I appear to be developing a habit of writing early morning blogs but, on this first day of a new year, I feel the need to dwell on some endings that are keeping me from sleep.
On the last day of term, before this Christmas break, a number of children passed through our doors for the final time as they were returning to their mainstream schools. They had been with us on respite since September and it was time for them to leave. Now you may be wondering why they stayed for such a short time….what miracles had we wrought to change their behaviour so quickly? Sadly, the answer was, we hadn’t! The reason for them going can be summed up in two words….permanent exclusions.
Our statutory duty lies with perm exes and they keep on coming….we had a flurry of four in one week! We had agreed in the summer term to take a number of dual rolled children via our admissions panel who presented with some challenging behaviours; these were children we were working with out in school who we felt needed placement. In some cases the schools could have opted for exclusion but they didn’t ….they hoped that in time the children would be able to return to them. However the understanding was if we got more permanent exclusions then the places would have to go. And that is exactly what happened.
I cannot adequately describe the frustration of knowing you are setting up children to fail. There were lots of tears on that last day. One little boy, very quirky and very special in all senses of the word, had really thrived in our small setting, but was now expected to go back to a large class in a school which had let him down over the years; he desperately needs an EHC Plan as he may well be destined for specialist provision. We could see, amidst the hurly burly of our Christmas production and fair, his old behaviours, linked to undiagnosed autism, starting to show and we fear for him. Three boys, very anxious, with linked anger issues, are returning more or less the same as they came to us. Two little girls, one who will hopefully manage as she is now on ADHD meds, are also going back to large cohorts which they will be lucky to survive in. They need to stay with us but the system dictates otherwise…..it is so, so wrong.
We have managed to hang on to a couple but only for now…..one boy who is now on meds needs a new school and the other needs to stay with us; out of all of them his case is the most dire. One little boy with complex needs now has a special school place so hopefully will move on soon to where he needs to be. It truly is scandalous that this child ever had to come to a PRU but we live in a world where such scandals are becoming commonplace.
So what of the future for these poor children? I hope they can survive back out there, but I suspect some are heading for permanent exclusion. Now comes the sting in the tail…..they won’t be returning to us as we are full! We have done our statutory duty and it will be someone else’s problem. The PRU closures of recent times will come back to haunt the authority but all the handwringing in the world will not compensate for the ruined lives and misery to come. Yes, a new mainstream school can be forced to take an excludee but how is that going to work? How many permanent exclusions will these children have on their records? Who will complete the work needed to sort out underlying SEN and get them the right help? Or support them with mental health needs? Fortunately for this group I have frantically worked with schools to get an EHC Plan up and running so at least they will have that safety net, but others in the future won’t be so lucky.
It is with a heavy heart that I conclude my first blog of the new year. On a personal level I feel elated and up for a new challenge this year but at the same time I am depressed by a broken system which lets down our little ‘outsiders’. And there are five words which are disturbing my dreams right now.
We had to say goodbye.