Gosh, isn’t time moving fast again, as we are now getting close to the end of 2019 (but remember, for those of us following the academic year, our ‘year’ won’t end until July 2020!)
In this SEN Update, you will find sections entitled:
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THERE MUST BE SOMETHING WRONG (THE CONTINUING SEND CRISIS)
If you have read my SEN Updates in recent years, you will know that I have tried to highlight some difficulties I have noticed over recent years after the introduction of Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans by the Children and Families Act 2014. You may remember also that one section in my Spring (Half) Term 2018/19 update was entitled: "The SEND Crisis”.
I wish I could be more positive with you in this update, but I am afraid that everywhere I seem to turn these days seems to be telling me (both directly and indirectly) that difficulties are continuing and that things these days even seem to be getting a bit worse.
There must be something wrong.
For example, I am often involved with appeals to the SEND Tribunal, but this past year the SEND Tribunal seems to have been inundated with appeals which has meant that a lot of appeal hearings are having to be postponed at a very late stage, because of a lack of judicial time. The affect of this is crushing to many parents, both emotionally and financially and is playing havoc with the diaries of many educational and other associated professionals.
I regularly hear the arguments that the whole appeal process is often felt by parents not to be fair, but I also hear that many Local Authorities (LAs) are still struggling to maintain their statutory duties, with the excessive funding cuts they have had in the past decade or so. No matter what perspective you have, the impact of funding cuts having severely hindered the work also of schools/colleges and thereby also affect pupils/students, so that some children and young people are sometimes not having access to any education at all, not just not having access to appropriate provision or placement.
I am afraid that I am increasingly and continually seeing the system being attacked from all sides, with lots of difficulties not only regarding the amount of EHC assessments required and then the level of provision required by them, but also associated difficulties with restricted access to health and care provision (such as CAMHS [the Child and Mental Health Adolescent Service]) or the social care system (which is charged with keeping our children safe).
I cannot tell you how upsetting it is to see this all happening. However, I was a little bit buoyed by reading the latest SEND Newsletter (November 2019) from the Department of Education (DfE) which says as follows:
‘The SEND Review
The government has announced the launch of a crosscutting review of SEND. Five years on from the Children and Families Act, the review will look at how the system has evolved since then, how it can be made to work best for all families and ensure quality of provision is the same across the country. Recognising the importance of joined-up support, it will also explore the role of health care in SEND in collaboration with the Department of Health and Social Care. The review will consider:
It will conclude with action to boost outcomes and improve value for money, so that vulnerable children have the same opportunities to succeed, as well as improving capacity and support for families across England.’
As ever, these are fine words, but it is important that we follow through with things and look to the future.
We owe this to our children and young people…
SEN LAW CONFERENCE – SAVE THE DATE
On a more uplifting note, I think that this is probably a good opportunity for me again to remind you that next year’s SEN Law Conference, which I help stage with IPSEA (which stands for Independent Provider of Special Education Advice) and Matrix will be held on Tuesday 3 March 2020 in Central London.
We hope to be able to put out final details within the next week or so, but I have seen the draft agenda this week and it looks very exciting and also a bit different from the last couple of years. I encourage you again to put the date in your diary now and, when it is formally announced (don’t worry, I will let you know), please book your places quickly to avoid any disappointment (and to take advantage of the ‘early-bird’ discount!)
I only say this because I know that some people left it to the last minute and missed out last year, even though we increased the venue size to try and accommodate more people.
FORTHCOMING SEN EVENTS
In terms of forthcoming SEN events in the next couple of months, I would draw your attention to the following:
SO WE DO IT!
My apologies - this last section is a bit longer today than usual.
I have recently returned from doing my 10th (yes, ‘tenth’!) international bike ride for Norwood, a charity which helps children and young people with disabilities. My bike rides are generally a week-long (usually about 400 kilometres over 5 days – from Monday to Friday) but, as this year's was a big one for me, I rode about 600 kilometres over six days.
As you may know from my previous updates, as a physically disabled person using a wheelchair, I do these rides by using a specially modified recumbent trike, which is attached to and guided by a rider on a normal bike in front of me. The front rider not only steers for me, but can also brake for me (unfortunately, my physical reactions do not allow me to respond quickly and I also have a visual impairment which hinders me).
But actually, in this final section of my update, I want to tell you about something that happened on my ninth ride, last year in Greece.
