school

All posts tagged school

Who’s to blame?

Published March 22, 2016 by thefamilyof5

I’m feeling really annoyed right now, REALLY annoyed, let me fill you in.

When we first heard about the girls we were told there were no developmental or learning concerns, we met with their school and nursery and were told they were ‘an absolute pleasure’, meeting all their milestones and learning inline with average expectations. Alarm bells should have rang in my head when Big girls year 1 Teacher couldn’t quite remember who her friends were or whether she wrote with her left hand or her right hand, or ate school dinners or packed lunches, ‘she’s a happy little soul’ we were told. Baby girl and Middle girl attended a nursery together and aside from lots of wishy washy information about how lovely they were and how pretty they were, they didn’t really tell us much either. Id never spoken to a teacher before that day, in fact the last time I’d been inside a school at that point, was as a student myself. I didn’t know what to ask, or what to look out for and none of the professionals supporting us gave us any pointers either, they were all too busy telling us how great it would all be. And we believed them.

We enrolled them all in school/nursery before we’d even met them, on the advice of the social workers that did know them. Apparently getting them in to a routine was paramount. No one suggested a period at home attaching to their new family, might be of benefit and I didn’t for one minute think it would be, why would I when I was surrounded by social workers that I believed to be experienced and far more knowledgeable than me about the needs of these 3 children, I hadn’t yet met. So they started school a few weeks after placement at the beginning of the school year in September with everyone else, apparently this was important to helping them feel they belonged. In hindsight, a year at home, attaching and building secure foundations would have been what would have really helped them feel like they truly belonged in this world, never mind in school.

It quickly became apparent that the reading that the foster carer had said big girl had been doing every day, was a lie. Turned out big girl did ‘read’ a book every night and she ‘got’ a sticker on her reward chart for doing so, but she read alone, in her head, with no one listening to her and apparently she never really got a sticker either because they didn’t get round to buying any (hardly surprising she finds it so difficult to let people know her needs is it). Big girl had become very skilled at being invisible, that’s why her teacher had been so vague, she barely knew big girl. She started year 2 at her new school barely able to read her own name.  The social worker and schools answer to this was to use a fund available for Looked After Children, aged over 5, for educational support to fund some additional tuition. So at ages 5 and 6 Big girl and Middle girl went off to a tutor for an hour a week for around 12 weeks (that’s all the fund would cover). Yes its true, I’m not making this up, and yes, I was stupid enough to believe this would be beneficial learning for them. Of course it wasn’t and had absolutely zero impact on anything other than the placing authority being able to tick a box. We plodded on. They fell more and more behind as their anxiety levels increased.

It was approximately 4 years before we requested the girls adoption files from the placing authority, they didn’t make it easy for us to access files and refused to share most of them with us. We discovered, along with some more alarming stuff, that Big girl and Middle girl had been in their nursery setting when the social workers arrived and took them in to care. No one thought to mention this, or how the impact of being taken away from their family, whilst in an educational setting, might impact their ability to feel safe in similar environments in the future ie anywhere away from home. I don’t know ‘how’ baby girl was taken, how traumatic that may have been, I guess that information is within one of the withheld files, given her issues with separation anxiety, I’m guessing it wasn’t pretty.

We battled on through primary schools trying to educate school staff about trauma and neglect and the lasting effects it has on children, whilst also trying to get to grips with things ourselves and navigate our way through an education system, with its confusing abbreviations that no one ever really explains to you; IEP’s, EYFS, EHCP’s, SENCO’s and SEN, with no one there to help us, or even guide us. There is no parent support school advisory service that is experienced, or even has a vague idea on the needs and rights of Adopted children. Hell, schools don’t even know this stuff. Your on ya own!

Here we are, 6 years later, battered and bruised, at our wits end and forced to Home Educate 3 traumatised children. They are all academically many many years behind their peers (despite cognitive results that say they’re more than capable of average progress, in fact baby girl should have been top of her class, not years behind), all completely unable to feel safe in a school environment, and at least 2 of which appear likely to be dyslexic. Its all now left to me to close those gaps, recap the missed EYFS, provide an education and do what schools have been unable to do with their loud busy unpredictable environments, oh and with zero help. Their entire future prospects now lie in my hands! No pressure eh!

