Send in the City – When School Accounts Don’t Match The Realities

school refusal
One hour after arriving at school and half an hour after her class has gone in. We are still sitting outside the school on 01 October at 09.12am with no help and no ‘provision’ to get inside despite school EHC contributions saying otherwise


Send in the City by Jen Smith
Navigating the Special Education Needs and Disability (Send) provision in Bristol one disaster at a time

EHCP Bristol Process:

The EHCP process is a long, slow, infuriating one, but what it does show up along the way is the lack of integrity and honesty from services that should be supporting the children involved.

school refusal stress
You often find children with Send chewing holes in their clothes. That’s what’s happened here.

On Wednesday 24 October, I sent an email of complaint to the headteacher of my daughter’s school. My child has been unhappy in school for a while due to perceived bullying and the stress her dyslexia causes her. One of her job-share class teacher’s ideas to resolve this situation was to try to tell us find another school.

Another day, another attempt to get to school. You can see the pain of school all over her face

My eight-year-old did not attend school on Wednesday 24 October. She was so terrified of going, she barricaded herself under the table in her bedroom

school refusal
‘If I die, everything will be fine’. A message my 8 year old wrote to me regarding the stress of school

At the point of emailing this complaint, the school had not sent their contribution to the EHC Needs Assessment to Bristol City Council. The council received it by the deadline and today sent me a copy. What a telling contribution it was. Send parents are so often vilified for being difficult. But when you are desperately trying to get support put in place at school to then read lies written in an official document stating that ‘provision is put in place’ is a staggering moment.

Wednesday 07 June 2018 at 15.36. The stress of dealing with the school day

Provision is not put in place to help my child get into school in the morning. I have begged for provision. If provision is leaving a child sat outside of school screaming for an hour in terror and then going home, that is excellent provision because that is exactly what is happening.

I think we spent about half an hour directly outside of school on this day

It’s disconcerting to receive a report from the headteacher during the half term holiday this week which talks about my child’s vocabulary needing to improve, yet reading in the EHC contribution that she has ‘good vocabulary both written and verbal’. School cannot have it both ways. It’s either of concern or it’s good, but two conflicting statements in one week is not on.

school refusal dyslexia
Barricaded under the table at 8.25am on Wednesday 24 October. Refusing to move due to school stress

Spelling is a long-term personal outcome, yet the word dyslexia is not used. Spelling, is something she is expected to ‘work hard’ at to make the ‘expected level for year 4’. But how hard are dyslexic children expected to work over and above their peers? To the point she is hiding under at table at 8.30am in the morning armed with a box of pens to avoid coming to school?

All these pictures were taken by me, all but one without her knowledge. I’ve been documenting the stress my child faces going to school for a long time. None of this, which the school are fully aware of, features in the school contribution to the council. There is no provision to deal with this.

Often, my daughter writes me notes and letters telling me how she feels. They are difficult reads. It’s tough having a child begging me for help, especially when she talks about hurting herself, dying and trying to strangle herself. She can’t make the way she feels any clearer. But schools can be. They can be honest, factual and present the truth at times when it counts. The right support for dyslexic children can be life changing. When parents ask for a needs assessment, it will be because their child has hit rock bottom. And when the final evidence has been submitted, it suddenly becomes clear why.

Although Bristol City Council agreed to a Needs Assessment, I’m already sure the next panel will say no to a plan. According to the school’s evidence, there is no very great need for additional Send support, but filling forms in this way is criminal in light of the actual truth.

These photographs are the type of pictures you never want to share. They are a private crisis and an ugly truth about the terrible nature of inclusion in Bristol schools. But the EHCP process is not fair. It is not fair that my child is struggling to access school, the right learning environment, the right help, the right support and all because of a few poxy slap dash words on a form. It’s not fair and it’s ruining the lives of school children at a critical point in their learning.

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