Battling the LEA: a parent speaks out

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Parent Suzanne Buckner asks just what parents have to do to get a meaningful education for their child with SEN

The systems we have for SEN and statementing in this country have caused utter misery and despair for my family. So, through absolute necessity I set up my own school which was registered by Ofsted in October 2008, though, to date, I only have one pupil, my son, Freddie.

Freddie, now aged nine, attended private and state schools and was expelled from both because of his extreme behaviour. He then went to an exclusion unit where he got himself permanently excluded after stabbing a teacher with a pencil. His record for being excluded is twelve minutes.

I eventually put Freddie through the statementing process and, subsequently, the local education authority’s (LEA’s) best offer of education was a residential school for sexually abused and deprived children. However, I wanted to keep our son with us at home, where we had at least established an environment in which he felt safe and confident and had rules he understood. It was at this point that I decided to take matters into my own hands and set about establishing a day school.
I couldn’t help wondering if a lot of Freddie’s issues might have come about because of the learnt behaviours he had picked up during his school experiences. Be bad and we exclude you; to an unhappy child this promise is like magic fairy dust.

So I set about working out what my ideal educational facility would be. Our ethos would be to take children aged five to eleven and work with them to establish rules and boundaries so that they could go on to function in society as well-adjusted individuals.

However, even after our school, Freddies (Reading), finally opened, I still faced many battles with the LEA as it tried to send Freddie to other schools. In the end, I was forced to go through the tortuous appeals process.

Freddie eventually started with us officially in January 2009. He could not read or write and could not interact with his peers (social services had classed him as too dangerous to be with other children).

Eighteen months on, Freddie can now read and write and is receiving a valid and fulfilling education. At his recent annual review, we demonstrated that he is achieving Level 3 in some subjects. He is also beginning to function socially; he has been invested as a cub and invited away on camp. He regularly goes on school trips and plays every day with children at another school with SEN provision.

However, I continue to face battles with the LEA to get them to accept and recognise our school as a place to send other children. In my experience, placement officers not only control education budgets, they also have power over the lives of parents and children. My advice is: don’t cross them; they can and will destroy you and your child’s future.

Now that a new government is in place, I would like to see an overhaul of the placement procedure for children with SEN. As a mother, I can see what we have achieved with my son and I merely seek the opportunity to help others in a similar situation. I believe that there is too much ignorance and prejudice in our education system; our children need real help, not drugs or labels, and society needs to recognise that these children are unique and special and have much to offer and teach us all. If only we could listen with open minds and hearts, maybe the future for many of these children would not be prison or mental institutions.

Do you have something to say about any aspect of special educational needs. If so, we want to hear your story. Please email: editor@senmagazine.co.uk

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