Yes zero help, you did read that right! The girls are finally in a position whereby they actually CAN learn, their anxiety is at an all time low, they’re feeling safe in their environment and they’re finally learning! Our LEA have decided though that because we have ‘chosen’ to home educate, yes they feel its was completely our ‘choice’, that they are under no obligation to provide any support, not even via the EHCP that provided £1000’s of pounds worth of funding to school to support Big girls needs, or even a sniff of the £5700 (£1900 each) in pupil premium plus that schools got to support their needs, no, nothing, not a penny, no tutor, no help, no support what so ever. Because apparently ‘a school can meet their needs’. Pah!

Now is it just me that thinks that if a school could meet their needs then they wouldn’t have progressively fallen so far behind academically, that mental health wouldn’t have deteriorated to the point that Big girl needed antidepressants, just to manage school!? Does that sound like ‘school can meet their needs’ to you? No, I didn’t think so. It is in fact just a pathetic excuse for the LEA to absolve themselves of any responsibility for providing my already vulnerable children with the education they deserve and so desperately need due to not having had their educational needs met in school for the last 6 years!

So who’s to blame?

The placing authority for not being realistic about what my girls really needed in those early days?

The Local Education Authority for not providing a good enough education for my girls for the last 6 years?

The local authority for not helping us now?

Or me, for trusting them all?

I guess the real question is which one do I take to court first!

 

 

 

Our school to home ed Journey…………

Published January 8, 2016 by thefamilyof5

I have some new followers, I guess the new ‘Home Education’ tags have drawn interest from different circles so I guess I had better do a quick post to fill everyone in! are you sitting comfortably, you might want to go wee and grab a coffee before you start!

We tried school, it didn’t work for us, we now Home Educate

Of course there’s a lot more to it, so here goes……………….

The girls first came home at the beginning of summer meaning we had to get their names down for school before we’d even met them! We knew nothing of schools, or the education system never mind what the needs of our soon to be daughters would be so we had to rely on local advice when choosing the school/nursery. We opted for our largest primary, within walking distance, it came highly recommended by some of our older neighbors who had sent their, now grown up, children there. We visited, had the guided tour, I even took my mom along! It seemed lovely, they had lots of space, lots of staff and lots of experience with SEN apparently. We filled in the forms.

It was fine for about a year, well kind of, but then, so were the girls, kind of, it took about a year for us to realise that they were ‘too fine’. We soon realised this was compliance. Once they realised that we’d realised they were faking it, well the masks came off and the games began. We paid more attention to the subtle clues they gave us, we connected the dots and we noticed more. Baby girl, well she was a unraveling at school. She didn’t feel safe, there was too much going on, too many faces, too much time where she wasn’t supervised, and she knew it, she was stealing food/milk, cutting up her school clothes, being disruptive in class, being unkind to her peers, her name spent more and more time in the ‘red zone’ on the classroom wall. ‘She needs to know your watching her and keeping her safe, think toddler’ we said, ‘We are’ they said ‘So how did she manage to cut her dress up in class if you were watching her, she knows your not watching her, and your behavior system is making her feel ashamed’ we said.

Big girl was also struggling, she didn’t have any friends, she was constantly falling out with people in her class, her work was falling more and more behind, she was getting more and more frustrated, she began self harming at break and lunch times, she shouted at teachers and ran away from lunch time staff. She was scared and didn’t feel safe.

Middle girl was invisible. ‘she’s so helpful isn’t she’ they said. ‘she’s trying to please you because she doesn’t feel safe’ we said, ‘she’s got such a lovely smile’ they said. She became more and more invisible, hiding her fear behind her smile.

I cant blame it all on the school/staff, this was before the Pupil Premium, they had no real experience of traumatised children and neither did we. We didn’t know what they should be doing to support the girls needs and neither did they. But we knew the girls didn’t feel safe in school, we gave it 3 years before we realised we needed a smaller school with less faces, less space, less visitors, less everything.

