Five years ago, I was told by my daughter’s school, that I would never get her an EHCP. I was fed false information that it was nevery going to happen because my local authority (LA) rarely ever issue them and it was unlikely she would meet the high threshold.
I ploughed on regardless because her time in school was limited to an hour a day (over lunchtime where she could play with her peers without costing extra resources). There was a definite reluctance to let her access the classroom without supervision and my young child was simply an extra cost. It was suggested to us that a family member could stay in school as that was the only way they believed they could get her in.
So, whilst my mum was given the job of an unpaid assistant 1:1 for six months, my daughter was suddenly a different child! However, with the unethical practices being utilised by the school, my mum was pulled away instantly and a paid teaching assistant was sought. The school had managed to secure an extra budget of funding for 15 hours per week of something called ‘Exceptional Needs Funding’ or ENF for short. The following period was extremely unsettled and the lovely assistant had an uphill battle of trying to build trust in a child who had already experienced the rug being pulled away from underneath her.
Once I found out we had an EHCP I was overjoyed as I thought it was going to be the holy grail – the answer to our prayers so my daughter could be in a school setting. I was led to believe that once we had this plan then it would support her learning and open up the doors that seemed to be previously shut to me.
Of course, this was never going to be the case, most importantly the plan wasn’t worth the pages it was written on. It’s all very well having a legal document, but if it is ‘framed’ in a way that describes a child with behaviour problems rather than having needs because she is autistic, then it really has little worth. Coupled wiht the fact that the plan was never followed by the school or was never delivered by the local authority that issues it. A piece of equipment that could only be successful if we had any tools to use with it.
I was then presented with pretty much three choices:
1. That I elected to homeschool my daughter (many illegal phone calls and emails were encouraging me that this was my ‘best’ choice) from the SENCO and the LA
2. Or I put my child into a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) for three months to give the school ’the respite from my child that they needed’ and then we could look at what happens next
3. That I could opt to ‘manage move’ her to another local primary school who would be willing to have her
And … as usual, none of these measures were ever in her best interests. I could feel we were a burden to everyone involved and that EHCP I had managed to receive wasn’t benefitting us in the slightest.
The EHCP had been questioned at that stage that it wasn’t working, but instead of going down the path of an early review, the opportunity was missed. Instead, my daughter’s mental health proceeded to deteriorate and this followed with a short stay in hospital.
By the time she returned back to school, an incident occurred whilst she was in flight mode, and an email arrived to give me the penultimate news – she was being permanently excluded. Rather than get the EHCP right and her needs better met, we were being shown the front door.
The following years I clawed at getting anything in place whilst the EHCP lay redundant. It was only at the stage that I was encouraged, by fellow parents, to appeal it’s contents, that really my local authority started paying any attention to our situation. It would take a final push with the lead up towards a tribunal hearing that they would concede to any of the provision that she actually needed.
So it begs the point, how worthy was awarding my child with an EHCP, if the only way it can be delivered is the threat of being in a court to rule that it is delivered effectively?
Was the EHCP a golden ticket? Did it behold any value or allow my daughter her dream of education that she can access?
We had a delightful taster of that potential earlier last year, before the onset of COVID, and with a dedicated team around her wanting to see her achieve. However, if you lose key individuals who see your child, who understand their struggles and give them the safety zone to grow, you can be left with empty words on a plan once again that are meaningless and hollow. You can go back to being a number. An extra cost. A burden. Then nothing more but a phone call away from finding out the inevitable. You can’t convince anyone of your child’s potential if they were adequately supported – they have to feel it too. The moment you are discussing the fact your child could be left behind from their cohort because they ‘won’t’ be able to get GCSE’s – well you’ve lost any chance of them really seeing your child and their challenges. No child will thrive when thought of as an inconvenience or compared to the achievements of others. She will always be that one square peg.
With changes I’m yet able to discuss, and coinciding with the annual review of her EHCP, it has now been decided to annul the placement offer. We have until the 30th of March to access online learning and as the care services of the school’s trust state in their latest correspondence; ‘The local authority can now work with you to find an alternative provision that will be able to best meet your daughter’s needs.’
With the door slammed shut once again, I find myself back to looking at the EHCP paperwork once more.
Will it unveil a miraculous opportunity into the unknown? Can it lead to a path of gold? I take a deep breath as I contemplate the struggles ahead and how far I will have to push for an alternative provision to now be given.
As the champagne corks pop for other parents come the 8th of March, we will face being dropped contact by one institution and face being lonely warriors once again. Not knowing if, when or ever we will be given a chance again. Just left in hope that this golden EHCP will yield some new opportunity we’ve yet to see.
As I sit typing, my daughter was in her daily zoom class with the teacher, who asked what she would like to do for the next week:
“I want to go back to f**ing school,” she bellowed at the screen. Of course, the highly skilled and dedicated staff member handled it perfectly. It’s a great school and I wouldn’t expect any less. My daughter has happy memories from the many staff and her friends there – why wouldn’t she want to return? I’m hoping at the very least she will have the chance for closure with the relationships that mean a lot to her, but as usual, our confidence and trust has been rocked.
So now we have a pretty accurate EHCP that could reflect my daughter’s needs but with nowhere to deliver it. I hold onto some hope that there will be a ticket for something or somewhere for her at least. A chance for anything feels like a golden ticket right now.