Filed under: A few thoughts, Education and the new government, Special Needs Education | Tags: A levels, Asperger's Syndrome, course work, post 16
Peter has now completed his first term at sixth form on his A level course. For him, sixth form and A levels were the only choice really, he is still in a mainstream school, but has a place in the school’s Asperger’s Unit, which started the year he did at the school, and has now extended into the sixth form to continue to support those of its students who have progressed there.
He still has a similar package of support to that he had in the lower school, only TAs now perform the task of note takers. They are on hand to help with organisation and planning of work and to help Peter manage his private study time. In reality, much of the private study work lands with us at home in the form of homework. This is because I think that Peter is really enjoying the social side of being at a sixth form, in a way that he didn’t in the lower school. Out of necessity, the Aspergers Unit had its own place in the school, as children who have AS can cope poorly with the social aspects of being in a big school during break and lunch time. This is when friendships are forged and Peter missed out. He is really enjoying the fact that there is no separate social area for the young people with AS to go, (even if they need a refuge from the racket and noise) and he has had to learn to make friends. This was very difficult and stressful to begin with and to be honest, I really missed the AS unit on his behalf, but he has actually made more friends than he ever did in the lower school. I am very happy about that, and I know how lucky we are that he has been able to cope. I know some young people with AS struggle to make the transition.
In terms of work, he has kept up pretty well. He has kept up with the essay type of work, and the practical side of his courses pretty well. However, he is struggling with some aspects of the extended coursework in terms of planning and organisation, but is developing (with help) some strategies to cope with this, so I am optimistic that he will catch up. He is also enjoying the enrichment courses. These are things like rock climbing, football, business courses and Music. He came home very happy today as he is now involved in music group and has been singing and playing music all afternoon.
We are tremendously lucky that Peter has a place in a sixth form with the continued support from the AS unit. His AS level predictions are optimistic and if he manages to keep up with the work load and to adapt to the unexpected demands it is making on him (lots of extended course work), I am hopeful that he will get some reasonable A levels.
We can only take things one step at a time, but I think it is fair to say that we are cautiously optimistic for the future.
Filed under: A few thoughts, Education and the new government, Special Needs Education | Tags: battle fatigued, BBC Learning Parents blog, BBC Parents blog, bloggers, cuts to therapy services, education cuts, education transport, Green Paper, Hens, Michael Gove, parents, SEN, SENCO, Special Educational Needs, Teaching Assistant, writers
It has been a good few weeks since my last blog. I must confess to feeling somewhat battle fatigued due to the escapades of the new government and their effects on my children’s schooling and haven’t wanted to write as much as before. I have found it very stressful, watching the effects of the cuts and the changes to our education legislation take shape. My own children’s school recently became an academy, with only the sketchiest of consultation processes. The school’s defence to this when questioned was that they never arranged any meetings because they thought a consultation event would be poorly attended… we never stood a chance. The Local Authority has been trying to save money by messing with transport arrangements for statemented children, and have sent out some confusing letters for parents to worry about. Cuts to therapy services and educational psychology services are starting to have a bigger effect. SENCOs are walking around school looking increasingly stressed, and William is now finding himself ‘buddied’ up with other children to share teaching assistant support. We are watching this carefully but it is hard to object to this knowing that in doing so, another child may simply not get help at all. It is fair to say that some of the services our children rely on are simply not what they were.
In response to this I have found myself taking refuge in my garden more and more. My potatoes and raspberries have been very demanding as have my hens who still have not recovered from the effects the issuing of the Green Paper had on them. See here: http://guerrillamum.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/in-which-guerrilla-mums-hens-suffer-because-of-michael-gove/
I have not been entirely idle however. The people at the BBC Learning Parents blog have asked me to write a piece for them which can be seen here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/parents/ You can also see posts from other writers/bloggers/parents with similar interests in special educational needs and parenting.
I’m hoping that I can shake off this coalition inspired malaise and get back to blogging soon. Normal service will I trust, be resumed shortly
Filed under: Education and the new government | Tags: children, DfE, Disabiliity, empathy, Green Paper, Hens, Michael Gove, SEN
In our house the Guerrilla Dad got up having listened to the 6.00 news on Radio 4 and went to let the hens out. Being a cheery chap he usually speaks to all the hens kindly and gently however, this morning he had heard the Green Paper on SEN & Disability was proposing to scrap statements and was proposing statutory mediation in a process which would be managed by the voluntary sector. ‘Big Society, Big &^%(*£”!! said GD as he grumpily put out the hens’ food. We later heard on Radio 4 a report suggesting that hens have empathy. Being empathetic they retreated to their hen house.
We are still checking the DfE website, and the hens are still hoping the GD’s mood improves because they do miss their little chats. It will not improve if the news does not very soon get better than what is touted by the Tory press.