So the hunt for a smaller school began. We narrowed it down to 2. One within our local area and one further afield. The closest one had a warm family feel about it, but the head openly admitted she knew nothing of attachment or trauma but would en-devour to do her best to support their needs. The school that was further away was marginally bigger, had that same warm friendly family feel about it and a head teacher that said she knew all about attachment and trauma as they had lots of adopted and looked after children in school. We signed the forms.

September came, by October it was very apparent that the head teacher, nor the staff knew anything about the needs of truamatised children, the open door policy the head teacher claimed to have was more like a door slammed in your face policy. Thankfully November bought her resignation. It took the best part of that academic year for a replacement head teacher to be appointed, it was a difficult year to say the least, a wasted year really, no relationships were made, no trust was gained so no learning took place. We then had quite possibly the worst summer ever, the anticipation of the return to a school that didn’t understand them was just too much for the girls. We entered a new academic year weary and tired. Thankfully that September bought a new head teacher and with it renewed hope. My hope wasn’t misplaced either, he was/is amazing. He listened, he accommodated and he did his very best to understand. He put measures in place, the most important of which was a Key Worker, she was/is also amazing. Between the two of them they did their very best to support us all as a family during what was Big girls last year in primary school. They used some of their pupil premium money on attachment training, removed the girls from their behavior modification systems, put in specialist support at crucial times throughout every day, added flexibility/consideration to the curriculum and vast amounts of extra learning support.

So the hunt for a high school began. We researched all the local and not local high schools, we knew a big school would be too much for her so we opted for a smaller one (same size as the first primary school but smallest we could get) outside our catchment area but everyone agreed it was the only suitable place for her, well everyone except the LEA, without knowing anything about her, they were adamant our local high school, 3 times the size, would be fine so they refused to support us with transport. We knew our daughter best and applied for the smaller one, it was there or Home Ed, we knew that much. We got the EHC plan the high school said she’d need and we did our best to make it through the year. Big girls tantrums worsened as her anxiety increased, baby girl got closer and closer to school refusal needing more and more support each day and middle girl finally found the courage to remove her mask at home and tell us and our therapist that even though she said she did, she really didn’t like school at all, she found it scary. There was a lot more to all of this, I’m simplifying it, many incidents, many indicators, many sick days due to stress, many tears and much hard work and relentless support from the school.

September came and before we even got big girl to high school, there were problems. Aside from discovering that the tutor she’d met during her transition meetings was going on maternity leave, We discovered days before school was due to start that the crucial key worker that they’d assigned to big girl, the one person that had the ability to help her feel safe in school by taking the time to build up a trusting relationship, was also key worker for many many other children most of which outwardly displayed their needs, unlike big girl who would need time and patience and trust before she would be able to even consider to ‘open up’. I feared she would become invisible, her needs over shadowed by the needs of those more secure needy children. I wasn’t wrong. By mid September Id already had a meeting with school, exchanged several heated emails and already requested an emergency review of her EHC plan. Her needs were going totally unrecognised, they were utterly unable to see past her compliance. Her anxiety was very apparent at home, once she got home and felt safe it would all come out, often in violent rages. Things were also made worse because despite her EHC Plan being in place with details of 17.5 hours worth of support including social skills support, reading support, emotional language support, classroom support, she received nothing more than a room to spend break/lunch times in, where she would build a den under the desk in order to feel safe, and a busy key worker to share with various other needy children. She’d scraped through a level 3 in SATS just a few months prior, yet was expected to do level 5 work, or at least try, without any support. By October things had become completely unmanageable for all of us. Big girls anxiety was through the roof and it was effecting the entire family. Middle girl had completely stopped ‘learning’ and was needing more and more support, she was withdrawing and showing signs of underlying anger, baby girl wasn’t sleeping, crying, clinging to me each morning and not wanting to go to school and becoming more and more ambivalent in our relationship. CAMHS had agreed to prescribe big girl with medication for her anxiety 😦

Half term came and the week was spent agonizing over what to do. Id asked both the LEA and high school for a review of big girls EHC plan several times, no action was ever taken. I was about to medicate my child ‘just’ so she could manage school. Middle girl was withdrawing from ‘relationships’ and becoming ‘shut down’. Baby girl was a mess, she was angry with me for making her go to school, but clingy and needy at the same time. All of this, just for school! We had to draw the line. We’d spent 5 years trying to get the girls to feel safe in school, things were getting worse not better. How much more of their childhoods could we spend unhappy and stressed out, just because of school!? They needed so much more joy in their lives, they deserved happiness!

