We have been sharing letters from parents and practitioners over the summer. The letters we never wrote or perhaps we drafted them but never sent them.
Some of the posts have been anon and some not. Today’s post is one many parents will relate to. It is anonymous and I am sure you will appreciate why once you have read it.
Dear Unit Head-teacher
I remember our first visit to your school, A bright vibrant colourful place full of life. The children in the unit (it was a mainstream school with a unit attached for children with SEN that couldn’t manage in a mainstream class) all had a range of disabilities but seemed very happy to be there.
I was still at a stage in my life where I didn’t really understand the enormity of Special Educational Needs other than we had been sent lots of paperwork to complete and return and that a panel of people had decided that my boy needed to attend your school!
I did know that I had no other choice of school at that stage for my boy though!
I also had no idea that a statement was a legally binding document, or that there were organisations out there to help parents like me secure educational provision that fitted the needs of my child. And if I had known about them I wouldn’t have known where to start in asking for that help.
But most importantly I didn’t know back then that all behaviour was a communication of some sort – One cannot not communicate!
So back to our first visit – all the children that were ‘lucky’ enough to be awarded a place at the your school had been invited to juice and biscuits as a gentle induction. Parents were welcome too!
My son decided he preferred the outdoors and made a run for it – Gone with the wind he was – You may remember.. but I doubt it. I ran after him as I didn’t know how secure the school grounds were outside and you called for backup from other teaching staff.
My son was ‘rounded up’ by some lovely TA’s and brought back to the class at which point you bent down in front of my boy whilst I stood next to him and boomed ‘We do NOT behave like that at this school’
My son was just at the beginning of verbal communication so he probably had no idea what you had just said to him so he laughed, and laughed and laughed until he choked.
You looked to me and said ‘We’ll soon sort out this behaviour’
I think back now to what you said and I feel physically sick at that memory!
My boy was at your school for three years. Reception, Yr1 and Yr2 and then he moved on to another provision.
It became apparent after about 6 months at your school that the provision was not meeting his needs but you disagreed with me. Said he needed more time, I was to remember that my boy was only four! Said I needed to understand his disability more.
I am sure you will remember that I spent two of the years he was at your school fighting to get him into a more suitable provision but you refused to say you were not meeting his needs – One of your favourite terms was (when we were discussing his learning levels) ‘He just doesn’t get it!
I fought to get him removed because there were many more incidents similar to the one I described above. You would boom at my boy, sometimes when I was stood next to him so I knew it was a method that you felt comfortable with. And I felt powerless to challenge at that time!
You would tell me that my son only acted up for me and that I needed to learn how to manage him. I would try to explain to you that I had a good relationship with my son and only when it came to school days did his behaviour become unmanageable.
We were banned from school transport, blamed for escorts leaving and for behaviour that challenged. Accused of lying because my son behaved perfectly in school.
My son was so scared of being in school that he didn’t dare put a foot wrong and do you know what hurts most is that him coping for the three years cost him his right to be educated.
Because he had to use all his resources to cope in a setting that felt unsafe for him he wasn’t able to learn. When he left after three years he couldn’t even count to ten at school, yet at home he could easily manage to count to thirty!
I told you this and you didn’t believe me so I offered to film him – you declined to watch!
For the last five years I have been working on my boy’s self-esteem and confidence trying to help him rebuild what destroyed, to get some of that funny sassy lad that walked into that school when he had just turned four years old!
Do you want to know how I know all of this?
Because my boy has an incredible memory and he has told me, he has shared his experiences with me and we have talked about it a lot, working through different situations and scenarios
My son is 13 now and in an educational setting that so totally meets his needs.
The change in him is astounding.
He is treated like a person with an opinion to be valued whilst encouraged to mix with the other students.
Of course he still has challenges and will continue to do so much into his adult life but he feels safe in his current environment and this has enabled him to flourish and meet his potential.
Feeling safe has enabled him to learn. I feel so let down that this was not an option for him when he was four years old.
If you had listened rather than preached things could have been so different.
If you have a letter you would like to share, one you never sent, then please email it to email@example.com and let us know if you wish it to remain anonymous or to link back to your own site.
Debs is one of the co-founders and Directors of Bringing Us Together. She is mum to three child with a variety of SEND and has a great husband.