GD is proposing that our William’s hen Queen Latifah should be seconded to the Dept of Education as an advisor, as he has seen precious little evidence of the government demonstrating empathy for children with SEN and disability. We think she could teach the government a lot…
I drove two unhappy children to school today who were worried that they would lose their places at school and their help because of what they had heard on the news.
More later. For the record, this is not my response to the Green Paper because I am waiting until I have actually read it – unlike some!
Filed under: Education and the new government | Tags: Advocacy, education, equality, G at GCSE, Green Paper, How should students learn?, Individual Education Plan, Sarah Teather, Special Educational Needs, SSAT, statement
This is my second of three blog posts written for the Specialist Schools and Academjes Trust conference.
There has been much debate about how students should learn. Many suggestions focus on using innovative high tech ideas in the classroom and alternative curricula are being explored by a number of groups. For children with special educational needs (SEN), however, the answer to the above question is much more basic – we must ensure that all children with SEN have their needs met through a system that is fit for this purpose.
All too often the current system for meeting SEN fails. This is because it works only for those with very mild needs at one end of the spectrum, who don’t need a statement to have their needs met, and those children with the most severe needs and who do have statements, at the other end of the scale. There are a lot of SEN children in between these polar opposites who do have significant needs who need provision that can only be provided by having a statement, but can’t have one because these are severely limited.
This is unfair and children who slip through the net at school and do not have articulate parents who can advocate for them can miss out. We should be aiming to extend the security that statements can offer to children and it is unacceptable that so many children with SEN have needs that remain unmet. If all children with SEN who attend mainstream schools have their needs met, they will learn and they will be able to access the curriculum just like any other pupil within that school.
Not all children with SEN will be able to have their needs met in a mainstream school, and will need a placement in a special school. Jane, who is a teaching assistant in a special school, has this to say about how students should learn in special schools:
‘I think the answer… is entirely summed up in one word: ‘differentiation’. The main barrier to learning is that educators have not thought about what and how students should learn. In any school but especially a special school each pupil needs to be learning different things in different ways. Too often those in charge assume it would be a good thing for the children in their care to have a chance at a “real” qualification, usually a GCSE. These courses are not at all suitable for pupils who can barely read and they are stressed and humiliated.
There are better things they could learn to do to a worthwhile standard rather than getting a “G” at GCSE…. [such as]… how to carry on a conversation, how to notice another person’s mood, what is helpful behaviour in common social situations. A child’s primary educational objective could even be to become toilet trained. The impact of learning this skill is taken for granted by all and is huge and life enhancing, far more beneficial than spending the year learning to count to 5…. It is sad that the process of grouping children in terms of their special needs is basically a negative one. You drop down the groups because of the things you can’t do until you reach the lowest level. Articulate children end up grouped with non-verbal children simply because they can’t write. Too much weight is given to the child’s physical age instead of looking at their overall developmental age.’
There is a great need to look at the system for identifying and meeting SEN, and to also focus on and enhance those properties within the current system that meet need and give security to children such as the statement of SEN. These can really be a passport to a successful school experience. I welcome the Green Paper on SEN and disability and hope that I will still feel the same when it is published, and that this opportunity to make positive change is seized upon by policy makers.
Filed under: Education and the new government | Tags: big society, Coalition, Croydon Guardian, disability discrimination, disabled access, discrimination, Free Schools, Harris Academy, Mr Gove, Ofsted, selective practices, SEN, SEN appeal, sharp elbowed middle classes, wheelchair access, wheelchair ramps
‘Exemplary care, guidance and support pervade all aspects of the Academy’s provision.” Ofsted 2009. This comment is taken from the Ofsted report 2009 for the Harris Academy, Crystal Palace. According to the Croydon Guardian eleven year old Idayah Miller from Norbury, has been told that she can’t have a place there because her wheelchair will get in the way of other children in the school’s crowded 1950’s corridors. It appears that her wheelchair is a health and safety risk because she would not be able to get out of the school if there was a fire. Here is the link to the article: http://www.croydonguardian.co.uk/news/8670892.Disabled_girl__health_and_safety_risk___says_school/ Oh, and the newspaper also states that the school has said that Idayah is not academically capable enough to attend this school because it is a ‘high pressure, high performing’ school and she would be likely to be upset and suffer from low self esteem when she falls behind her friends. The school’s own prospectus, however, says ‘Harris is an inclusive school which admits students with disabilities and special needs on an equal basis with other students. The Academy has installed lifts, disabled access ramps and wheelchair facilities. As a result, disabled students, including those in wheelchairs, have full access to the curriculum.’ It would appear that the decision not to admit Idayah is very much at odds with what is written in the prospectus.
