Cards on the Table

After the last blog post where I was waiting for a social worker to visit me on the Monday – they actually came on the Thursday!  No surprise really and that probably only happened because of my husbands skillful handling of phone calls and explainations.

Meanwhile, on the Monday, Biggey didn’t come home after school. School were so concerned about her they checked at4pm and asked me ring the police (again) and so we made yet another report of child missing. She rang home eventually from friends house and we collected her about 7pm.

On Tuesday whilst I was at work, school had rung hubby to say she had left school site and could he come.  It wasn’t even lunchtime. He had explain this to his boss too!  On his arrival at school, Biggey was back on school site but running rampage and managed to take a significant bite out of hubby when he tried to get her to car. As awful as this is, we were kind of pleased that school witnessed this.

Their final words were that they couldn’t cope with her in school and she should stay at home until after our (pre-planned) meeting on Thursday. Oh dear!!!!

Wednesday was difficult as both hubby and I were supposed to be working and in our type of work it’s not easy to just not go, to phone in sick or something else. Reluctant Grandparents stepped in from 25 miles away and juggled Biggey around caring for 90 year old Nanna.

Thursday arrived and so did two Social Workers. One from Safeguarding and one from Post Adoption. They were sorry that the Adopter Worker from last October was not available so sent someone else. Didn’t matter to me!  Turns out to be a bit of a result that we got this lady. She knew her stuff.  Saw us and Biggey could see the shame in Biggey straight away. I got Biggey to say a few words about how she was and what she thought of school. I then got Biggey to take puppy for walk. During that time I played them my videos of Biggey in meltdown. She totally got that we had a teen replaying early trauma. Yippee.   Poor Mr Safeguarding just sat and took notes!

We persuaded them to come along to the meeting at school that morning.

Later at school

12 of us squashed round the table (school were not expecting my entourage!). I’d even managed to get Camhs to come along too!  After introductions the new school Senco drafted outline of agenda.  I felt for her, she was new, was trying to make an impression. She would have done OK too, except recent events made this no ordinary review meeting.

I let her have about 5 minutes of her planned agenda the interrupted and explained that things had moved on significantly.

I played my videos, first of Littley saying how scared she was to live in our house at the moment. The second of Biggey in full meltdown. It lasted 50 seconds.  50 seconds until someone said can you turn it off.

I did turn it off. At the same time I pointed out that we are living with that noise, that violence, that aggression, that trauma, every single day. That particular episode lasted for over 3 hours the previous weekend and started again later in the day. I asked them to keep that sound in heir minds for duration of the meeting.

OK. So now I had their attention and I wasn’t about to let it go.

I reminded them that they had now said they couldn’t cope with Biggey. We were struggling to cope with Biggey. I wanted her at that school if they will still have her, yet we have to all acknowledge that she is struggling and currently plans are not working. I also pointed out that her Statement says it has concerns about whether she will manage Secondary school at all.

I was on a roll, I told them I was putting my cards in the table and it’s up to them to push back and tell me what can and cannot be done. (Deep breath)

She needs,

  • 2 days at school in higher support with specialist provision and more training of staff
  • 2 days in specialist therapeutic provision of (a local) farm school
  • 1 day at home with me to ensure time to re-connect / build attachment / work with Adoption support.

They nodded!  They bloody well nodded.

What? Really?  Surely it’s not that easy?

No, it’s not that easy!!

They did admit she is the most complex child they have ever had. (Wished they listened to me in first place then)

They also said its going to take time and need approval to get these things in place and that means protocol and red tape and Education Panels and places to be available. They did agree to make phone calls that day to speed things up.

In the meantime they will also request a provision for home tutoring (although home tutors do not tutor at home!!)  so that will need to be somewhere Biggey feels safe.  Libraries are often used apparently but may not be suitable for Biggey so I’m going to have to sort that out and pull some strings somewhere (slightly peeved that I have to sort that).

They have now asked that I go into school and talk to staff involved with Biggey – oh yes, that’s fine I said. (Slightly peeved that I offered last year and was told – by different people – that ‘it would not be appropriate’).

At my request, Adoption Support are going to begin an assessment in readiness for the Adoption Support fund rolling out in May.

I haven’t even mentioned the bits where I tweeted the Chief Exec of LA or emailed the Director of Children’s Services and Head of Special Needs.   I think they know who I am now. 

