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Had more than I can take now...I am declaring war with the LEA

(11 Posts)
MandM Tue 21-Jun-05 11:19:40

Warning - this could get long!

Right, to start at the beginning, I don't know if any of you remember but up until about 6 weeks dds school place was all sorted, her statement has been in place since she was 3, so no problems there and everything was hunkydory. THEN we had the horrific statement review at her nursery where the head teacher of the mainstream primary she had been offered a place at, turned round to us, in front of almost every other professional that has any involvement with dd and basically asked what on earth had possessed to choose HIS school because in his opinion there was nothign they could offer dd and she would, in his words, 'be a fish out of water'. I posted at the time, about how upsetting that obviously was and of course, then we were back at square one, 4 months before she is due to go into reception.

So, from there, we had to start looking for another school (baring in mind that we have never ever been offered any help or advice from the LEA in general and apart from posting out the statement documents have never even been spoken to by anyone on the SEN team[angry). We decided to look at a range of mainstream and special schools, but after looking at the first special school, it confirmed our gut feelings that for the time being it is not the right environment for dd. Certainly at secondary level and maybe even in the later primary years, dd is likely to need to transfer over to special schooling, but at the moment all our parental instincts are telling us that she is going to gain so much more from going into mainstream. Anyway, (I did warn this would be long, so feel free to bow out now!) we then got on with the business of trying to identify mainstream primary schools that met all of our needs - not just in terms of being the right environment for dd, but also in an accessible area for different family members that are involved in helping with drop offs/collections and in a decent catchment area (I know that may sound really snobby, but there are quite a few schools locally that I just would not send my child to for anything). After we had looked at two, the Family Liaison Officer from the LEA's SEN team finally got in touch to ask if we needed any help...WTF...yes, we did need help, 12 months ago and what did we get..sweet FA. She accompanied us on one viewing, stood there like a wet lettuce and never said a word!

The outcome of all of this was that we found a really nice school, that had a wonderful feel about it, has places to offer in reception and a fantastic headteacher who was more than accepting and welcoming of dd with all of her 'special qualities!!!'. My sister's MIL teaches at the school and felt like it would be an excellent place for dd to be and also, the only other child in our local area with Williams Syndrome, attended the same school right through to Year 6. The only small problem we encountered was that as the school has been extended several times it is on slightly different levels linked together by groups of 2 or 3 steps. However, as dd will have full-time 1-2-1(incl. breaks), and can manage steps when holding hands with someone, it was something that could be overcome and was far outweighed by all the positives. (The 1-2-1 BTW is not yet confirmed in writing, but she has been provisionally passed for Band E, and never mind war, there would be a full blown nuclear attack on the LEA if that was turned down for any reason. She couldn't be in school - any school - without it) So we were happy with our choice, put in our application and trotted off to the Maldives thinking everything was sorted out once again.

But, surprise surprise, it is far from sorted. I got back off my holiday, 4 weeks ago, to a message on my mobile from the headteacher at the school. I rang her back straightaway to be told that the LEA had made this provisional decision about the banding (the LEA have never informed us of this BTW) but until they put it in writing to her she wasn't in a position to officially offer dd a place at the school . I have since discovered that this is in fact illegal, BUT, I have to say that I am in agreement with the stance she is taking. For one, as I have already said dd could not be there without the full-time 1-2-1, also she cannot recruit (and it will need job share to cover the full-time hours) without confirmation of the funding and finally, we need the school and this very forthright head mistress on our side - all footsoldiers are welcome in the MandM army! So OK fine, my question naturally was 'well when do they expect to be able to send out confirmation to you?'. The answer 'When the LEA have conducted an Environmental and Facilities Audit. They have said they will only release the funding if the feel our school physically meets your dds needs.' At this point I was ready to self-combust - the LEA has offered us no help whatsoever in choosing a school for our dd, who because of her 2 dxs, has a wide range of complex needs, if the headteacher of the original school had not been so down right bigotted in his views they would happily have let her trot off to a school that quite plainly)in hindsight) would not have been suitable, no questions asked. They have not kept in contact with us whatsoever, I have had to learn of all developments, 2nd or sometimes even 3rd hand. They stressed that final school choice was entirely down to the parents, they could not influence it - and yet when we make our choice, they turn round and say the decision as to whether or not to release funds is at their discretion! I mean come on, surely there are two obvious routes that they need from here: 1) assess the needs of the child in question and match those to all of the schools in the area then provide parents with a short list of 'acceptable' ones, which they are prepared to fund, from which to choose OR 2) stick with the 'entirely parental choice' stance and be prepared to fund and adjust WHATEVER school those parents choose. It is just not acceptable, IMO anyway, to suddenly switch roads halfway along a journey.