I am somewhat puzzled by the comments in the newspaper regarding Idayah’s ability. Why is this relevant to any decision to not allocate a place to her? Nowhere does it say in the school’s prospectus (unless they are busily producing a new one as we speak), that this is a selective school, indeed the prospectus would appear to be saying the opposite. Furthermore, the school is obviously able to take children in wheelchairs as it says it has wheelchair ramps and wheelchair facilities in its prospectus. Idayah’s father has lodged an appeal against this decision and the case will be heard by an independent panel in December.
Since the coalition government came to power we have seen disabled students (if they actually have special educational needs!) maligned in the Press through the media circus that accompanied the Ofsted report, ‘Special Educational Needs and Disability Review – A statement is not enough’. Parents who stand up for the rights of their disabled children are the ‘sharp elbowed middle classes’, and suddenly it is OK for the very rich to seek to have private school style educations funded by the State under the auspices of the free schools movement. Perhaps schools who believe in selection now feel no need to hide selective practices? Frighteningly, there are only 14 comments on the article. I would have expected there to be more.
Big Society? I think not. It appears that to be born with a disability can disqualify you from access to the high quality education the education secretary champions so vociferously. It is not acceptable in 2010 for this sort of discrimination and prejudice to be present in publicly funded education establishments. Over to you Mr Gove.
Filed under: Education and the new government | Tags: Coalition, coalition cuts, disability, education, education reform, government, National Autistic Society, Reform, SEN, Special Educational Needs, TA, Teaching Assistant
The Natioinal Autistic Society’s ‘Education Update’ page is asking for comments regarding Reform’s new report ‘Every Teacher Matters’ at:
A worrying aspect of this report is that it advocates limiting the use of teaching assistants (TAs) in class, suggesting that extensive use of TAs could even be damaging, particularly in the case of children with Special Educational Needs.What do you think about this?( See my comment on the Education Update page.)
A good TA has often been all that has stood between our children and failure. I know this to be true because they WERE failing before they had TA support.
An impartial examination of the role of TAs in education must be carried out before any further changes are made. Reform is a self-declared right-thinking organisation, set up by a current Conservative government minister. They are clearlly not impartial and my view of teh report is that they set off from an ideological viewpoint i.e Cutting costs and then looked for evidence to support it. The worrying thing is that they have influence over the Government (or is it the other way round!)
Please please please either responsd to the NAS or respond on here, it really is important. Whilst you are on the NAS website please take a look at what the Government are trying to do to the Autism Act, watering down the statutory guidance to reduce it’s funding implications.
Filed under: Education and the new government | Tags: accountability, Education Minister, Emperor's New Clothes, Green Paper, Guerrilla Dad, Holding the government to account, SEN, Transparency, Transparency website
Dear Dave (may I call you Dave – you may call me Grrrr it’s short for Guerrilla Mum)
Well, gosh! Thank you so much for the new Transparency Website. I opened it this morning at the section I am interested in – number 6: Improve support for children, young people and families, focussing on the most disadvantaged. Here is the link. http://transparency.number10.gov.uk/transparency/srp/view-srp/37/46. Incidentally Dave why is this number issue number 6 and not number 1? Number 2 or 3 would be better…
It’s fair to say that by the time I had got to 6.1 ‘Review and reform provision for children with special educational needs, disability and mental health needs’ I was fairly bursting with anticipation. Opening the next section 6.1.i. ‘Develop and publish a Green Paper on special educational needs and disabilities’, I couldn’t wait for the update on status, as not only did I comment on the Green paper, I spent a lot of time encouraging others to do so. I knew you would appreciate that. So I clicked, with baited breath.
In Progress? I’ll write it again. In Progress? I haven’t worked in public service recently but the Guerrilla Dad who has, and has written a few business plans in his time, reliably informs me that if anybody arrived at a meeting with an update of a plan which said ‘ In Progress…’ everybody knew that it meant one of 3 things …
1. Ooh I haven’t done this yet, there are so many more important things to do and I haven’t really had time to think about this.
2. I know this isn’t on the important part of the agenda and only gets asked about at the end of the meeting.
3. Oh! So that’s why my boss sent me to this meeting …….(note to self consider alternative career development).
Guerrilla Dad also said that if he had used any of these excuses in meetings he would have got his butt kicked soundly, and witnessed this happening to others.
So Dave, back to Transparency. This is proof conclusive that your government thinks we are stupid and able to be fobbed off with vague performance statements and unsatisfactory updates. You have made one thing very clear though, Free Schools (allegedly in great demand but actually only about 30 groups have come forward) are right at the top of the agenda.
One fifth of pupils in Britain will have Special Educational Needs (SEN). One in a hundred will have an Autistic Spectrum Condition. Other children will have a wide variety of other SEN or disabilities. Transparently the government does not care about these children and I am angry and upset. It is offensive to me that you think this is in any way satisfactory. How does this make you accountable? Where is the Accountability button? How do we hold this government and the Education Minister to account? Transparency? Frankly Dave we can see right through this, and I’ve changed my mind it’s MRS Grrrr to you!