Exclusion. A Mother's Story.
Posted by: webadmin at 1:37 pm on October 3rd, 2018
In 2015 our lives changed forever. My middle child started secondary school. He had chosen a very popular, ofsted rated outstanding catholic school in Altrincham. His elder brother had attended the same school and was badly bullied but nothing was ever done about it. We wanted our child to change his mind but he was adamant that this is where he wanted to go. He started on the 3rd September 2015. Within 3 weeks our bright, funny boy had disappeared. He began refusing to go to school, stopped eating and wouldn’t even wash. He would scream if we tried to take him or run off and hide. I was working term-time and had to call in sick at work because every morning was a struggle. I’d get to work and be called out of class to take a call from his school to come and get him. We were visited by the schools educational welfare officer who told us that if he was so unhappy we should move him to a different school. We moved him to a smaller school in Urmston but the same thing happened again. The school sent him to the medical education service but he wouldn’t attend. Eventually camhs diagnosed anxiety, referred him for tests and he was sent back to his smaller school on a reduced timetable. He started an hour a day in yr 8 and started to build it up. I applied for an Ehc plan based on his anxiety and he was awarded one because they had exceeded the time scale to assess need. All this time the school kept calling me to come and get him saying that he was refusing to go to lessons, they didn’t feel it was the right environment, and we should take him away. I spoke to the ehcp coordinators who told me they were waiting for the school to contact them as they couldn’t act until school say they can’t meet his needs.They didn’t do this. Two years went by and school made us sign an agreement that our son had to be sent home some days when his anxiety was too high (demand avoidance) or they would permanently exclude him for disruptive behaviour. I resigned from my job and started to work as a healthcare assistant working night shifts at the weekends so that our son wouldn’t be on his own during the day when he was sent home. The headteacher called us in to school one day and told us that we needed to find him another school because he couldn’t stay there. He had been referred by camhs for assessment for autism and we were still waiting so we begged for more time to see what testing revealed. We had always suspected Autism, but he was fine in primary school and he never stood out as struggling. We spoke to the local authority who said the school was named on his ehcp so he couldn’t just be thrown out of school. He was given 1-1 teaching assistant funding. In the meantime I researched the internet for ideas as to what could be wrong with him. I spent hours googling his symptoms and traits of behaviour before coming across the National autistic Society’s page on PDA. It was like an epiphany moment. A weight suddenly was lifted from my shoulders and all of a sudden I knew what was wrong, what had always been wrong and now I could find ways to help him. I worked with the school sending strategies and information. It worked, he began to do really well. I was invited to apply for promotion at work that would see me back on day shifts and I was so ready as nights were killing me. I sailed through the interview and was offered the post. I handed in my notice for my current job and started to work my notice. Unfortunately my sons teaching assistant started to suffer ill health and she started to have a lot of time off. The head also took the support away once to help other children. Subsequently our son began to struggle and the phone calls came again to come ‘collect him early as he was refusing to do this or that and he doesn’t have a choice he’s at school and needs to do his work’ Again we were threatened with permanent exclusion if he refused to do his work. I retracted my notice and turned down the promotion. School wouldn’t listen to me that he couldn’t help it, that I thought it was behaviours arising from autism. They said it gave the other children permission not to write. His Ehcp plan arrived in draft for this year, I called a review meeting due to it being very poorly written and containing out of date needs. I was told my son had a diagnosis of autism over the phone on the morning of the meeting. The local authority didn’t turn up! In the meeting the headteacher said he couldn’t stay anymore, that school wasn’t a babysitting service and we needed to take him away by October. We challenged this saying it wasn’t lawful plus all the formal exclusions (sent home without formally recording) were also very wrong the headteacher got cross saying we either take him away by October or he will be excluded permanently due to the behaviour policy. We came away defeated. We took advice from a solicitor and the National Autistic Society’s exclusion advisory service. We were told our son had been unlawfully excluded and discriminated against. I sat up again and researched legislation, education act 2002, equality act 2010, children and families act 2014 and the send code of practice. We have submitted a formal complaint against the headteacher and the governing body. We have informed the local authority, Ofsted and the DFE. We were told an investigation has begun. We have started to look at specialist provisions for our son. He’s not wanted because he’s different. How can we ever make him feel like an active part of society when even Christians have turned him away. He isn’t violent or volatile, he hasn’t done anything other than freeze when tasks become too much for him to process. Then he’s shouted at, removed from the lesson, told to do the same work that’s confused him in the first place in another room. We finally feel that we are learning to understand our child, but every time we take one step forward, we are knocked back from someone else. Autistic children are 6 times more likely to be excluded from mainstream schools because they are misunderstood. Unlawful exclusions are common in Trafford with some schools giving the impression that they are in the child’s best interest not to be formally on record. This is wrong, if it’s not recorded then the local authority and Ofsted aren’t aware of them, or able to judge if it’s fair and reasonable. My child feels safe at this school. His friends are there, and his sister, more important he wants to stay there. I am being made to feel that by sending him to school I am causing him emotional distress. If I don’t send him to school I am breaking the law and will be fined. I sometimes feel like I should remove him from education altogether. He’s not wanted at school, nor do Trafford want to spend money to help him or other children like him. In 2015 our lives changed forever. The pain and rejection rejection will stay with us forever. Our son has missed so much education now. Those precious years he will never get back. It’s been a very lonely journey and a constant battle that I hope nobody else has to go on ever again.