I've navigated the SEND system both on a personal and on a professional level. My first experience with the SEND Tribunal system was probably in 2006/7. Tribunal is never something that is undertaken lightly, and is often an action of last resort. It was another parent that made me think hard about the action I took.
I'd had a very unpleasant and unprofessional experience with the school's SEN governor and Head teacher and was trying to get my head around what had just happened. I'm a very resilient person and this parent asked "but what if it was X's mother, or Ys?". He was right, it was awful enough for me, let alone for someone less stoic.
Once the dust settled, I chose to train up and volunteer for a large special needs charity, giving free legally-based advice. The charity is independent and I've been trained to be impartial; the advice I would give to a parent is the same that I would give to a professional. The law does not change dependent on who you are or where you live - I'm a bit of a stickler for the 'rules'. Anyway, the system would run much better if everyone was working together, with the same goals. It would also save a lot of misunderstandings which can lead to a breakdown in home-school relationships, with the child caught in the middle.
I was in my second year with the Open University when I lodged my SEND Tribunal appeal. I'd left school with a mixed bag of 'O' Levels and decided it was about time I showed what I could really do. One module led to another and 21 of them later, I earned two first and one Master's degrees. It shows that education truly is life-long. Whether our children are high-fliers or small-step learners, we all learn. My old teachers would be shocked!
I have a passion for learning, so I completed a PGCE teaching Functional Skills and Skills for Life. I've also worked as a cover teacher from Yr 1 through to Yr12. I'm now a Specialist Teacher, broadly meaning that I can diagnose and teach dyslexics. However, my role goes further, I am able to assess students for a range of Specific Learning Difficulties. Many students fall into this category and would benefit greatly from Reasonable Adjustments. As an adult student, I also had Reasonable Adjustments made, as I needed to type my exams.
Like a Hobbit, I've been on An Unexpected Journey - and it's been good. I now not only volunteer as a tribunal advocate but also write for SNJ, provide assessments and advise on EHCPs, work as a peripatetic Specialist Teacher and carry out occasional pieces of independent research on SEND matters. I'm also planning to do parent workshops locally. My website can be found at bjpren.com.
Bren's posts on SNJ
- The right to a suitable education: what the law saysWhy do I have to go to school to learn? Many children and young people find school or college inaccessible…Continue reading »
- Are Teaching Assistants bad for children with SEND?I often hear that, "Research says that Teaching Assistants (TAs) are bad for children, so we don’t do them here"…Continue reading »
- Explaining the Annual Review for a child with an Education, Health and Care PlanAlthough Statements of special educational needs have been around since 1981, for many parents, the Annual Review (AR) remains a…Continue reading »
- Draft Plans and Working Documents in an EHCPWorking Documents (WD) and draft EHC plans are quite similar, although with a draft plan you can negotiate on all…Continue reading »
- Exam Access Arrangements: what are they and who gets them?It’s that time again when students anxiously await their exam results. We all hope for good passes all round, but…Continue reading »
- Reporting on the EHCP process: Bren’s parent participatory researchFor four weeks from late April to early May I conducted a research survey into how things were going with…Continue reading »
- The Great EHCP SwindleTania's note: A parent post today, but it's not a personal tale of an experience with the new Education, Health and…Continue reading »