Fighting for an Education

In the UK, children are being denied the support they need to lack of accountability/ funding and teachers being spread far too thin.
In the UK, children are being denied the support they need to lack of accountability/ funding and teachers being spread far too thin.

When I was younger, my parents had to fight tooth and nail against such remarks that I was just ‘a naughty child’ or they were ‘bad parents’. Very little was known about ADHD back then, it was 1993 after all, but the hostility against the difference instead of the support, was fairly evident.

I can only imagine how difficult it was very my parents knowing that there was something not right with their child, but not having anyone support them in that and then being made to feel like it was somehow their fault.

“In 25 years since I was in formal education, not much has changed for children with ADHD. Parents are still struggling to get the support.”

ADHD Girl

Strangely, they never realised anything was wrong, until I started formal education. It was only then the difference between my ability to conform and my peers’ ability, became more prominent. I just wouldn’t sit down like the other children or follow instructions as easily.

Sadly, it took another 6 more years of formal education and more tests than I can count, until I received a formal diagnosis of ADHD and dyspraxia, and that was only after my parents changed my school due to lack of support.

Fast forward 25 years and not much has changed. As part of my degree, I did an independent study project on a 7-year-old child with an ADHD diagnosis. As part of this, I interviewed his mum, and it was the same story as my parents had with me. She’d had to fight to get anyone to believe her, treated like a bad parent and that made to believe that her child was just naughty through choice.

Parents are convinced that their child’s difficulties are only in their head. This down to lack of funding available and teachers/ SENCOs not having the time/ means to seek a diagnosis”

ADHD Girl

I’m not saying that every single child with ADHD has a bad experience of the formal education system in the UK, but the truth is that in the majority of cases; support for seeking a diagnosis is dreadfully lacking.

A few years ago I was approached through a friend, by a mum who was desperate to seek a diagnosis for her son. He had been struggling for many years in the education system and the SENCO kept fobbing her off with excuses. Sadly, this is not uncommon! So many parents reach out with concerns only to be reassured that it’s all in their head. While that may be the case for some children, it means that for those who really do need support it’s a long and winding road.

From what I have learnt over the years, schools are reluctant to put children forward for assessment except in the most severe cases (where lesson disruption has a major impact). Part of the reason for this comes down to two sad facts: money and time! The SENCO has far too many responsibilities and limited time, along with teaching, to carry them out.

“By 9am the next morning, the teacher had rang the parent to get the necessary assessments and support in place. It was a drastic course of action, but some times it’s the only way left.”

ADHD Girl

The application process for assessment and funding does not make this easier either. Not to mention that in some cases, the school has to cover the funding for any special arrangements from their own purse strings (this is one of the reasons I’m dead set against academies where schools can control their own money).

Yet, the consequences for children who do not get assessed or supported can have long lasting effects. Going back to the mum who was desperate to help her son, I’m pleased to say that I was able to advise her in this case to have a successful outcome, due to my knowledge as an education lecturer. I wrote a letter on her behalf to the school headteacher quoting the Children and Families Act Year and threatened to reach out to Ofsted if they did not take her concerns seriously.

The letter was sent via email one evening and by 9 am the next day the headteacher was on the phone, inviting the parent in for a meeting and that very same day the SENCO was able to start the assessment process. If anybody would like a template for this letter, then you can acquire this free below by subscribing to my blog.

“In mainstream education, it’s far easier to pretend that ADHD doesn’t exist and that children are just choosing to be naughty.”

ADHD Girl

For many parents of children with ADHD, or suspected ADHD, in schools the main issue is accountability, until that official diagnosis is achieved then SENCOs and schools can continue to just dismiss concerns. I’m not saying that there aren’t good teachers out there that willing to put the time and effort in, but because teachers are stretched so thin through no fault of their own, then they sometimes find things like this impossible to manage.

What will say is that in terms of mainstream education, sadly for a lot of people, it’s easier to pretend that ADHD doesn’t exist and that children are simply choosing to be naughty because it saves time and money in the long run. However, parents, please don’t let that put you off fighting for your child’s right to an education. You know your child best and are their best possible chance of succeeding!

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