A while ago I posted my concerns about having to fight for support and the hurdles I felt might lie ahead of us. This week we have begun to experience this first hand.
After a few weeks of relative quiet following the diagnosis (too raw and painful to feel like doing much), we arranged a meeting with B’s proposed primary school. This coincided with, and closely followed, further observations made by the Specialist Early Years Service.
We requested a meeting because of our concerns about how well B will cope with Reception and the sort of support he can expect. Put simply, I’m worried he won’t last a week, without proper support. He is currently at School/Nursery Action Plus level, with a view to applying for a statutory assessment.
We wrote to the Headteacher, summarising the situation and giving an outline of B’s characteristics and needs. A meeting was arranged with the Headteacher, school SENCO, B’s SEYS worker and my wife (I couldn’t make it).
The school were excellent. They made it very clear from the outset that, like us, they felt B would need a statement in place in order to get the support he needs. School Action Plus does not carry additional support. He would be in a class of 22 children and a teacher, with the occasional LSA. Given that his nursery struggle to cope (with a ratio of one to eight), this does not sound good. The school have someone in place who could act as B’s key worker if he had a statement and can also, from their budget, fund the involvement of an Educational Psychologist to aid the process. As I said, they were really supportive. They were quite insistent that the SEYS worker start the process of requesting then implementing a statutory assessment.
And herein lies the problem. SEYS do not want to make an application for a statement. A tentative agreement was made during the meeting, but the next day they back-tracked, suggesting instead that we ‘wait and see’. We saw this coming. I’ve mentioned before how the observer has said things like ‘he’s not too bad’ and ‘there’s lots of positives’. I’m sure she’s right, but I do not think she has been able to form a full picture of B from her observations. Nursery also think this is the case. B has been unable to meet 2 of the 3 targets on his IEP (and I’d question how well he’s achieved the third target), suggesting that more support is needed. She does not see it this way.
So we have a difficult situation on our hands. On the one hand, both parents and school are pushing for a statement application but on the other, the very organisation that could make this happen will not.
I would question the real reasons behind this. It makes me wonder if there are other interests than those of my son influencing this. In particular, there is the sense that SEYS are ‘running the clock down’ on this matter. Very soon, B will not be their concern. The statementing process is probably time consuming and a stretch on resources. With a bit of stalling, this will be off their hands and left to the school. I can imagine a head of department, under pressure to manage workloads and results, wanting to step back from this.
This might all be terribly unfair and paranoid, but is not without foundation. We already know that SEYS have not moved B up to the next level of support due to staffing and funding restrictions. I have also heard accounts from parent’s who have experienced similar things, though these tend to be between primary and secondary schools. Also, having met the SEYS worker, I found her to be quite ineffectual (not to mention patronising).
It was suggested to me, by a support agency I spoke to that the ‘conservative’ approach taken by SEYS might be based on their understanding of the need to have sufficient evidence. This could be the case, I guess, although a refused application would mean reapplying in October. This is around the time the school would be applying anyway, so what is there to lose?
In the absence of support from SEYS, we could apply for statutory assessment ourselves. However, I’m not sure how good it will look if we did not have the backing of an organisation that were working with him. What message does that send? In our favour, school have said they will help and support us in making the application, should we choose to do so.
This is a testing time. Life is challenging enough, without feeling that we’ve got a fight on our hands to get our son the support he needs. It makes you question your judgement and shakes your faith in the services that are out there. It also strengthens your resolve. In a funny kind of way, it has helped me cope better with the overall situation, after feeling a bit lost recently. I feel like we’re doing something for B, rather than being a bit helpless. Still, it shouldn’t have to be this way.