So the ball is rolling for change. A lot of this is what I asked for in October last year. Yet I asked different people with different evidence. Such a shame that it came to this.  So wrong that it all depends who you ask, when you ask, how you ask, how pushy you are and how bad it is.

That said, when schools go back on Monday after Easter holidays I have no idea where Biggey is supposed to go and I am probably left to sort that out myself too.

 

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Headteacher Calling!

Biggey has been doing well with her integration into the new school (her second secondary school since September!). She has been reasonably calm and composed each evening and each morning. The transition has been steady and without pressure on her (or me) to get her into school full time. I’ve been so glad that they agreed to this as it is important that this time her experience is a success.

She has been going into this small unit every day for the last couple of weeks for part of a day and in the last week she progressed to four full days and a big chunk of the fifth day! After Easter she has even signed up for an after school cookery club!

All in all I have been very pleased with how things have gone and my view of this school has not changed since my first meeting as detailed in We Have a Plan and even in later posts of So Far So Good.  However, forgive me for gushing, yet I have been (nicely) surprised and amazed yet again by this school.

On Friday lunchtime I get a call on my mobile.  It’s the Headteacher.

Oh God!  What’s happened?  What has she done?

Well that was the first though that went through my mind.  I mean, Headteachers of Secondary Schools don’t just randomly ring parents as a ‘nice to do’ on a Friday lunchtime on the last day of term.  Do they??

Well actually, yes they do!  OK I know I have been gushing about the staff in this school but still, pick me up with amazement all over again…..

He said he was ringing to say how well he though Biggey had settled in and that it was progressing much better than they had expected and he was wondering what my thoughts were and how I feel it was going.  Just a moment …. rewind … he was actually asking for my opinion and views???  I need picking up off the floor again!!

So, whilst trying to contain my delight and remain a bit like a focussed sensible adult, I managed (I think) to tell him some of things I think have been good and helpful.  I praised the two key members of staff who are having the most input to Biggey at the moment.  I was able to tell him the latest piece of information I had got from her just a couple of nights before.

She said she was with a teacher in DT working on a 1:1 basis.  The teacher asked why Biggey had moved schools.  Now in Biggey’s usual way, she didn’t really give correct information and had said it was because they didn’t help her with her dyslexia.   The teacher then apparently said “oh, so not for behaviour then?” So Biggey said

Well I don’t tell people if I don’t feel safe or if I’m struggling or if people upset me and then sometimes I take it out on other people

The teacher apparently just said “Oh thank you for telling me”.  I was, at this point listening with awe and unable to say anything for a moment.   Eventually I wondered aloud if my child had been taken away by aliens to which I was told

No. This is me when I feel safe and when I’m not feeling worried and not worried about being told off all the time. 

Isn’t that amazing!  I told the Head this and that it is indeed because she feels safe and accepted and comfortable enough to be able to do this and that I was grateful for the team they are providing around my child in addition to the effort I put in.

It was a 10 minute call, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but covers a lot of conversation.  I was positively delighted when it finished.

When I collected Biggey later that day, I took a moment to begin to mention to the two members of staff.  They said they already knew because the Head had sent them an email saying well done for the good work!  What a great way to finish for the holidays.

Parent Power

When Biggey was having all this trouble with the old school and had been out of school for several weeks we applied for a place in the new school.  Now, because she has a Statement of needs we had to ask for local authority approval to move her. The new school said they were happy to begin getting her meeting people whilst we were still waiting for formal approval. The school had also said they applied for more hours on her Statement to support her. So I then went home and sent an email asking for more hours and increase to the maximum support of 27.5 hours and gave a variety of reasons, taking information for the previous school’s report and other areas. I hit the button and thought ‘what the hell – if you don’t ask …’

Her introduction to the new school is documented in my post So Far, So Good

Weeks later, I hadn’t received formal confirmation so chased the LA for an update and was delighted to get an email that said they had awarded the extra hours.  I was even more delighted when I got an email from the school to say Thank You for my contribution to the request.  Apparently school had originally been told that the hours would stay the same, then the LA got my request and said they would give it some further consideration!

So Parent Power is effective.  Challenge does get results.  Certainly in my area.  Always worth asking.

ParentPower

So Far, So Good!

