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Tribunal Hearing yesterday

(20 Posts)
KeepOnKeepingOn1 Wed 09-Dec-15 12:30:05

If I were being generous to the judge (whom FS described as 'fierce') I would say that taking 90% of evidence from the school Senco (on the basis that parents had submitted their views in writing at an earlier stage) was just giving them enough rope to hang themselves with if there hadn't been these sort of comments throughout:

This is a mainstream school and so expectations must be limited to interventions that don't take any time (no spare time in the school day) and are invisible (the most important thing is that DC with an ASD don't look different) and can be accommodated by the schools Local Offer to all pupils.

Complaint that place on the spectrum (what does that even mean?) was not mentioned in the extremely comprehensive GOSH report.

Low expectations - anxiety (lots of autistic kids are anxious - really I was beginning to wonder about DS1 hmm - so that's just par for the course. And apparently a five minute attention span is also just par for the course with autistic kids. This is the best that has been achieved so far using hover support (i.e. access to the class TA who may be busy supporting other children and does not prioritise him) so support should remain at a hover level with the TA accepting that they will have to refocus him every five minutes. Dedicated 1:1 would be a step backwards and lose 4 minutes of independent focus. Complete failure to recognise that output is enormously varied from laser like focus for 10+ hours a day on self-chosen activities (currently obsessed with designing and building vehicles using TerraTech), to perfect focus in all 1:1 assessments, to accidental motivation the first time he learns something new at school resulting in no problems to an absolute inability to get started and remain on task. The reasons are usually based on problems with expression, assumed shared minds meaning that he just does not know how to start. Hover support can never address this.

Constant comparison with other autistic children with different profiles and needs - i.e. more severe.

Don't need to measure progress against objective targets (recommended SULP programme delivered by SALT) and so Friendship Group and Lego Therapy can only be subjectively measured.

The hearing itself felt extremely unfair. The judge insisted on taking school evidence and then said she would come to parents but she didn't. Every time I spoke the Judge shut me up even though I was relating conversations that I had had with DS2 or giving factual information regarding his weekend tuition.

Loads of time was spent discussing whether or not he should receive provision without any recognition that not only was there expert recommendation, there was no evidence of progress and most importantly that this was existing provision. e.g. DS2's views in the Statement collected by the LA EP express a desire for more handwriting practise. So, of course, a long time is spent discussing reducing this to once a week on the basis that there was no real point, a contradictory claim that he chose not to do it and most important it made him look different. Likewise using a computer makes him look different. -thank god he does not use a wheelchair-

More or less told the Senco that it was OK that the school disagreed with all experts, including Professor Skuse's HFA GOSH clinic team, and then took detailed evidence of DS2's complete lack of need and/or how the parents had exaggerated need and were a nightmare. Parents were not allowed right of reply or asked to give any evidence. The judge just moved on to another area of evidence given by the senco or discussion took place between the LA rep and FS.

At around 3pm FS pointed out to the judge that parents had given no evidence. The judge then directed aggressive questions specifically at DH. When DH had finished I counted 3 beats to be sure and then spoke. The judge once again shut me up and invited DH to give more evidence.

And then she sums up talking about transition to secondary and how it might be smaller?? There are only about 150 in the village primary. There are at least 10 times that number at the catchment m/s secondary.

Nightmare. Glad it's over. How do you get rid of excess adrenaline? I've already cleared about an acre of bramble, grown up over the past 20 years, but I have saved a spot to attack today. If I lived near the Norfolk coast I would do a primal scream out to sea (memories of the annual post-grad conference where a (now sadly deceased) Professor would lead the roar).

pannetone Wed 09-Dec-15 18:49:14

That sounds tough-going Keep sad

Sorry that you didn't get to say the points you wanted to make.

Have I understood correctly that the judge was saying This is a mainstream school and so expectations must be limited to interventions that don't take any time? shock That's appalling! As is the idea that interventions must be 'invisible' angry And why on earth was the judge 'allowing' the school to dismiss an expert at GOSH's reports?

I'm wondering if it was the judge with the initials MT who gave me a very hard time in a telephone case management hearing... I would describe her as fierce...

We3KingyOfOblomovAre Wed 09-Dec-15 19:15:37

Sounds horrendous. Poor you.

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Wed 09-Dec-15 19:42:52

Initials of ML.

It was indeed the judge who kept referring to the fact that this was a mainstream school and the importance of not looking different, in seemingly automatic response to all points, so much so that FS was forced to point out that, yes, this was a m/s but this was an autistic child.

Of course the school could work with this - we are not delivering support because DS2 doesn't like it/doesn't initiate it/it's not fair to other DC/doesn't fit with existing staffing arrangements/makes DS2 look different/DS2 doesn't feel he deserves to receive rewards (so we removed them from the token reward system but didn't bother to tell you). These seemed to be accepted with a shrug by the judge. I really don't give a rats arse - what about does he need the support? What about 'early intervention' (hah) and developing skills of independence to enable successful transfer to secondary?

FS commented that recent tribunals had been hard - noticeably since the appointment of the new head of SENDIST. I guess she may have been appointed to add credibility to austere cutbacks

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Wed 09-Dec-15 20:01:41

Once again though I thoroughly recommend FS.

Can't even imagine how the hearing could have been managed without her - if I didn't have a representative but wasn't allowed to speak - how would that work?

Also she is the only one with an electronic version of the WD which she amends throughout the day and emails to the panel and the LA throughout the day. There is a lot of gratitude to her (from the panel and the LA) which can only serve well.

pannetone Wed 09-Dec-15 20:44:08

Ah I've rembered now _ MT who I had for my case management call (a couple of years ago) is now head of SENDIST.

The judge's approach seems crazy - being in a MS school isn't a reason why needs can't - and by the judge's assertion shouldn't - be met. You were appealing against a statement/EHCP weren't you? For placement in MS with support presumably. All the judge's comments seem to be more relevant to a case of discrimanation for failure to make reasonable adjustments (as our case was).

Ineedapiginblanket Wed 09-Dec-15 21:46:22

The head of sendist is now Jane McConnell who was in charge of IPSEA!

Sorry the judge gave you such a hard time keep, I really hope the decision is a sensible one flowers

Youarentkiddingme Wed 09-Dec-15 22:02:59

Oh blimey keep you should be proud that you didn't explode.

I'm pretty sure this judge could moonlight as DS secondary school senco - she keeps sprouting the same crap to me including her opinions of the severity of DS autism hmm

There is a serious floor in the current system and our kids are falling right through it angry

Waitingforsherlock Wed 09-Dec-15 22:20:21

Primal screaming is definitely required. The system that we and our kids find ourselves in is positively kafkaesque; so frustrating, often unhelpful and downright demoralising.


pannetone Wed 09-Dec-15 22:40:00

(Apologies for deviation from thread Keep)

Don't think Jane McConnell is head of Sendist - she is a first tier tribunal judge according to this link:

And this is the link I found about MT:

Ineedapiginblanket Wed 09-Dec-15 22:56:00

You are clearly right panne I must have mis read the article I saw blush

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Thu 10-Dec-15 09:42:18

Jane McConnell is a recent appointment as head judge of SEN. It was the effect of her appointment that FS was referring to, especially given her previous role. I had her for earlier telephone hearing when I asked for adjournment. She had not read any of the paperwork. She allowed the LA to read out their email objecting to the request but not the parents to read out their response and would only permit evidence given by parents on the RFC form.

Communication with the school has been a major problem, DS2 says almost nothing and so there are always issues. When he was younger we had more info coming from the school but there is an assumption that by the time the child gets to year 5 they only need supplementary information. Written communication in a home/school book has been tried and makes things worse - there is always a time-delay of several days/weeks before every little issue is resolved and the school will only use it to communicate about homework. Anything else they will just ignore. I have never spoken to the LSA who is really the class TA because there are no TAs employed in the afternoon and the 'approachable and chatty' CT will only speak to me and DH at formal meetings with the senco also present. Another member of the panel suggested feedback given in the morning at drop off rather than pick up to not mess with schools staffing arrangements. The judge dismissed parental request for routine sharing of information completely as she said some NT kids don't communicate about their school day and she did not think that any adjustment was necessary for DC with a social communication disorder.