So, (we're nearly there I promise!!!) I though well, surely they'll see it as we do, this, all things considered is the ideal school for dd, they'll sign this audit off as top priority and off we'll go to buy a uniform. But, oh no, 3 weeks later the audit took place without informing us(incl. a visit to see dd in nursery of which I was also not informed ) and the first I knew of it was last night - a week after the inconclusive audit - when the illusive Family Liasion Officer called to say the Auditor was not happy with the steps, the width of the classrooms (absolutely no different than any other school), the height of the toilet(??!!!), the fact that dd wears pull-ups as a back-up plan (would she not be wearing those wherever she is??!!), the fact that the playground is on a slope(!)....seems to me she really has a problem with dd going to that school! The Auditor has asked for me, dd, a physio and an OT, herself and the Family Liasion woman to go to the school next Tuesday to address the 'issues'. So that is 2 weeks after her initial audit took place and 7 weeks since the Banding meeting where the audit was commissioned, and she has announced that she is on 6 week summer holiday leave from next Friday!! If she refuses to sign of the report next week, then goes off on her jollies, the funding won't be released and the school place won't be offered...then what? I am absolutely fuming (as I'm sure you can tell!) and am really ready for all out battle now - councillors, newspapers, Disability Discrimination lawyers, the whole caboodle if necessary. But why should it be necessary? I am furious, but I'm also disppointed, disillusioned and disgusted at the way my gorgeous little girl is being so badly let down. After all, she is a 4 year old child with every right to a decent education - end of.

Oh, and to top it all of, at the end of the phone conversation last night she said that the headteacher from the original school is on the phone to her every day as he is disappointed that if dd isn't going there we haven't officially relinquished her place. So, given that dh and I both work full-time and dd finishes with the childminder for good on 31st August, they want us to be left with no fall back plan either - great!

Right, I'm off to polish my boots - a soldier has to look smart you know!

Socci Tue 21-Jun-05 18:44:53

Message withdrawn

coppertop Tue 21-Jun-05 18:54:14

I'm sorry that I have no advice but I'm and disgusted at the way you and dd have been treated by the LEA. Have you been able to speak to anyone from IPSEA about this?

oops Tue 21-Jun-05 19:04:36

Message withdrawn

Jimjams Tue 21-Jun-05 21:22:00

Usual bloody cock up. We had similar when ds1 went into mainstream.

Did you look at all the special schools open to you btw? They vary a lot. We looked at 2- one I wouldn't have sent my son to, totally inappropriate for him- I would have kept him in mainsttream, the other - the one he's at- I would have crossed the proverbial hell and high water for.

Jimjams Tue 21-Jun-05 21:24:52

How well do you know your statementing officers? I found mine quite helpful once I got to know her. I remember we had problems about funding for expenses for his nursery worker to attend his transition. In the end I wrote to the LEA say saying that I would be livid if his start to school was delayed because of administration inefficiencies. I had a very irate person phone me up (funnily enough his current wonderful, brrilliant, teacher's wife- and she was very rude!) but we did get the funding!

maddiemo Tue 21-Jun-05 22:18:25

I would be furious too. This also is fairly common where I live.