So we made the decision to home educate. It wasn’t a snap decision, it had been on the cards for over a year, we’d discussed it with several professionals as well as family members, Id made no secret of it. It certainly wasn’t my choice, but I knew that we might at some point have to accept that they were just unable to manage a school environment. Id really hoped that the high school would get it right, if they had, well maybe things would have been different, if things had been going well for at least one of them, maybe it would have given us enough ‘hope’ to carry on. But it didn’t, it was falling apart from all angles, even with a super supportive primary school, baby girl and middle girl just weren’t improving and big girl, well she didn’t stand a chance at a high school that couldn’t even see her needs, never mind meet them. If we’d just de-registered Big girl, well, there was no way Id have got the other 2 in school, and if I’d forced them, the damage to our relationship would have been catastrophic. This was a make or break decision for our family.

So here we are. Big girls anxiety has reduced so much that we no longer feel she needs anxiety medication. Baby girl is happy, I can almost see her heart smiling, middle girl, well, her confidence has soared!
My only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner!

PS remember the LEA that insisted our local huge high school was the best place for big girl, and as such wouldn’t support us with transport to the smaller further away school, well since I asked again for her EHCP to be reviewed in November, with a view to name Home Education and apply for a personal budget for tuition, they’ve now decided that the smaller high school, that they refused transport for, is the best place for her and are still refusing to review her EHCP (Education Health Care Plan)! Couldn’t make it up could ya!

Beech Lodge School – Please Help Us

Published December 8, 2015 by thefamilyof5

I have heard amazing things about this school, so amazing that i’d consider a relocation if i won the lottery!

If you have experience of this amazing school and the wonderful work they do, that you can share in support of their applications, please help them!

Click below for further information on how you can help.

Source: Beech Lodge School – Please Help Us

Smiles, smiles, lots of smiles!

Published December 3, 2015 by thefamilyof5

I think the title says it all really!

We entered the unknown territories of Home Education around a month ago. Its going really really well. We have quite a structured week with bouts of downtime for play and cuddles. We’ve been attending regular groups and clubs each week and the girls are already making friends, its so wonderful to see them all so relaxed and interacting. We visit our library every week, we go swimming every week (big girl swam 18 lengths last week!!! something she’d never had the energy to do before), we do a gym/dance class each week (and all 3 take part, no embarrassment or apprehension, they just do it and they enjoy it, something they’ve not been able to manage before!) we also attend a HE group with activities that vary from trips to cool places to arts and crafts. We have a math tutor ready to start with all 3 girls in January and a guitar tutor for middle girl. So we’re pretty organised already eh!

The flexibility of Home Education has meant that we have been able to go right back to basics and fill in some of those learning gaps they all had. Not many 11 year old’s get to go right back to the ‘KS1 Jolly phonics’ stage or learn how to count in 10’s!

By 9am each day, yes even weekends, they’ve written a daily dairy and practiced their spellings for the week, most schools are still settling children in to class or taking registers by then! We also use online resources such as ‘Education City’ and ‘Twinkl’, both of which have been amazingly useful actually.

We’ve baked cakes, made soup, they’ve finally learnt how to make their own breakfast, we’ve learnt about how our bodies work and what they need to keep them healthy, we’ve learnt about colours and light, written poetry, letters and book reviews, our lego collection has finally been dusted off, albeit for maths! We’ve been working on fractions and times tables and a little bit of division. We love to play ‘time’, money, spelling and maths games. We’ve done crafts and sewing. Dictionary skills and internet skills. They’ve even done some history, geography and RE. We’ve actually done so much work that I’m having to re-think the A4 folders they each have for their ‘school’ work because we’ve filled them already!

