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.
C’s child has autism. He is now 13 and at a special school in Birmingham, but the move to special school took more than a year. During the time he was in mainstream school and whilst the family waited for the assessments and reports to be done to get him a place at special school, C’s son was offered just one hour per day at school. C told us she couldn’t believe that mainstream school just couldn’t get the resources it needed to educate her son properly. She also brought up the issue of after-school provision: very few clubs accept children with special needs and special schools, unlike mainstream schools, do not run after-school activities.
“When he was little – starting from nursery – the school tried to get some extra support – like funding – for him. I’m not sure what happened, but when he was ready for school, in year 1, they said there was no support for him. He was only allowed in school for an hour (a day) for the whole of year 1. I couldn’t believe they couldn’t get the support for him. Every day; only one hour.
“They tried to persuade me to send him to a special school. But, obviously, I needed to look around and check to see what school would be suitable. And, during this time, he was sort of excluded from school; just one hour a day in school.
“When he turned 5, I started to fight for his time (at school). Because I know that after a child is 5, by law, he is entitled to a full time education. But the school more or less just gave up making any effort and were just waiting for me to transfer him to a special school; and that was it.
“So, I think, it took about another year for him to be transferred to a special school. There are reports and assessments and it is a very complicated process. For over a year, my child wasn’t formally excluded from school (but received very little education). It was very frustrating for us at that time.
“I think also that after-school provision is an issue. In the special schools there is nothing there after school (unlike in most mainstream schools). For special needs children, you don’t have any after-school support. And there are very few suitable clubs that accept our children. It depends on your child’s ability, but most (clubs and activities) will only accept children who are quite able. My feeling is that the support is very poor for children with special needs, especially for those with low levels of ability. For high-achieving SEND children, maybe it’s slightly better. Even so, for children with ADHD or some other others, they can be excluded (from clubs and activities) because of ‘behaviour issues’.”