Write to councillors,MP,PCT anyone that has involvment with your dd.
How long has dd been known as SN to your LEA? How much time have they had to asess and forward plan for her needs? It seems that it has been left to the very last minute. Mainstream children got their places in March. Why should she be treated like a second class citizen and why should you have to wait.
If certain schools are not suitable you should have been told this in advance.

Good luck for the meeting on Tuesday.

eidsvold Tue 21-Jun-05 23:25:50

no good advice here BUT wanted to say that the LEA and thisprocess sucks!! on your behalf and had it been dd1 - I would have been ballistic!! I agree - have a chat to the local paper...... and your MP and everyone else you can think of - including the minister for education ..........My limited experience has shown the louder and noisier you are the more you get noticed and your needs are met more effectively. Sadly - those parents who just sit and wait etc are usually let down and it seems to be the attitude to offer crap until people challenge it and then suddenly all sorts of things happen....

So get polishing, emailing, writing etc. I would write or email your MP and then follow it up with a visit - how could they resist your gorgeous dd!!

MandM Wed 22-Jun-05 09:51:06

Thanks everyone for your support and advice, it means a lot, especially when it seems we could potentially have a long way to go yet to get this resolved.

I am going to hold fire until the meeting on Tuesday, because if everything goes the way we want it to, I will store up the offending names and faces for future reference(!) but let my other grievances lie. HOWEVER, if, as I am prediciting, every conceivable objection is thrown in our way, all hell will let loose. I'll definitely be posting about it on here either way, anyway!

In answer to the questions asked:

Socci - dd has Williams Syndrome and also has Cerebral Palsy

Coppertop - I haven't been in touch with IPSEA yet (and would never have known about their existence if it wasn't for Mumsnet), but will be doing immediately on Tuesday afternoon if things don't go our way.

JimJams - we only looked at one special school, as it is the only 'suitable' one in our local area. There is a fantastic special school that is very close by to us (it was featured on an ITV docusoap for quite a few weeks last year), and that is where we go to the Orthotics clinic. Unfortunately, even though it falls within the same Health Authority as us, due to boundary changes, it is no longer covered by the same LEA , so would involve restatementing etc. At a point some time in the future, when mainstream is no longer appropriate, that is probably the route that we will take.
The statementing officer is a very nice person and 'talks the talk', but unfortunately she doesn't seem to have any concept of time constraints or priorities!
Maddiemo - my dd was statemented at age 3, 1 term before entering mainstream nursery. From there we expected to have a lot of involvement with the LEA in choosing schools etc, but in actual fact got nothing whatsoever, hence choosing the very nice (or so we thought) local mainstream primary that dd would have gone to without question had she been NT. Her application was processed and a place offered and accepted via the normal channels in March. It was only at the statement review 6 weeks ago that the headteacher made it quite clear that dd was too much hassle for him to be bothered with. As a result, we are in the horrific mess that we now find ourselves!

Eidsvold - trust me - when I need ot be loud I can be VERY loud (ask dh!) . I don't think they're expecting any kind of resistance from me. I might be a tad paranoid, but I think that they see me as young(ish!) and blonde, have put 2 and 2 together and are coming up with 5 - well they're in for a BIG shock!

JakB Wed 22-Jun-05 10:12:38

MandM, what an outrageous situation . It is all kicking off with the LEAs at the moment, isn't it? I'm finding it very hard not to completely lose it and come out with a stream of obscenities to my assessment manager at the moment! IPSEA are VERY good. They are hard to get through to, though. I've found that you need to try their number the minute they open and keep redialing. I've had more success in the evening from 7pm. Good luck with the meeting. Thinking of you X

MeerkatsUnite Wed 22-Jun-05 12:12:19

MandM,

Re your posting I am so sorry to read things are this bad. LEA's can sometimes "downgrade" people deliberately on grounds of cost. This of course is unlawful.

Infact I would consider speaking to IPSEA before Tuesday as they may be able to give you some pointers to employ as well. Like JakB has found, I have been able to get through in the evening rather than in the daytime (however, try both times).

www.ipsea.org.uk is their website; would recommend you read it too.

Good luck

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