As well as improvements and achievements in their learning I’ve also seen some amazing transformations in all of them. They’re no longer bickering none stop. They’re no longer competing over absolutely everything. They seem to have more confidence in themselves and their ability’s. They’ve been able to play independently which is a dramatic improvement along with their ability to play together ‘nicely’. They’ve even played with some of their ‘toys’ rather than just organizing them!

The biggest negative of Home Education is that it seems to be costing quite a lot! clubs & activities, stationary, work books, online subscriptions, tuition, petrol, extra heating and lighting for the day time, it all adds up, to quite a lot! Home Educators aren’t entitled to the Pupil Premium Plus or any other financial support it seems, so that really sucks. The other negative is that I NEVER get a break, which means house work, ironing, household paperwork and even getting the car washed/MOT’d/serviced is nigh on impossible never mind hair appointments or doctor appointments for myself. I foresee this all becoming more of an issue over time as my ability to tolerate an unkempt house wears thinner. Because it will, I like a clean and tidy house! (as do the girls actually but that’s because mess/grime is something they were sadly familiar with in their past)

Do I regret our decision? Home Education isn’t a ‘lifestyle’ choice for us, I don’t have any issue with the Education system itself, in fact we were blessed with some amazing teachers in our primary school that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to anyone asking me about local schools. I’m still a traditional thinker and feel that school is the place where kids are meant to go every day to learn, I also don’t have any issue with families that choose Home Education as a lifestyle choice. I just hadn’t ever planned anything else because I didn’t know anything else. Home education was never in my plan, I wanted to return to work eventually, Id planned to return to work a year after placement, but appointments and therapy and assessments and the girls inability to manage any sort of child care put a stop to that. It was the realisation that My girls just couldn’t manage school, and that no matter how hard I, or school, tried, it never seemed to be enough. Seeing the changes in them this last few weeks has made me realise just how hard they found the school environment. I don’t regret choosing Home Education for my girls, but I do regret not making the decisions sooner.

Our schools need support too!

Published November 10, 2015 by thefamilyof5

Its hardly surprising some of our school staff feel so unwilling to expand their knowledge and understanding of trauma and attachment issues,  if this is how they’re feeling. (see link to news article) Perhaps this was the reason behind the issues we faced at High School, perhaps they just didn’t have the time and energy required to consider that big girl was really struggling.

ITV News Article

Taken from ITV News Article Above

Taken from ITV News Article Above

Our schools need better support if they are to be able to better support our most vulnerable children.

There needs to be better guidance and monitoring around the effective use of Pupil Premium Plus funds, schools need to be held accountable for each and every penny to prevent it being added to the general ‘pot’. Parents need to be included in the plans for spending, afterall, they DO know their children best.

Teacher training at universities and colleges at all levels needs to include vast amounts of training on the lasting and devastating effects of attachment and trauma. There also needs to be a requirement for compulsory annual refresher training for ALL school staff, yes, even the lunch time supervisors, sometimes their input can be hugely valuable to a child at lunch time when they’re struggling, without the knowledge and understanding it can also be hugely detrimental.

The ‘Virtual School’ (VSH) support from the Local Authority needs expanding to include schools with Adopted Children, as well as those schools with Looked After Children.

Flexible schooling and Home schooling needs to be encouraged, promoted and supported where needed. Some of our most vulnerable children struggle to manage a school environment, that shouldn’t mean that they’re unable to access the education system and the support that that provides.

An Adoption Order doesn’t take away the past and the role of school staff can have a huge impact on a child’s life. Knowledge and Understanding is the difference between whether that is a positive impact or negative impact!

Things need to change, NOW!

Our new adventure!

Published November 8, 2015 by thefamilyof5

We made a tough decision over half term, it had been on the cards for quite sometime, over a year in fact, but the issues we were experiencing with high school made it all just feel like it had become ‘too much’. So we de-registered all of the girls and have decided to give ‘Home Education’ a go.

