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.
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.
For the first time I’m stuck, SEND funding is woefully inadequate and has a significant impact on our school budget. The only support staff we now have in school are working with children with significant need. It’s unsustainable.
So when this family contacted our school, looking at how stretched we are both staff-wise and financially we realised that we can’t meet need. It breaks my heart to admit that. I’m proud that our school is inclusive. We are however at breaking point. I have no staff capacity and no money. There is no way I can meet need.
What angers me is that some schools, just push these children away.
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” or even worse just be made to feel that the school doesn’t want their child. (often that is all it takes). Parents want to send their child to a school that wants them.
Financially supporting a child with high needs has become an increasing burden on schools. It shouldn’t be. The data impact for some schools is there motivation to guide these children elsewhere.
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, that’s because it is.
However the fact that we are an inclusive school is a source of huge pride. . 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.
For us, inclusion isn’t a choice, but even if it was, we wouldn’t have it any other way. Sadly we’re now at breaking point, for the first time we genuinely can’t meet need.