Sometimes – when your pottering along and think you have a grip on things – something comes along that yanks that rug from under your feet – and for a moment you really feel like you are toppling over in mid-air.
D’s school have recently sent us his latest assessment data. This is the first assessment data they have shared with us this school year. It has floored us to see that they have assessed him (currently Age 5) at working at level 16-26 months across most areas of the national curriculum. I don’t really care what his levels are – but the shock was that these levels are significantly lower than the assessment done at his nursery in last April.
This means a number of things. That he has made negative progress over the last year. That the ‘alternative’ placement the school have recommended (a language unit) wouldn’t take him. (He doesn’t meet their strict criteria.) That he would fit the category for Moderate Learning Difficulties and a special school – sounds great until you realise that this means adjusting your expectation of your child to be reaching the end of their primary curriculum whilst their age group are doing their GCSE’s. (and I’m not prepared to accept that future just yet, based on such flimsy changeable data.) That their assessment of him is just plain wrong for a number of complex reasons to do with them equating speaking with language ability, lack of specialised support, multiple changes, inability of class teacher to connect with him, inability to tune into his use of makaton and verbalisations.
I’m tired and fed up of a system that on paper looks great – all child centred and enshrining the right to a quality eduction for all – but in practise seems to be adversarial and combative.
I am a usually optimistic person. I want to work with the system, and in partnership with the professionals in D’s world. I thought we were doing well at that. I don’t know how we have ended up here. For so much of his early development I had to endure the mantra of ‘each child is different and develops at their own rate’ and I honestly was doubting my own experience of him. Yet now I’m being told almost the exact opposite and that my assessment of his cognitive abilities is questionable and overly optimistic. Ever feel you’re not in Kansas?
I’m angry. I’m angry at the school for not realising there was such a delta between the two assessments. I’m angry they didn’t see fit to ask us for help and signposting on things to help him – despite countless meetings and progress checks. I’m angry that his class teacher couldn’t ask for help and that she hasn’t been supported in helping him. I’m angry they didn’t listen to me. I’m angry that they seem to be ‘blaming’ him and his abilities. There has been a systematic failure and we now need to get to the bottom of it. Cue difficult meetings and reviews.
So here we are. His current school think that progressing to year 1 with them isn’t really tenable, he would spend so much time out of his class it would be the opposite to inclusion really. A language unit in mainstream still spends a lot of time in mainstream and he is struggling with large groups and class sizes. He doesn’t really fit the the special school criteria and without an accurate assessment of his educational profile we don’t think this is the right place for him either. There is no place within the state system where my child seems to fit.
This is all intensely stressful and encompassing. I want to run away from it all. I want to hide and pretend it isn’t happening. But that isn’t going to help anyone – least of all D. Instead I spend my time trying to read and understand educational documents and special needs case history. Try to research the teaching methods that work, and what is best practice for a child with D’s profile. I feel like I am trying to absorb the entirety of a speech and language degree, an educational degree and a law degree in one. All because I believe that information is power.
Protecting your children is such a primal instinct – I want to scoop him up from this system and keep him close. But that isn’t the right thing for him – he needs to be facing outwards not focused on me. I need the tools to support him and help him to springboard away from me and into the world. And I want the best for him. I want the highest of aspirations and the best support available.
And that’s what I will continue to fight for.