Remember the kids who aren't going back to school this week.
There has been a lot of talk in the last few months about the lost generation of children who have been unable to access school due to COVID. The loss of opportunities and education has been lamented - and rightly so. We were devastated for my daughter when schools shut again, and beyond thrilled when she went back today. On collecting her this afternoon I was told: "Mummy, this was the best day of my life". So don't think for a minute I don't get how great it is to have schools open again.
However, I cannot help but feel frustrated and saddened about the fact that thousands of children with Special Educational Needs were out of school before COVID hit (sometimes for years), and this week there will be no happy return to school for them and no relief at the end of "home schooling" for their parents. Yet there is no national outcry about the loss of opportunity for these children. They have been let down by a system that does not support them, even though they have just as much right to an education as anyone else - and the impact for the whole family is huge. Many, like our family, are those with autistic children who have extreme anxiety and cannot be in a school setting due to their mental health. Others have been told there are no schools that can meet their needs, or they have been excluded but given no alternative. Some are off-rolled - which means they have been encouraged to home school, and made to believe there is no other option because school is not working.
Some, like us, have after years of struggling, managed to find a solution and get support for their child despite the fact school cannot meet their needs. We have secured a personal budget through an EHCP, which means my son has his education at home and in the community with tutors, support worker (not forgetting us, his parents, who still provide the bulk of support). It's great that we have this in place, and even though we're thrilled we are able to support my son's mental health and see that he has an education, we have had to permanently rearrange our working lives to achieve it. It's not something we would have actively chosen, and we can never rest of our laurels as there is the constant threat of it being removed by the Local Authority if they decide they no longer approve of the package that we have. Others are not as lucky, and their children have no external support, and are literally languishing at home with parents who are at the end of their tether trying to support them whilst also trying to earn a living.
During COVID parents across the country have had to deal with the extraordinarily hard situation of having their children at home, with no school and very little external educational support. They have struggled to manage work while also having to look after their children. For some families this is a permanent situation. It was there before March 2020 and it will continue to be so now. My hope is that some awareness will be raised about the situation that these families face, and that there will be as much outrage about their missed opportunities as there was on behalf of the rest of our children.
Amazingly supportive website - Not Fine in School:
Information about your legal rights regarding SEND provision: