Educationally, M had a similar journey to D. By Year 1 she too had been left behind by peers, and was painfully aware of how she struggled to keep up with them. Her only friend was an elective mute girl, and an Afghan girl who spoke little English.
She had identified with other children who had obstacles. That meant they shared common ground.
The ground of being alone.
When triggered, and in order to get sent to the lovely pastoral manager (who was Louise Bomber trained), M would attack the other children in class. We thought that with D going to his residential school, M would blossom at home and school. But what happened is, she suddenly felt able to vent her trauma about her brothers terrifying behaviour over the preceding four years.
This is a good thing, but for our emotional healing it was as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike.
As a result, for being “naughty”most of her days were spent in the managers office, calming herself with her fiddle box , pining for her Mummy and Daddy. She used her time to write little notes saying “Mummy and Daddy I love you, I do love you” (it was always those exact words) with a constellation of kisses. It was as if by writing this, she was trying to connect with us across the air.
I can’t imagine the stress she went through. It upsets me thinking about it, and angers me that LEA’s have a one size fits all school ethos, and just like CAMHS, appear to have a “the answer is no- now what’s the question?” stock response to all initial queries and cries for help. This situation is the result of having people ignorant of adoption issues in senior positions of Education and Social Care, and Government cuts.
By year two she was excluded. The difference this time was that the pastoral manager was very supportive and advocated for us. But with that said, it was soul destroying to watch our two young children get rejected by the Education System- a system that has no understanding of trauma and its consequences.
We are feisty and educated, but it makes me so sad to think of people like grandparents, Special Guardians and Kinship Carers who have not had the opportunity to learn about the complex issues of children who’ve gone through early trauma- and the blame and railroading they may get by “The System”.
My little girl needed a school that could meet her pastoral needs. We were way less interested in any academic results. Traumatised kids can’t learn, anyway. She may as well have attended a petrol station forecourt.
The kind of school suitable for M doesn’t exist in our LA. She would need to travel out of county to get her needs met. That would have entailed a long taxi ride each way daily. That would only have made her more anxious.
After researching, we decided that her best option would be to get her into a local primary school for children on the autistic spectrum (and allied conditions). M isn’t on the autism spectrum, but this school offered “time in”, not “time out”. Fifteen minute lessons in small classes, a sensory room…a place you were never seen as naughty. A place without escalating shame as a culture.
They said no.
There is an Special Educational Needs Code of Practice to make sure children get their educational needs met.
People, demand this gets enacted-and get creative.
To head the LEA off at the pass with their “script” for M, we wrote a letter to the Head of SEN. By this time M had been out of school for many weeks, and was not getting an education. We were not going to let the LEA further traumatise our child by just offering a pathetic, bodge job “something”, to look like they had fulfilled their duty. You know the stuff. “Alternative education” fixing sewing machines, and trips to a small wood with ex army sergeants who found comfort in the New Age. With £25 a session payable to a PLC operating out of a bedroom in Slough. Jog on.
I sent this (anonymised) letter, and I hope it encourages and inspires anybody facing a similar situation to act- because within a week or two the Head of SEN was in our living room, saying we could have the school we wanted.
M is now very happy. She went from bottom of the class to top overnight, and her self esteem soared. She has the gentlest, most motivated teachers and TA’s I have ever met.