Why red tape is ruining my childs education
I’m fuming. Now is probably not a good time to commit my thoughts to black and white. It’s the eve of my daughter’s 14th birthday. She is a gorgeous, kind, caring teenager. She has a tight group of friends who love her to bits, and two little brothers who worship the ground she walks on. But she has specific learning difficulties. I have known about these since she was three. And since then it feels very much like I’ve had an enormous fight on my hands to get help for her to further her education.
It’s a bonkers situation. I’ve spent many evenings penning emails back and forth between school and county. One teacher told me she was just slow. Year upon year the situations for her classroom help changes. She has one to one. Then she doesn’t. It has to be shared between five of them due to lack of funds. She’s performed well in last years tests, so well that she doesn’t need help. Which has led to this years failure to score on her reading tests because she was left to sit the test without help and no extra time.
I’ve had enough. This is not good enough. Red tape is seriously hampering getting the best out of Cara and her future choices. It’s ruining her education.
Dyslexia is a huge deal
One in ten UK citizens have dyslexia. This is total of six and a half million people. Like Cara one in four have it quite seriously with a number of other difficulties (she has Irlen Syndrome too). In my personal opinion the educational system in the UK is failing ALL diverse children. The problem is that children are all diverse. No one child will learn in the same way as the next child.
I spotted the signs of dyslexia in Cara when she was very young. She could do a jigsaw which was pretty complex, but couldn’t arrange her words – they simply didn’t make sense to her. The school referred her to an educational psychologist who then sent her to a speech therapist. I kept pressing that it was dyslexia. She could relate a photo to a spoken word but couldn’t start to spell the word. Her vocabulary was great. But I was told she was “very slow”.
And so it began. The fight. Ten years later I’m still fighting. And I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one.
Education is precious, and so is funding
Now I’m not blaming the schools. I’m not blaming teachers either. They mostly have to teach a curriculum which is geared towards end learning goals. Precisely because the end learning goals are judged on an exam grade, from A* to G, they don’t know how to diversify. Each county in Great Britain has to provide a document which outline the Special Educational Needs document published by government. They must have an inclusion document. The words are there but the practice is very far removed. But I can vouch for this personally, teachers aren’t trained for the reality of a classroom of 34 with diverse needs. It just doesn’t work.
Once in a teaching job, you can apply to train as a special educational needs coordinator. Most schools have one SENCO per secondary school (600 plus pupils), because that’s all schools can afford on the pay grade.
There is a chronic lack of funding in education full stop. Special educational needs children without behavioural problems are hit or miss in their identification. This leads to a substantial number of well-behaved but truly struggling children falling through the educational net. The system in the UK is ranked one of the bottom ten in the WORLD. If it’s broken, why don’t they fix it? Because it costs money! But isn’t a better overall level of education for ALL children in the UK better for future economy?
The system is failing our children.
We are letting this government, and chronic lack of funding fob off our kids. Because of this we are raising a generation of kids who are afraid to fail. Afraid to try, because they’ve already been branded failures by a set of tests geared to statistically pit one school against another without looking at the economic climate, location or relative wealth of the school. It is not the child’s fault – it’s the system. The system stinks.
SATs – standardised testing
I truly believe that these evil and vile things are part of the problem. Children are tested for literacy and numeracy from the age of SIX. Yes you read that correctly. Six years old. They have to sit and answer questions on phonics, times tables and basic reading. Cara has just sat her final SATs this year. In year nine (13-14) they are asked to read and break down a piece of literature. For fuck sakes, a child with complex learning difficulties is asked to delve for tone, author style and prose form in a piece they possibly can’t ever READ. How is this educating enablers? It’s not.
You see, these SATs are nothing more than statistical ways of comparing school performances. To rank a school against a competing school so that the government can see that the pittance they put into the pot is being well spent. Well yahoo. Teachers must teach a rigid curriculum. Give children facts to repeat like parrots, and commit to memory for an exam. They’re possibly never going to use these facts again in the real world. I mean can you remember anything from your last algebra final?
It’s unfair, it’s un-inclusive and it’s downright DISCRIMINATION.
My child can read. But it takes time. It takes a lot of bloody effort. And after all that effort the words still have very little meaning when they’re jumbled up in her head.
I can’t change the world
I can’t change the world. But I can and will change hers. We have already read a thousand books. Laughed until we cried and got upset over Harry Potter. But she is growing up and falling through the gap, no, the gaping void of special educational needs discrimination in the UK educational system.
Yes I’m going to call it discrimination, because that’s exactly what it is. I have met some wonderful people and support whilst we have been on our journey. There are options for her, I can home school next year. Something I’m seriously considering. I can make a complaint to the County, this will be like peeing in the wind, they are part of the same failing system after all. Because her SATs results were so low this year she is probably entitled to extra help for her GCSE’s. But that won’t change the strict rules and regulations the examining boards put in place for kids sitting their examinations.
I really am fed up. I can’t imagine how Cara must be feeling.
Red tape is a complete cockwomble.