Dear Local Authority,
I am writing this letter with the warmest intentions, not to alarm or to shock you, but to offer my sincerest offerings of peace in order for us to move away from being in no man’s land.
You see, I wonder if there could ever be a future when you work with me as a parent, instead of against me?
We are wasting so much time, energy and money in defending our trenches, that we really could use in more productive and economic ways.
Just like the saying goes; keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. It begs the question do we really need to be fighting when in fact, underneath, we may really want to reach the same goal?
I am tired of this tumultuous relationship that we find ourselves in and I’m sure you are too. It really doesn’t have to be like this.
If we could just think outside of the box a little then who knows what we could achieve! I mean if we collaborated then can you imagine what kind of school we could create if we actually worked together?
What about if we created a school that was so revolutionary, it worked as a flagship model for other counties to follow? We could be a county of aspirations that others could look up to rather than being one known to fail our children whom we are not providing for.
I could envisage a school with the focus on experimental learning, with the freedom to gather more life skills and where play was at the centre of everything we achieved, where autonomy and individuality could be celebrated.
A place that connects so many people and builds a community.
Us SEND parents have bucket loads of knowledge and experience that you could utilise and enrich your educational provisions. Instead our focus is trapped into fighting services desperately for what our children need and are rightly entitled to. Our strengths and our talents are being wasted.
The money being thrown away, blocking parents at tribunals, that wouldn’t be needed if we rectified the issue. The children forced out of county, travelling over a hundred miles, to expensive placements because the bigger problem is that not all disabilities are being addressed or fully supported locally.
Because, instead of correcting the issue you are paying to cover up your mistakes and it does not look favourable on you. Plus you are going to such extreme measures that I fear one day you will hit the national headlines if you are not careful. There is only a certain amount of time before the tipping balance will not be in your favour and the corruptive procedures will be exposed.
There is still time to rectify the damage and prevent further distress to the SEND families like ours who have been affected.
I am not a demon parent, like you blame behind the scenes for adding more challenges to your job, avoiding contact with me like the plague. And nor are the other army of SEND parents who are advocating for their children’s needs – we are not three-eyed aliens sent to exterminate you, if only you could just see.
We are just human beings who are forced to use our voices; which we use emotionally to protect our fodder. It does not mean we are obnoxious, obtuse or choosing to be difficult.
Have you ever considered that us parents could be your biggest assets?
Instead of thinking THAT parent, maybe one day you will think of us as THOSE useful visionaries. The carers from your community who wanted a solution for not just their child, but to enable other children to access an education too.
You see, my daughter had difficulties starting school because her needs were not adequately identified. As a local authority, you understand the type of provision she needs, but you are blocking the path forward as you know that you have not made the correct variety of specialist schools. Instead, you purport to find evidence to change the roots of her diagnoses, to find another quick fix.
Only this time, we will not stand for it. I cannot allow her to go into crisis for being failed yet again.
My daughter also has a young friend, who has had a similar journey; they are both now struggling out of education as a result. The children had a discussion one day about what they wanted from a school and the friend said; “I need a school where my mum is the headteacher because then I would feel safe.”
My daughter piped up (very surprised to hear another child express the same feelings she had) and replied “I’ve always wished my mum could be in my school too and then I would be able to go.”
They paused in silence for a moment, in this strange utopian vision, imagining how education could have worked for them if it was different; if their trust in adults had not been broken.
Imagine if there were a bank of parents involved in this process, all of whom with varying degrees of life experiences and personal knowledge, collaborating on the dream school. Working together with some professionals who may hear of this process and show extreme interest and passion for creating something different.
Posts could be advertised ahead of time, roles appointed, the leadership teams could draw up ideas working together with the parents. Thoughts could be workshopped prior to the provision being finalised and time could be given to create the most nurturing environment.
It would be like a free school that has been set up by parents in the past, only this time, the onus would be on combining the educational input from the professionals with the emotional intelligence from the parents too.
The professionals would be well trained and given the background tools before they begin, rather than having to acquire all of their knowledge on the job. A month’s training academy where understanding SEND and developing tool sets were paramount, with slowly phased transition plans worked on to suit each individual pupil.
To ensure occupational therapy, speech and language, as well as educational psychology is based in the school; a multi-disciplinary approach to ensure all needs are being met. A therapeutic and holistic style to teaching, being delivered by all staff, rather than pocketfuls of professionals as is often the case.
Local authority, this is not just a dream, it really is an achievable idea.
It could be the solution both of us are looking for.
But most of all, it would save you money in the long run.
Maybe we wouldn’t be at logger heads for ever more, but rather partners, who are singing from the same hymn sheet.
We can reframe this narrative.
We are capable of learning from one another.
Do you remember the pictures from World War 1 when the two enemies from the front lines came together at Christmas to play a symbolic game of football? Even in the midst of the stormiest of battles they were able to display such humanity and were able to find peace.
After the game they even shook hands, no divisions mattered, there was unity for that moment as time stood still for both parties.
It begs the question, what really is achieved through battle?
A harmonious handshake never hurt anyone, I’m sure it might be the answer between us foes. After all, the troops were able to do it, so why can’t we?
Perhaps, it really is time for a truce.
Would you at least consider working together to find a shared goal?
As always, I look forward to receiving your correspondence in the post.
SEND Warrior (otherwise known as the painful thorn in your side)