This was the question being asked by Radio 5 Live this morning. Radio 5 Live broadcast today from Bromstone School in Broadstairs, where the Head Teacher, Nigel Utton, is passionate about inclusive education. Not just inclusive for those children with SEN but for all children.
I was invited along and was also asked to keep an audio diary of a typical morning in my home. This diary appeared on their website this morning and then was played a few times throughout the morning. My kids loved hearing themselves on the radio. J was also happy that everyone who heard it has told him how impressed they are with his passion for Pink Floyd. I wonder how impressed they would be if they had heard "Shine on you crazy Diamond" as many times as I have in a 24 hour period?
The morning started off with a bit of sad news for many when Nigel Utton announced he was leaving his post at the end of August. Nigel is involved with ALLFIE (the ALLiance For Inclusive Education) and he really does practice what he preaches. In his area, most mainstream schools have two or three children with statements, he has twenty. The school is hugely popular with families as they genuinely do offer an inclusive provision but with the SEN funding reforms and the other changes brought in by Michael Gove, Nigel feels he can be more effective for families by using his energy elsewhere.
I was initially invited to chat about my concerns with the reforms so obviously, I talked about the apparent departure of person centred reviews and one page profiles. I know there are more issues but others had already discussed the speed the reforms are going through and that joint commissioning is not the same as agencies effectively working together. I was also asked to stay on for the phone in. It was actually quite interesting to see how it all works, having rang into a few of these myself. It is strange however, to sit in a room and keep hearing yourself when they play clips of your earlier comments.
The phone-in was interesting - several parents ringing to say how much they could relate to what we had said, teachers ringing to say how they could relate to what Nigel had said and an interesting end to the session when I collected the name "Super Mum" due to my knowledge of the reforms along with raising three children with SEN.
The sad thing is I shouldn't have to be a Super Mum, I shouldn't need to know the Children and Family Act or the revised draft Code of Practice inside out. How many parents without a child with SEN will know the Education Act as well as we have to know it, along with the SEN regulations, the Code of Practice, the Home to School Transport Guidance, the Equality Act, the Disability Discrimination Act, the Childrens Act, the Health and Care Act and let's not even start with the huge changes within the structuring of Health and SEN funding. You would think with all of the legislation in place to supposedly support our families, our lives would be a walk in the park.
The one thing that stood out throughout the morning was the lack of information and the mis-information out there. Unless parents are either actively involved with their local parent forums or they are a parent who copes with the stress by learning the system down to the very last letter, it is highly possible and, mostly probable, that they know nothing about the reforms taking place or have a very limited understanding. Kent's forum was there today and had done a survey (with very little notice) and had received 173 responses. This is a good response, well it is until you hear that there are over 22.5k children in Kent with additional needs (6.5k of whom have statements). So less than 1% responded. This is not a criticism of the forums - I have several colleagues involved in forums around England and I know the hours they put into this, I also know how many hours Tania and I have put into getting information out there too. This is an observation that there are many thousands of families out there who are not giving their views, families who don't know about the changes or families who may have the wrong information and think that the changes won't have an impact on them at all.
You can hear the full interview on line via Radio 5 Live's podcasts
I leave you with this question. In just over 4 months, this system will change and we have parents and practitioners who have little knowledge or understanding of what these changes will mean. What is the solution? How do we get the information to those parents and practitioners and what format do parents want this information in. If we are to ensure that parents, children, young people and practitioners are working together effectively for the benefit of our children and young people, what do we need to do?