Sometimes just by raising your head an inch or two above the parapet you find that you are in a position to make a difference.
Yesterday- thanks to TOTS100 – I found myself in Westminster lobbying a minister, Mr Edward Timpson, on the subject of Special Educational Needs Reform.
Nice as it was to have coffee and biscuits without someone small rubbing the crumbs into my knees I, in common with a small group of TOTS100 mummy bloggers, was there with more on my mind than chocolate digestives.
Each one of this particular collection of mothers had experienced the extraordinary unpleasantness of applying for a Statement of Special Educational Needs for their child.
The world of Statementing (as it is rather ungrammatically called) is an Alice through the Looking Glass world: a world in which, like the White Queen, you have to run backwards in order to stay in the same place - running at Usain Bolt speed is necessary to go forward!
In this topsy-turvy existance rather than being regarded as part of the team working for the same goal – to ensure equality of access to education for our disabled children – we have been regarded as demanding complications and hindrances to the process ; – in order to ensure that our children did not fail in school, we have had to prove a full year of failure! And so it goes on but the Minister of Children and Welfare Edward Timpson wants to make it better. He is in the process of crafting a new bill for the reform of the SEN system and he actually asked for our advice. Here is what I told him.
What came through, loud and clear, was that parents are a force not only to be reckoned with but also to be harnessed. We are experts in our fields, we know things (and what we don’t already know we make sure that we find out) as it is our children’s future that we are protecting. We need support and specialist help to access what is the right of every child: an education that is fit for purpose so that these special children can fulfil their greatest potential.
I hold out hope that Mr Timpson will achieve what he is setting out to do: To make the process of getting a statement of SEN more straight forward, to enable those who need support to access it and to ensure that the playing field is levelled and generally less strewn with obstacles.
When I wrote my blog piece Wonderfully Ordinary I was simply expressing my relief that we had finally won our year-long battle to get the right support for my blind daughter. It did not occur to me then, that by doing so, I was starting down a road that could, if all goes well, mean that from the general beastliness of my experience some lessons will be learnt and the path made smoother for others. It would be nice to think that some greater good was served by that year of stress and conflict.
Here’s hoping anyway.