In September, the project restarted and will now run until June next year. Lots of things will be different from how we planned them, but we are grateful that the schools are happy to carry on working with us. Everything will now have to be virtual, such as meeting up with staff, students, our steering group and even the celebration event. We are sure that all the planning that we did and before the virus hit can still lead to a great project.
The Education Act 1970 on 23rd July 1970 gave children with disabilities the right to an education for the first time. If you think about it, 50 years ago is still quite recent. That often gets me thinking what life would have been like for my brother and I, as he was born in the ‘70s.
Even though times have changed, there are still problems with children receiving an education. I started in a special needs school before going to mainstream, so my parents fought all their life for me to have an education, especially when it came to secondary school. The mainstream school didn’t want to accept me, but mom and dad were determined for me to go there and appealed until I got in.
Our project is highlighting the history of special schools and celebrating the fact that all children are now able to have an education. However, from the interviews we’ve done, and from watching the recent Panorama program, I feel there is still long way for parents and children to go to be accepted. Special schools do a fantastic job, but I feel they need more support.
A lot has changed over the years. New technology and equipment have become available, but that needs more funding. The parents we have spoken to on the project say how much the schools have helped them and their children, but there can be big issues before they get there and when they leave.
Some of the parents we have spoken have said that it was easy for their child to get into special school, but it would be much harder now. I know from experience you need a SENCO teacher, and an educational psychologist to provide their development plans for the child to show whether they will be accepted into a special school. Health professionals also need to assess the child, but these cases have dropped down the priority list since the pandemic began and all the care services disappeared over night.
Over the last 6 months, parents and children have lost a lot of their care services due to the pandemic. 10th October was Mental Health Day, and we should think about what effect this has had on both children and parents in terms of their mental health.
There have been a lot of news articles about the impact of the virus on people with disabilities and their care services. This crisis will continue to hit families hardest where they are least able to cope without support. My hope is that with almost all parents having experienced loss of schooling and childcare services this year, there will be more empathy and understanding for parents struggling to find a place in a special school, or to get respite care for their child.