As we entered into Year 2 (aged 6yrs) in September 2014, I wondered what may lay ahead. Were we able to manage behaviours sufficiently enough to remain in school or would the exclusions commence? I also wondered what else school could do, were they doing enough to support my child?
So we started Year 2, having had a home visit prior, with all good intentions, individualised reward charts in school were already in place, being allocated the title of ‘special helper’ to make her feel special etc. We’ve got this! New year, new start! Or had we?!
Sadly not! It quickly became apparent, within a matter of a few days, that managing behaviours in school was going to be tricky! Just 5 days in there were already reports of my daughter ‘destroying items belonging to other children, stamping on a child’s foot, hurting another on their arm and punching someone in the back’! This did not bode well!
Daily reports of aggression and violence
These types of behaviours were rapidly being reported on a daily basis and by the end of September my daughter had been given a 5 day internal exclusion….obviously not a good start to Year 2!
By October I was receiving regular emails from the Head informing me of various incidents including my daughter’s 1:1 being threatened with a chair, having her foot ‘stomped on’ and being kicked. The incidents involving staff members being injured were definitely on the increase!
Why had school/home communication stopped?
After the October half term, despite behaviours continuing to escalate, I noticed a distinct lack of information being written in the home/school communication book. When I questioned this with the Head, I was informed that the communication book had been stopped as there was ‘just too much to write’ and she felt that this was ‘too time consuming’! My counter argument for this being reinstated, included: ‘how the home/school book provides evidence that enabled me to share information with other professionals, provides evidence of any deterioration/patterns of behaviour and is an effective way of communicating detailed information two ways’. However, this was dismissed and instead replaced by ‘smiley’ charts!
In my opinion, the ‘smiley’ charts were not a sufficient or effective means of communication, particularly as there were no details or further information regarding any incidents that had resulted in a ‘sad face’. When I questioned this and asked for further details, I was made to feel blamed particularly when the Head noted that it is ‘very tricky’ to update me as I ‘didn’t see staff at the beginning or end of the school day’ – I was made to feel guilty for working full time!
Additionally, the ‘smiley’ charts weren’t even consistently completed. How was I meant to implement any reward at home for good behaviour in school (this was at the school’s request) if I wasn’t being informed, but I guess school saw this as my issue for not being available to speak to staff at 8.40am and 3.20pm?!
Part time timetable implemented
By the middle of Nov we had had a further two internal exclusions before school decided that a part time timetable up until Christmas was the route they were going to take! This part time timetable consisted of two weeks only being allowed to stay in school until noon, followed by a further two weeks of being allowed to stay until 1pm and the final week actually being allowed to stay for the whole day! How on earth was I going to manage this crazy schedule alongside working?! My brain was in such turmoil I didn’t question whether this was even legal?
Despite all the additional support school were receiving from the Education, Support, Behaviour and Attendance Service (ESBAS), behaviours continued to escalate. Whilst we were all holding out for the outcome of various assessments ie CAMHS and Education Psychologist, I was left increasingly concerned that this placement was not the correct placement for my daughter and that it was eventually going to break down.
So I started looking at what the alternatives may possibly be, IF or more to the point WHEN this placement broke down. This led me on to realising that an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) would be required for my daughter, not only to identify her needs but to also identify what support was required.
‘Not commenced EHCP’s in school yet’?
With this in mind, I approached school and requested that they apply to the Local Authority for an EHCP only to be told, by the Head, that they ‘have not commenced these in school yet’…. really?? Whilst I appreciated that ‘EHCP’s’ had fairy recently replaced what were ‘Statements’, surely this was something that the school should have been all over?
There was a great deal of time wasted (approximately 3/4 months) that followed, due to the Head not even knowing what the EHCP application process was. However, it did prompt school to finally create a ‘School Based Plan’ – something that I learnt to realise was a crucial step towards the application of an EHCP (something I will go on to talk about in another post).
So, having struggled through the tricky time of being on a part time timetable, with the massive help of my best mate’s partner, who fortunately for us at the time was unemployed, which selfishly was a huge benefit to us, we entered back into full time school in January 2015!
By this point we had had so many professionals involved, trying to unpick and support my daughter’s increasingly concerning behaviours. I was receiving regular emails from the Head informing me of physical attacks not only on other children but also on Senior staff. Internal exclusions were coming thick and fast and my daughter was unable to mix with other children during lunchtime and breaks, so was kept in isolation.
The Head adamant that my daughter’s behaviours were by choice!
My daughter was spending more and more time out of class and was regularly spending time in the Head’s office when ‘there was nowhere else she could go’! The positive of this was that the Head got to see the lovely, calm side to her and even described her as a ‘delightful companion’ in a 1:1 environment. That said, the Head continued to use the term ‘choice’ when discussing negative behaviours, insinuating that my daughter ‘chose’ to behaviour in this manner! Why would any child (let alone at the age of 6) CHOOSE to be so hurtful/spiteful, to injure other children and staff, to have minimal friends (and be disliked by most) or to be that unpopular that she was no longer invited to birthday parties or round for tea? It certainly didn’t make sense to me that she was ‘choosing’ to behave in this manner!
Exclusions were coming thick and fast
So fast forwarding, between Easter and the Summer holidays, we had clocked up an impressive (or not so impressive) 22 days of exclusion – that wasn’t even including the numerous of days where I was called to collect her early!
There were many occasions where I was requested to ‘pick her up early’ but I remember one day in particular where I was informed that she had ‘trashed the classroom’ and that there ‘were four members of staff with her who were unable to control her’. Hang on a minute…..so you are telling me that your staff (all four of them) are unable to control her however you expect little ole me to come and collect her on my own??
On the 15th July 2015 (aged just 7yrs, following three weeks of total isolation and with 2:1 failed support) my daughter was permanently excluded. Whilst this was difficult to come to terms with, it was also a relief that school had finally admitted defeat! We were well on our way with her EHCP application and unbeknown to me at the time, this was almost good timing.
However. to my astonishment though, in the eleventh hour (ie literally a couple of hours before the 6th day was up and the Local Authority had a duty to find an alternative placement) the permanent exclusion was over turned by the LA!! How could this be? I was SO angry, it was evident that school couldn’t meet my daughter’s needs so I did everything I could to get the decision reverted back! Unfortunately, despite best efforts, it was to no avail.
Insult to injury
To add insult to injury, the permanent exclusion was then reverted back to a 5 day external exclusion, however there was not enough time before the end of term to have completed the full 5 days and to my disbelief the half a day that was remaining, was carried over into the new September term! So, Year 3, aged 7yrs started with a half a day exclusion!
Following yet another reintegration meeting (on the Friday, first day back) I informed school that WHEN I receive the call on Monday to collect her early (excluded), then I would be withdrawing her from school. I was no longer prepared to put myself through this, the school and not least my daughter! It was having an extremely detrimentally effect on her emotional well-being (as well as it being a safeguarding issue) and it needed to stop!
As anticipated, I ended up withdrawing my daughter from school, on that following Monday, having been called less than half an hour after dropping her off! We were now out of education at the beginning of Year 3, having only lasted half an hour in Juniors……