At the end of Day 4 of 5 last year, after covering about 100km that day already, it had got to 4pm by our last stop and we still had about 25 kilometres to go. I knew that we had to complete the day’s ride by 5.30pm when the sun would go down, because we do not have lights usually on our bikes and I know that safety always comes first.
A number of riders were very tired and resigned themselves to not being able to do the last stretch in the time/daylight left and putting their bike on the accompanying van with a trailer and riding the last section on the accompanying ‘bus’ (that also transports our luggage from stop to stop every night).
I was also very tired and had already worked out that, even if I could sustain about 15 kilometres per hour (not so easy when you are sometimes climbing up quite steep hills), I would not be able to do this last section within the remaining slot of daylight and, therefore, I was also starting to resign myself to having to sit out the last section, or be prepared to be ‘swept up’ by the ground crew and put on the ‘bus’ and my trike on the trailer. I really thought that I could not do it. However, something amazing then happened…
My friend, Assaf, (a strong rider, who I have ridden with many times over many years), was my front rider, whose bike was attached to my trike. When I said that I didn’t think I would be able to do the last bit, in his no-nonsense style, he then just asked me:
"Are you saying that you don't want to do it, or are you saying that you do want to do it, but you do not think you can?".
I replied that it was the latter, that I wanted to do it, but I didn't think we would be able to; but he then simply responded to me:
“So, we do it!”
I now immediately felt a renewal of energy and when some of the other riders, who were about to give up and sit on the bus, heard that Assaf and I were still going to try to ride the next bit, they also felt a renewal of energy and decided to ride with us (including my son, Zachi). I cannot tell you about the thrill I then felt when riding that next section during the last hour or so.
The first part was actually quite a hard slog, as we seemed to be continuously riding uphilI and I wondered sometimes if we had actually bitten off more than we could chew. But when we got to about 5pm and we saw the sun starting to set in the sky (by which time I had also been swapped to another strong rider called Steve), we all suddenly started riding faster and faster knowing that we still had about 10 kilometres to go and only about 30 minutes in which to do it.
At one point, I saw the ‘bus’ in the distance and resigned myself to the fact that the ground crew were probably going to ‘sweep’ us up, but I suddenly found an increase of power again and started riding faster and, strangely, as we got nearer to it, the 'bus' disappeared. We were now all riding in a large convoy, riding together watching the sun gradually setting in the sky, but this was only encouraging me to ride even faster. The other riders around me saw this and that I was 'going for it', which somehow again renewed them with energy and they all kept up with me, which pushed me to try to go faster, which in turn made them speed up, pushing me to go faster – it was circular - you get the idea!
We now seemed to be ‘flying’ along at speed and I noticed that we were starting to go downhill, which was making us go even faster still. It then dawned on me that this was because we had been slowly ascending uphill during the first hour or so, which meant that we were now enjoying the fruits of our labour going downhill at speed. After a few kilometres more, with the sun almost now set, I could see the 'bus' again in the distance. So, again, I resigned myself to the fact that the ground crew were probably going to ‘sweep’ us up but, once more, the bus disappeared.
The sun eventually set and darkness was upon us, so I now thought to myself that there was no possible way that we were going to be allowed to ride without lights but, almost miraculously, a rider who had lights on his bike went to the front of the convoy and another rider. also with lights on his bike. went to the back so that other people/cars would be able to see us. We therefore carried on and seemed to be going faster and faster, until we eventually arrived at our destination, greeted by other riders from the bus which had already arrived, with applause and cheering when we came into all together, with the surroundings now being in almost complete darkness.
It is really quite remarkable when you start to think positively and start to believe that you can do something, even though you genuinely thought a minute before that you really cannot do it. It was only later also that I found out that the reason we had not been swept up by the bus was the fact that there was so many of us riding that the ground crew had realised that they would not be able to put all of our bikes together on the accompanying trailer, so if it had only been a few of us individually we would have been swept up, but because there was so many of us, they decided they could not do so!
My son, Zachi, who has now done rides with me these past six years and who I was sharing a room with that night, laughed together when we got into our room, knowing we had shared a very special experience together. He said to me with a big smile on his face:
“You love doing something don't you, when you really think you can't!"
With good wishes
P.S. I always find it helpful to find out what people think about my updates, so please take a few seconds to tell me what you think by going to 'Autumn (Half) Term 2019-20 'SEN Update – Your Thoughts’.
There are just 3 quick questions.