Integration According to the Education Department.  

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

I know it’s a bit late in the day for me; normally I’ve gotten a couple of new blogs on here by now. It’s just been a rather hectic day. Its half term anyway, so getting all the normal stuff done seems to take twice as long. I got all my housework done this morning, walked into the kitchen to put the kettle on and in the minute and a half that small task took me, Armageddon had occurred in the living room. I’m not sure how it happens. Of course, none of the kids knew anything about it despite being the only ones in the house! So I ignored the mess and got on with my ‘to do’ list. I’m a fanatical list maker, that’s how I get everything done…organisation, organisation, organisation.

So one of my many tasks today was speaking to the special needs education department about Deion’s Secondary school transfer. We’ve been trying to sort this out for a while now and its proving to be more difficult than even I envisioned, (and you know how pessimistic I am about these things!)

The key word floating around at the moment with regards to education is ‘integration’ if only someone would explain to the education department, the people building the schools and the governing bodies what that word actually means, it would be of immense help. To me integration means that any child can go to any school, regardless of physical limitations, incontinence issues and need for a specialist equipment and lap tops.

So why, when all the secondary schools in our area have just been rebuilt at immense cost, has this not become possible. They have got lots of things right, the schools look great, state of the art in fact, the computer facilities and sports facilities are equal to none. The classroom sizes are good, the corridors are wide...great. But somewhere along the line, the need for adequate toileting facilities got lost in translation. Although there are plenty of disabled toilets, none of them are big enough to accommodate Deion’s needs. For the average wheelchair user who can transfer onto the toilet by themselves, they are fine. But for children like Deion who need a changing bed, a ceiling track hoist and adequate washing facilities, let alone having another person in there to assist him…they fall very short of adequate.

When viewing every school within a twenty mile radius, I had to question the education department on who they took advice on, and how it could have possibly got missed. Sadly, their reaction was to tell us to choose a school that ‘should’ be ready on time, and ‘should’ have adequate hygiene rooms. Of course, you know me well enough by now to know I didn’t just accept this, in fact I questioned if the criteria they used when choosing a school for their own child was nothing to do with the school, the teaching system, the results and Ofsted report, but they just headed straight for the toilets, said “yep, we like the toilets, our child can come here.” “Of course not” they said affronted. “Then why on earth should we?” I asked. Silence!

But why should we. Why can’t we just choose a school like everyone else? So now, needless to say we are now embroiled in a nice big battle so that Deion can go to the school of his choice, the school his brother goes to. Round seventy six…ding, ding! And as much as I don’t really need another fight on my hands right now, I can’t see a way around it.

To be fair to the actual school we have chosen, they are being really supportive, and we can’t blame them for not understanding the needs of many wheelchair users. But the education department, the council, the architects and whoever else is responsible for the specifications, should have looked into it, got thorough advice and got it right. It would have taken nothing more than a meeting with a couple of Physio therapists and an occupational therapist to get the right advice.

Now everyone is worried about the cost of adapting the building, education say health are responsible, health say education are responsible, as usual a child getting what they need and deserve boils down to money. It’s a real shame I think.

But we’ll get there, Deion will go to the school we have chosen, and everything he needs will be in place. I may have to jump up and down a bit, write a hundred letters or so and about a thousand phone calls…but I’m rolling up my sleeves, even as we speak.

Another day another fight…

Sal xxx

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