If you have been sitting in isolation with a power cut due to the snow, you are probably one of the few people who hasn't heard about the Katie Price debate taking place. However, most of us will have heard something about it and I am sure will have an opinion on the situation.
Just to bring those who have missed the story up to date - Katie Price is currently resident in the Celebrity Big Brother house along with Katie Hopkins. Katie Hopkins decided to say, in her usual no holds barred way, that Katie Price should not be allowing the state to pay for her son's transport to his school as she can afford to pay for it herself. This has brought about the usual social media storm.
Now the issue with social media is it contains lots of people with lots of opinions, but sadly not always with lots of accurate information. It also contains lots of quotes taken out of context and lots of "I heard that he/she....." comments. That's the recipe for a lot of nonsense. Ok before I start sounding too much like Cilla Black here, let's move on.
Katie Price has been mis-quoted as saying it costs £1000 a day to take her son to school. What she actually said is that if she used her private driver and employed a nurse for the same journey it would cost about £1000 a day. As any mum with a child with special needs knows, no Local Authority is going to pay anything like that - life would be so much easier for all of us if they had those sorts of funds available.
Those who are offering their opinions on the story (including myself) are using their Human Right to"Freedom of Expression" (Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression).
It is only fair, therefore, that Katie's son is allowed to use his Human Right to "a Right to Education" (Article 26 - Everyone has the right to education).
When a child has a Statement of Special Educational Needs (or an Education, Health and Care Plan), the nearest suitable provision is named. If applicable, the Local Authority then has a statutory duty to provide transport to and from the school in order for them to access the provision.
Parents do not "claim" for school transport, it is part of their Statement to enable the child to get to the school that can meet their needs.
Parents have very little, if any, say in who provides the transport and it is usually the cheapest firm that wins.
School Transport only takes the child to and from the school within school hours so breakfast and after school clubs are often not an option.
Harvey has a right to an education, he has a Statement of Special Educational Needs and unfortunately, the nearest school able to meet his needs is 50 miles from home, so transport to and from the school is also provided in order that he can actually get there. Who should be paying for this? Maybe that is where the real story is.
Why is there no suitable provision locally?
We have chatted about this at SNJ; all of us are parents, like Katie, with children with SEND.
I have three children who use school transport to access their school place. One travels almost 40 miles each way, the other 15 miles (the nearest school with a VI resource) and one just 5 miles (the nearest school with a Speech and Language resource) so the chances are financially, my children cost the tax payer more than Harvey does. However, most of my friends who live locally access the local school, which is just half a mile from me.
So the question we should all be asking just now isn't how much it costs a Local Authority to transport a child or whether Katie should be paying for it or not; it should be "Why are Local Authorities not providing more suitable provision locally?"
None of us want our children travelling such a long way to school. Many of our children travel further to school than many people do to work. However, when the nearest suitable provision is not within a few miles of home, then transport is our only option. Some people say "well I know it's a long way but you 'get' one of those Motability cars and you should use that". Oh how I wish I had a pound for every time I had that said to me (I could probably pay for all the home/school transport). Sadly, even with the best will in the world, that is not always an option. I have three children in three different school - all in different directions, it would not be possible for me to be in three places at the same time. Many of us have children with no SEND and we have to get them to the local school on time or face the wrath of the school, so once again taking our child with SEND to a different school 50 miles away at the same time isn't an option.
So why is provision so poor?
- Why is it that so many schools cannot meet our children's needs and in many circumstances, have no interest in attempting to even try?
- Why are parents discouraged from even applying for some schools by the staff there?
- Why are schools not doing more to learn how to meet the needs of all children?
- Why are Local Authorities not putting pressure on schools to raise their game?
In an ideal world, my children would go to school together, we would all jump into the Motability car at 8.30 or walk up to the school en masse, I would know the other mums at the school and my children would be able to meet up with their school friends after school or at the weekend. My children would share the same experiences, know the same people, the twins would possibly be in the same class for some subjects and they would be able to access after-school clubs with ease (rather than my having to turn one down because we cannot collect him at 4.15 when his brother arrives home - 15 miles away - at the same time). They would not be in schools over 50 miles apart and I would not be zooming up and down the motorway for annual reviews, school plays or parents evenings.
So before anyone attack parents, like Katie, who has taxpayer-funded transport provided to take their child to school, ask yourself why Harvey can only go to a school fifty miles away because there is nothing suitable any nearer.