School has always been an issue for the girls. We originally started with a large primary school, after 3 years we made the decision to move to a smaller one in the hope the girls would begin to feel safer. Even with masses amounts of support and understanding from the amazing staff at primary school, the girls still struggled. Then big girl moved to high school, and well, the less said about that experience the better I think!

So here we are. We’ve just completed our first week. Its actually been much better than expected. I expected exhaustion, frustration, an unkempt house, a piled high laundry basket and bickering kids! I expected it to be an absolute nightmare!

Its been nothing like that! When we made the decision, which the girls were all involved in and given the choice about, they instantly relaxed, their sleep that evening improved dramatically! (I think that says it all really). There has been no bickering, at all! I’m not exhausted and the house and laundry have all been managed! There hasn’t even been any of that stressy, sweaty stinky pong (there was lots of it half term, they were worrying about going back to school they said! In fact, its actually been quite a lot of fun! The girls stress levels have all reduced dramatically and life feels so much easier and happier in our house right now. I can already feel my relationship with the girls blossoming and MrFO5 has been able to become more involved too.

I didn’t really plan on doing much ‘learning’ for now. I thought we’d spend some time getting out of the routine and practices that school came with. It hasn’t quite worked out that way because the girls have all wanted to ‘do learning’. So along with baby girl insisting that we keep ‘morning break’, we have already put some structure in to our days and have devised somewhat of a timetable for our week, it doesn’t look much like a school day, its much more flexible, we even did some learning (Sunday) today!

We’ve included daily diary writing, swimming, science experiments, math, spellings, hand writing practice, and have even joined some local Home Education groups!  The girls have been amazing, they’ve become so eager to learn. They love writing their diaries each morning and showing me their sentence structure or neat writing or how they used a good ‘describing word’. They sit at the table for written work without fuss, they listen and they hear, even baby girl! We’ve incorporated learning into nearly everything we do, so much so that they all keep pointing out the ‘learning’ or asking what the ‘learning’ is. When MrFO5 gets home each evening they’re all super excited to show him their work folders and tell him what they’ve learnt that day and what exciting adventures we’ve been on.

There is so much that we have done this week that I couldn’t even begin to list it all, so here is some of it:

I’ve accessed online resources both free and paid for

We’ve carried out experiments about colors and noted our findings

Learnt about what some of the vital organs in the body do

They’ve played educational games on their tablets and even learnt about ‘algorithms’

We’ve been learning a new song that we found on youtube

We written some poetry about popping candy, that was a lot of fun because of course we had to eat it first!

They’ve all learnt how to spell at least 7 new words each.

They’ve swam over 100 meters each

Had fun with paint and glitter at an Art Club

Made new friends

Learnt about different types of measurements in the park with tape measures

We’ve laughed, smiled, and snuggled a lot!

Like I say, there is just too much to list, and that’s just this week!

We plan to get a math tutor in the new year. We have music tuition lined up. We have plans to visit science museums, art galleries and historical places. We may even do our own Christmas performance for friends and family to watch. I’m hoping to finally get round to being able to do some baking with them as well. We’re even hoping now they’re sleeping better that they will be more able to manage some extra curricular clubs and activities. Middle girl really wants to go to a Dance class! We do hope to get them back in to some sort of formal education later on, perhaps for college. We may need to look at getting a cleaner in once a month, we may need to employ the services of an ironing company (only for Mr FO5 work shirts, us girls are happy to wear creases). We may even need to change our car to one that’s more economical now we’re doing more than just the school run each day. So we may also need to do the lottery more often too!! 🙂

I’m not naive enough to believe it will always be this easy or that they will always be this willing, or that it wont get exhausting either but for now, it really does feel like we made the best decision for our girls and I just wonder why we never did it sooner!

Just Plain Tough – The Puffin Diaries

Published November 4, 2015 by thefamilyof5

Excellent post from a very annoyed mum at Puffindiaries, I’m not in the least bit surprised its about more school issues 😦

‘This is not tough love, no this is just being tough, the word love does not get used in this system of education.’ –  Extract taken from: Just Plain Tough

%d bloggers like this: