A Hellish Journey…

 Part of a series of true stories reflecting the struggles of SEND children and families in Birmingham recorded by Laura and Paul from Children’s Quarter during 2021/22.  See the Stories Without Pictures index.  


K told us about a 4 -5 year journey during which her daughter Q had little, or no, access to school.  Laura commented: ‘I have rarely seen such inappropriate assessment and responses to a very bright, capable young girl who just needs a customised approach’.

K’s daughter Q is now at a special school in another borough.  K described how the mainstream school her daughter attended in Birmingham made her unwelcome, repeatedly excluded her and left a clear impression that ‘stats and results’ were more important than individual children’s needs.  When we talked to her, K sounded understandably emotional recounting the ‘hellish’ journey her daughter has been on, although relieved that she is settling in at her new school.  Being educated out of the city, however, involves a long taxi journey twice a day, which is an extra expense and curtails K’s working day.  Both K and her daughter are very tired.

“I have an 8 year old who is diagnosed with ADHD.  Because of lockdown her other assessments were put on hold or shelved for whatever reasons.  My daughter is in a special school now but it’s been a hellish journey…

(At the mainstream primary school which Q used to attend) they didn’t really understand Q’s characteristics.  She came across as a child who knew what she was doing; who was disruptive, for the sake of being disruptive.  She wasn’t wanted at the mainstream primary school that she was in; she was excluded several times; she could sense that they didn’t want her there.

“Sometimes she was only there for 15 minutes before I got a phone call…  She was excluded for her behaviour.  Some of the staff at the school… they were under pressure to get stats and results rather than focus on the needs of individual children.

“So, it was a long process getting Q into a special school.  She is (now) at a school that is half an hour away; I have to shepherd her in a taxi every day there and back, so my day is curtailed.  She is settling now though.  The teachers that she is around now work with her.  I feel in mainstream schools that a lot of the staff aren’t trained sufficiently to work with children who present special educational needs.

“In my experience, my child was seen as a problem; I was seen as a ‘bad’ parent.  It was like it was too much of a hassle having her there – I felt that they did everything to not have her in that school.  When I speak to other parents, I think that is a typical problem.

“It would be nice…it would have been nice… for Q to have a local school to go to, but there are not enough (school) spaces around my Birmingham area so we have to travel to (another borough) every single day.  I am tired all the time.  Q is tired when she comes home and that impacts on her behaviour.  But, it is what it is; what are the alternatives?  For me, I don’t believe there are any alternatives.  And I am glad she is actually in a special school.  We just have to take what is available.

“There is definitely no local offer for my type of child available in my local area.  It would be nice if that were to change, but I am not hopeful yet.  Looking back, I almost wish I hadn’t put my daughter through all that; I just wanted to give her a chance.  What was on offer – a down-the-road community school – just didn’t have the compassion or the empathy or the zeal to focus on a child.  It needs to be overhauled.”

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