We did it! We sent in the deregistration letter for our school refusing 12 year old this afternoon. After months/years of deliberations we’ve finally bitten the bullet and took him out of school.
Do I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders? No! Do I feel like I have definitely made the right choice? Yes and No! Are we going to give it a bloody good go? Yes!
As you may have read on my previous post we have gone through years of school refusal, it’s not just behavioural which is how I always imagined these children, he has Asperger’s syndrome and just isn’t coping with the school environment. Our hope is that in the future we can get him back to school to complete his education but for now we need to get him to a place where this is a possibility.
So Much To Consider
I currently have around a gazillion questions and thoughts floating around my head. Will the education authority agree to give us funding from his EHCP towards the costs of tutoring and materials? Will we even be able to get him to learn at home? What if it doesn’t work out and he has to return to school but has fallen behind? I’m reassured that these are normal feelings and that they’ll soon fade away. I hope so!
Family & Friends
I’m lucky that all our family and friends have been supportive of our decision so far. It would’ve been so much harder without their approval, which seems ridiculous as I’m a grown woman with 4 children, but I think everyone wants others to get it! And they just do.
I’ve yet to hear from school regarding our decision, I was a little sneaky in that I sent the de-registration in at the end of the day, the last day of this half term. I doubt I’ll hear anything now until they return. This suits me nicely as I’m not ready for the conversation with them just yet. I don’t know how we’ll begin our journey but for sure we’ll find our feet and I intend to make this a journey to remember.
It may end up not working out and I am okay with that, but it may be the answer to our prayers too, and we would never know till we try!
I have everything crossed now for our future and I will be sharing our journey on my blog!
If you’d asked me ten years ago about my opinions on school-refusal
I’d have been quite frank and said it was something done by feral kids as a
result of poor parenting. Nowadays however I find myself in this very position,
I am the parent of a school refuser. I’m not the sort of parent I pictured 10 years
ago, I gave up work to stay home and raise my children, we were fortunate
enough to be able to give them what they needed and wanted, they had holidays and
technology but most importantly they had my time. School refusal wouldn’t have happened to
parents like us in my mind 10 years ago. I guess I was narrow-minded, I had no
experience of raising children who were old enough to really refuse school, I
thought of school refusal as a bad homes issue. It isn’t, not by any means, and
I’ve seen lots of parents in a similar position who are blamed and persecuted
for their kids not being okay at school.
Looking back our son never loved school. We would often drag
him in upset and leave him crying because we’re almost conditioned to believe
that school is the only way for kids to succeed in life so we push them to go,
and for most kids they do love it, and that’s great. Once at
school it’s the teacher’s job to keep them there and try settle them down for a
day of learning and socialising. They don’t do this out of malice, but I do believe
it sets in motion a chain of negative experiences – upset, feeling out of
control and restraint for example that eventually causes the child to become
disengaged from the education system.
Our son was diagnosed with Aspergers in school, it was clear
from nursery that he was very different from his peers, choosing to sit with
his back to people than join in, watching the class circles from the other side
of the classroom, and generally having a really hard time. I knew nothing at
all about the Autism spectrum when it was first suggested to us by his school,
we were already struggling to cope with the problems he had at home and every
healthcare professional he saw must have been able to see he was Autistic but chose
to do nothing about it, it really was scarily obvious when I look back. School
we felt was our respite from him. It gave us 6 hours to recharge our batteries
and be able to leave the house without constant meltdowns. We could go shopping
and not have to leave because the sight of the stores toilet doors caused him
to lose the plot completely.
He would come home every day and his emotions would be
everywhere, he would stim, he would play with water and flood our house, he would
be angry and he didn’t sleep. I guess looking back they were all warning signs
that he wasn’t coping with the demands of school life. We needed the break
whilst he was at school though to help deal with the emotions when he got back.
It was a vicious cycle and at that point home-education was most definitely not
an option for us.
We got a lot of support from primary, by year 2 they had
applied for a statement of special educational needs. He was granted 30.75
hours just in time for him going into year 3 and from then until the end of his
time there he had 1:1 all day every day with the same person. They put in place
social skills groups, friendship groups and other interventions to help him succeed.
He was always encouraged to try things outside his comfort zone such as swimming
lessons and even a 2 night school trip. He really blossomed and had many
friends, but he still hated going to school. His refusal looked behavioural, he
would kick, punch and bite as I tried to drag him up the drive, it got worse with
the arrival of his baby brother in 2015.
The time came for him to go to high school. This was a very
difficult time for us as we weren’t convinced this was the right school for
him, but we live on the coast and there isn’t another high school for 11 miles.
He wanted to go with his friends and we felt he deserved to give it a try. We
tried to iron out any issues before he started, make sure everything would be
perfect and in place by the time he started. They were aware of his refusal
issues with school but we were reassured that
they understood and could help. Quickly he began to refuse, he missed
his second week completely and he was put on a reduced time-table. This was
great and only meant to be supportive, but he takes things very literally, so
when school said “Monday you only need to come in and do the one lesson, more
if you want” in his head that meant “Monday do one lesson then leave”. That was
fine and we worked with it and soon got him back to going, now and again. They
put things in place so if he felt he couldn’t be in class he could go elsewhere.
I felt positive that they really wanted to help.
Not even 6 months in we were informed that the ‘Parent Support Advisor’ in school had took it upon herself to refer us to the educational welfare department. Now I could understand if I wasn’t in school every week trying to find a solution, if I wasn’t dragging him in only for them to mark him as not there because none of us could get him to go past the reception area. The woman had never so much as spoken to us. We were now on the path for prosecution if things didn’t improve. I honestly felt betrayed. We sat in numerous meetings with overpaid EWO’s (Education Welfare Officers) who were being paid a decent amount of money to sit and tell us what we already knew. Their favourite phrase was “you could be prosecuted”. As if their constant reminder was somehow going to be the answer to our years of problems. We listened to them quoting false laws to us, telling us how we should punish our sons refusal by giving him nothing until he decided school was for him (we tried, it doesn’t work). They admitted there was nothing they could offer to help, but yet we were expected to be “working with them” to resolve his attendance issues. I can see why some parents struggle with their own mental health issues when forced into a corner like this. Some parents have to leave their jobs over it. I work in school myself (his old primary) and the fear of prosecution weighed heavily on me. I know only too well how capable he is and I want only the best for him. Unfortunately as of now, part way through year 8, his attendance is currently sat at 67%. I’m waiting for the inevitable letter reminding us of our responsibilities as his parents and demanding we go and explain ourselves at more pointless meetings. I am looking into the chances of having EOTAS named on his EHC Plan rather than his current school because it just isn’t working, but realistically we’re going to end up de-registering and taking responsibility for educating him ourselves, I just know it. I actually like the idea of home-educating him, but I don’t want to feel pushed into it.
I am thankful we have an education system, free to all, and I have one child who has gone all the way through, one in her first year of high school and one in reception year. Its become clear though that it is not the right system for everyone. This high school just cannot meet our needs for our son, but the only alternative is special school which he is not severe enough to go to. There are no options for children in the middle. The system needs reworking to become a fairer system for all, we need schools for everyone because mainstream simply does not suit every child. We’re lucky to be in a position to provide him with education at home, not everybody forced to take the same route is as lucky as us. It would not be the easy option for us to take, but I honestly don’t know where else we can go.