So the panel seemed to think it was OK for there to be no TAs employed in the afternoon despite the fact that the LA was only proposing hover support. Senco was unable to say how the class TA would prioritise DS2 in the mornings when pushed and just said 'you will just have to accept my word'. She claimed that, magically, although DS2 has an attention span of 5 minutes this never creates an issue in the afternoon. I patiently waited with my hand up - judge told me to put my hand down but did reluctantly come to me at the end. I referred to the examples of work in the bundle to show what DS2 produces with existing support - with pictorial support his description of the stone age was 'a lot of stones' - that was it. With 'scaffolding' and boxes to answer question, the hunter-gatherers description was 'a hunting style' or 'a gathering style'. Senco had to admit this did not meet the Level 4c she claimed he was working at. The panel then were trying to see if the timetable could be changed so that all other lessons (maths and english take up every morning) could be delivered on the one afternoon when the TA was employed anyway (to provide support to other DC in PE) so that DS2 would get hover support in all lessons requiring reading or writing.

The senco pretence at sudden in-depth knowledge of ASD was staggering. She had recently been on her first half day training and claimed that she personally had 'diagnosed' an extra 4 DC 'including 3 girls lower down the school who are harder to diagnose'. She can't even recognise ASD in DC with an NHS diagnosis following years of assessment or indeed her arse from her elbow!! She and the school only support DC who are a problem to other DC or to staff regardless of whether or not they have as ASD. They have a narrow view of ASD as 'chair-chucker' and see a statement as purely for the benefit of other people not the child with an ASD.

The panel justify giving so much power to the current senco even though DS2 is in year 5 because the Hearing is just about provision for the next year and we can always come back to tribunal so it doesn't really matter. This is not my full-time job, it is stressful and I am not made of money. Oh, and what about the child in the middle.

The only comments by the LA EP referred to the cost effectiveness of lego therapy -v- SULP programme as you don't need a SALT or need to measure anything. The LA rep was also very quiet except to say that the LA could not provide the support it had done previously even though it had worked very well because the post was abolished in September due to cutbacks.

The morning was terrible as the senco was given encouragement and free reign to be the sole expert and treated as if her view trumped that of everyone else - even the LA EP whom she was sat next to. Direct questioning by the panel in the afternoon showed these assertions to be nonsense and contradictory but even then the panel bent over backwards to try and accommodate them.

I will just have to wait and see.

btw does anyone know where voodoo dolls can be purchased?

vjg13 Thu 10-Dec-15 10:03:47

That sounds absolutely horrific. Be prepare for your energy levels to crash in the next day or so and try to take it a bit easier. I always find I get a bad cold or sore throat after really stressful events.

When do you expect to hear the outcome?

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Thu 10-Dec-15 11:10:09

Should hear in about 10 days which would be just before christmas so that will be nice. I think high levels of adrenaline must be toxic to viruses - I haven't had so much as a sore throat since my first hearing in 2013. Small comfort smile

DS1's birthday tomorrow (15) which is always a tense affair and this is the first one since he has been out of school and so I am expecting 'I have no friends' tale of woe sad. Still he has requested Elgato and is teaching himself to edit videos like the youtube gamers. Probably more practical use to him than entry level GCSE.

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Thu 10-Dec-15 12:14:14

DS2s original statement that we were appealing was for 15 hours with additional support at break times.

Most existing provision and that recommended by experts and the LA EPs remained 'not agreed' by hearing. So the 15 hours went down to a proposal of 11 hours hover support in the new LA offer. So we were in the crazy position that part 2 'communication' was agreed on description of need (12 bullet points) with only with only 3 minor points that were not agreed (as opposed to 2 short paragraphs in the original), but LA proposed part 3 'communication' section did not contain any provision not in the original statement and/or provided by the school as part of their local offer which basically were the Lego Therapy and Friendship groups that he already attended. Part 2 is considerably extended following further assessment but it is argued that part 3 should be reduced. DC without a statement or diagnosis of ASD have Lego Therapy and Friendship Group but DS2 only receives the same provision if it is specified on his statement.