So we are at the end of the first week of my Biggey being introduced to her new school.  We are still waiting on the Local Authority to sort out the formalities of the arrangements in regards to the Statement of Needs, yet the school were still comfortable to begin the process – whilst we wait.

Biggey, Dad and me all traipsed along on Monday for her to have a look around the place.  It didn’t take long – there are only two classrooms, a games room, breakfast room and toilets!  It is a special support unit attached to the school and for now, that is where she will be based.  There is a teacher and teaching assistant based there all the time and many of the lessons take place in this unit with teachers from main school coming into the unit where possible.  All classes are small, perhaps up to 6 children, sometimes only one child.  Sometimes children are in there full time, others part time, others as needed.  It may sound a bit like the “naughty children’s” unit but in fact it is very small, patient, nurturing, caring and understanding.  Exactly what she needs.  Not only to meet her ever expanding needs, but also to repair the damage done by the other school and improve her perception of what school and support is all about.

Whilst we were there the Head teacher came across to say hello and welcome her.  He chatted to her for a few minutes and asked if she had any worries.  She tearfully said she was worried about not having any friends.  He reassured her that they will help with that and hoped that she didn’t worry for too long about it.

I have to say, I really wanted to hug him, or just rub his arm or do something insanely touchy feely at this point!  He was just so nice!

Introductions to people took place and then she was invited to go in the next day to join their cookery class.  She agreed readily (since she loves cooking and baking) so the TA took her across to the main school to show her the cookery room.  Now here’s the difference – they showed her the exact route she would take, the cookery room, introduced her to the cookery teacher and gave her a typed list of ingredients.  None of the old stuff of figure it out, write it down, go with flow, be independent and “you’ll be fine”.  She was smiling. Normally.  None of the manic-too-big smiling that she does when trying to cover her anxieties.

I wanted to kiss these people!  Of course, I refrained (you’ll be pleased to know).  Yet I was delighted because they had thought all this out, I didn’t have to ask and nudge and suggest.

Tuesday came and I dropped her off at the school with her box of ingredients and plan to collect her again in two hours.  That is when I posted briefly about being alone.  It was amazing, for her and for me.   When I collected her again she talked animatedly about the whole experience.

The Headteacher came to see the cookery class.  He wanted to taste my cupcake so I had to take him one when they were finished.  I met my Head of Year.  She teaches PE and asked me if I liked PE.  I said I love it.  She said we will have to try and get me to go to some clubs.  She said that she will come with me for a few times because I might not know anyone and so she will stay with me until I feel more comfy about going.  She seemed nice … I’ve had a good day… blah blah…”

I was crying at this point!  After so many months of intense difficulty, the fights, the phone calls, the emails, the lack of understanding, thoughtlessness, no empathy.  The tears were happy tears of relief.  Thank goodness for a bit of kindness, compassion and understanding. 

She went for two hours each day and then a bit longer today, Friday, so she could join a PE lesson.   There is check in each morning and feedback at end which we are all involved in.  It’s like taking your child to nursery (or so I imagine – I never got to experience that because they were both older when they arrived).  So far, so good.  Everyone (School, Head, Senco, Support and us) agree we need to take it slowly to ensure her success; she is going to get very tired; we cannot put a timescale or deadline on exactly when she will attend full time.  When she does eventually attend this unit full time, there will eventually be another transition, little by little, to main stream schooling and classes with the unit there when needed.

She’s absolutely shattered tonight although she still had enough energy to have a little strop about the fact she didn’t want to go to bed!  She quickly went off to sleep.

 

Still Waiting

The Local authority were supposed to come back to me by close of play Friday about whether the SEN panel decided to allow my request to change Biggey’s school. Guess what! I didn’t hear from them!

I sent an email after 5:30 saying that I am wondering what time their close of play is. Sarcastic? Hopeful? Naive? I’m really trying hard not to p!&& people off because I need them to do their thing. However more importantly I need my child in school!

Everyone (family, friends, colleagues) I speak to cannot understand all the difficulty we are having. Cannot understand that the school would not meet us, cannot understand that it is taking so long to get changes. Cannot understand that we are having to fight, chase, nag and do all of this on our own. People say you would think they would recognise this child needs to be in school and do whatever to help that happen.

Well, no. That’s not how it works. I and many others are not surprised that help is minimal, poor or non existent. Such a shame that this is what we (adopters) have to put up with.

This panel met on Wednesday, by the time there is action next week that’s another week my girl has been out of school, then half term is looming so nothing will happen during that week either.

I’m tempted to escalate the issue. I will do if I feel necessary.

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We Have a Plan

I went along to the meeting with the Senco at a prospective new school for biggey. I’d had the local authority email a copy of her statement across beforehand so that she could peruse and hopefully be informed before the meeting.

The welcome into school was friendly and I already felt welcome (rather than an inconvenience as I have experienced elsewhere), so that was a good start. Mrs Senco was on time, had booked a meeting room and apologised for having to “wade” through the pupils on their break!

We went through the busy throng in the canteen area of kids being kids, chatting, laughing, pushing a bit, eating toast but generally seeming to be enjoying school life. Mrs Senco turned to me and said “I guess this would be difficult for your girl”!!!!!

Oh yes, absolutely. I like this lady already.

At the meeting room she positioned herself beside me, rather than across the table from me which I found to be a nice touch. I got all my paperwork out and I had prepared quite a list of things that I feel I would need. The first and most important for me was communication (since it was none existent in other school). Straight away she gave me assurance of different methods of communicating, email contacts, home school book discussed, and main reception will always try and find someone, yet she would be the main contact – no passing off to anyone else.

Yes, we’ve heard all this before and this time I was able to challenge a couple of aspects yet also put the information into context of what I had already experienced in making the appointments and having been in the school a couple of times already. I did get a better feel that I could believe what she said would happen.

Next, support. Straight away she said, quite honestly, that it will be difficult to assign an attachment figure or two because if Biggey came now it would be part way through the year. That’s said, she did not completely rule out being able to do something helpful from how until summer and then sort it better from September. Also said would identify a safe place for Biggey in school and provide her with photos and names of all TA’s and relevant people.

OMG ! YOU GET IT!! I managed not to jump up and kiss her at this point. Whilst containing those feeling I also managed to contains own self berating ones about why I didn’t choose this school before. So, (hopefully still outwardly looking composed) I raised something else on my list and she already had thought of that, and the next, and the next. All before I had to ask. Amazing.

When looking at the Statement she quite plainly and frankly said that we can put aside academic needs until we have her feeling safe in school. Until then, she knows she will not learn, yet we can still aim to have her in school! Oh yes please! That’s absolutely what I want and need! I now want to lavish her with chocolates (even though I nearly always keep all chocolate for myself!).

What areas of curriculum does she struggle with? Talked through all those, including the fact that she simply struggles just because of time of year (you know, the usual birthday, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Easter, Halloween) as well as struggling in some topics. When I mentioned that RE is nearly always an issue for her she did say that we could consider asking for her not to study that. This is usually done on grounds of religious belief but if it’s very difficult then … I said thank you, I’ll give it some thought when really I want to whoop loudly. I had never thought of that!!

Transition. She said it needs a steady approach to get her integrated calmly and safely back into school and school life (well, I know that, but brilliant that she does too)! Talked about her even just going in for an hour a day with me too and sometimes just sitting in canteen or the open library area and be able to watch everything happening then progress in small steps from there. She can have a buddy until she finds her way around, there are options for getting into classes and so on. How great that they will accommodate things at her pace (within reason).

At this point I wanted to jump on the table and do a little dance!

There was lots more discussed. Everything on my list was covered and I was more than happy with the answers and ideas and ways of approaching things.

She openly said they will not get everything right but they will work with me. I felt it only fair to then also admit that I will, at times, be a very stroppy parent and apologised in advance (although I still believe my Stroppy hat is a tool I use quite well). She seemed fine with that.

The next day I wrote to the Local Authority and asked them to consider moving Biggey’s named school from her current one to this one. We will have to wait about a week whilst it goes through SEN panel but they will come back to me and let me know the outcome. If approved, they would then have to formally approach this school and see if they will agree to take Biggey. It could all take about 3 weeks so no chance of getting her anywhere near school before Feb half term.

However, we now feel we have a plan. It’s important for me to feel like I have plan. Some of it is a waiting game, some is out of my control, but we have a plan.

The night that we made the request, my lovely hubby and I slept all night – for the first time in ages. Now that felt like a result!

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