After the publication of yesterday’s articles in the guardian and the independent regarding pushy parents wanting a diagnosis of SEND for their children, I have become increasingly annoyed.
Because the truth is parents of children with SEND need to be pushy.
In fifteen years of teaching I can honestly say that I have never met a parent who wants their child to have SEND. However, I have seen countless parents at breaking point.
Parents who have spent countless hours fighting for services their child needs access to. And parents whose children have been refused diagnosis because of the lack of knowledge of the professionals working with them.
The reality is that most mainstream teachers have no training in working with children with SEND. They have no knowledge of diagnostic criteria. And funding cuts mean they have very little access to specialist services.
Behaviour is all too often blamed because teachers do not have an understanding of the root causes.
Do middle class children fare better in the system than those from less well off backgrounds? Absolutely. Their parents learn how to work the system. They learn that in order to get what their child needs they need to shout loudly in the right ears. And they are less likely to be blamed as the root cause of the difficulties their child is causing.
There are limited resources. Too few specialist places and not enough money to go round. I have sat in meetings with LEA budget holders and been told frankly that there is not enough money in the pot to provide the education that SEND children in the authority need.
This is not the fault of pushy parents. It is the fault of cuts to an already stretched budget.
Parents do not want to be pushy. They should not need to be pushy. The education children need to be successful should be a right for all. Services should be given on the basis of need. Children whose parents do not understand the system should not be sacrificed.
But that is not the fault of the parents of the children who access them. It is the fault of the system.
Change is needed. And it is needed now.
More resources are needed urgently. More training for all teachers in SEND needs to be made compulsory. But more than that parents need to be listened to – not because authorities are afraid of complaints but because they are the ones who know their children best.
Because education matters for all children.
There should not be children entering secondary school who have not been taught to read and write. There should not be children spending years out of school because of the lack of an appropriate placement.
We should not be complaining that parents are pushing to get the education their child needs, we should be asking why they need to.