Senco also said that other DC in the school who don't have statements have 1:1 support if the teaching staff think it is 'necessary'.

He used to have 1:3 support for four hours a week in semi-structured lessons such as PE, art and music but the senco argued that these were actually quite structured and so the support was unnecessary (first I'd heard of it, plus they have agreed direct OT therapy) but I don't really care if they take that away because the TA was present to support 2 other DC before DS2 joined the school and so at least he will have hover support and they are welcome to try and get him to engage in PE (can be like herding cats).

Sorry for all the posts - need to process and externalise this and this is a safe space - we are all 'THAT parent' <cringe> here

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Thu 10-Dec-15 13:04:58

Oh, and despite her powers of perception, the senco repeated her strongly held belief that DS2 was having 'fun' when another child exacted punishment on him by putting dirt down his trousers, despite what he later said to parents and to the TA/CT.

She also had to admit that they had withdrawn any reward from the token reward system in October (on the basis that receiving rewards made DS2 look different - lots of nodding from the panel) with the intention of finding a different reward but they haven't done that yet.

But that's OK because now CIR have accepted referral, it will be up to them in future as to whether a TRS is used at all. This is despite the fact that the TRS was recommended by SALT and is used at home with great success and was for a year before DS2 even joined the school and is the best chance that DS2 has of developing skills of independent working.

Makes me think that the rot goes right to the top and that rather than being independent, tribunal is reinforcing ignorance and is actually allowing discriminatory practices. I was particularly disturbed by the idea that being able to pass for NT is considered to be the best way for our DC to approach their life-long neuro-atypicality and receipt of any form of visible aid/support 'marks' DC out.

I predict that this is the future. m/s support will be limited to what's in the school and LA local offer for all children (including statement/plan in m/s for now). In the long term there will not be DC in the m/s who require more support than is in the local offer and can be captured in a 'provision map'. No IEP = no SMART targets and no measurement of progress. If DC need more they will need to be in ss and only they will need a plan. Statement/plan objectives cannot be translated into a provision map with no measurement of progress and don't fit with teaching in the m/s.

PolterGoose Thu 10-Dec-15 16:02:32

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Dipankrispaneven Sat 12-Dec-15 09:06:06

If it was the same ML I'm thinking of, she's normally a good judge though not a pushover for either parents or the LA. Tribunals tend to spend more time on the LA nominated school just because that's the one being challenged. I wouldn't necessarily read too much into that. I don't want to get your hopes up, but it's just possible that they didn't want to hear from you because they already accepted what you were saying but wanted to ensure that there was no suggestion that they'd closed their minds to the LA case.

Ineedapiginblanket Sat 12-Dec-15 11:25:29

I think what you said in your last paragraph keep is already happening to a degree!

The MS academy Dd3 was in certainly dont provide support above and beyond unless they are forced to by a statement/ehcp (and even then who really knows) They force out any children who need more and who dont fit into the bix. I am not just talking about Dd3 there are lots of others, mostly with Asd without statements but some others too.

There is no requirement from the LA to show how these children are being supported or not and in our situation even when the LA were told by the tribunal to go in to school and find out why provisions werent being made the still didnt!

It was totally left to the school to decide whether to follow recommendations and even the profs didnt seem to have any way of checking !

Not all schools are like this I am sure but from my experience its happening.

I hope dip is right and the panel were already clear on what your evidence was and that they make a sensible decision!

Good luck flowers

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Sat 12-Dec-15 17:24:59

Dip - I hope you are right.

(Bracketing the agreed OT and not agreed SALT), wrt TA support, the LA/school offer was hover support in the mornings and no support at all in the afternoons (existing staffing policy).

We asked for direct support in reading/writing throughout the school day. Not all day - only when required and then to use a TRS to increase length of focus.

Even if it was thought that hover support would magically be sufficient to meet need, that hover support would have to be throughout the school day and not just in the mornings.

Whichever way, DS2's needs cannot be met within existing staffing structure.

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