In January Evie started a hard fought place at special school. She attends two days a week. In the beginning (from the second we found out about her Down’s Syndrome diagnosis), the thought of special school terrified me. I thought that mainstream would be the best way. Evie went to mainstream nursery with 1:1 support and thereafter mainstream school. I thought that it would all be ok. That she would cope. That special schools weren’t right for her. Come Year 1 and Evie wasn’t coping full time in mainstream. Her mainstream school (as fab as they are) weren’t able to address what she needed. This resulted in some truly upsetting behaviour for us, for Evie and for the staff. So after a battle of some magnitude, considerable stress and a nigh on breakdown for me, Evie got a place at our chosen Special School.
Within two days at special school Evie was happier than we’ve seen her in a long time.
I was so unbelievably wrong about Special Schools. I know I won’t be the only one to have wrongly judged them. Special schools are awesome places. They are special for a reason. They have exceptional skills to teach their pupils what they need to do to not only survive in this society we live in, but to actually thrive. Society had taught me to fear special schools and what they stood for. Inclusion is something that is pushed by professionals, by LEA’s – it seems to be seen as the optimum aim, the ‘gold standard’. But you know what? It doesn’t actually matter. What matters is that our children and their families are happy. That they do their very best in whatever setting suits them. A child with Down’s syndrome does not fail, if they attend special school. Their parents haven’t let them down. I see so many comments and posts about people saying that their child is ‘managing’ at mainstream, they can last until high school age in that setting. I was one of those people. I wanted Evie to stay in mainstream for as long as possible, to be able to get GCSE’s, to learn to drive, to read and write….the list goes on. I’ve realised that I don’t want Evie to be someone who manages, I want her to be happy. So far she is, well as happy as she ever gets, but that’s an entirely different blog post!
As an aside – Did you know that in the entirety of Cheshire East there are only two special schools that are able to take Evie? Two!!! We had to fight to get her in her local special school. That the LEA and SEN team are so diabolical (I’m not holding back because it’s true) that they caused us a massive amount of stress? I have cried and shouted and lost my temper with them, threatened legal proceedings, been ignored totally. They cited lack of place (NB they’re not actually allowed to say that). More to the point why are there only two schools? Lack of funding.