100 signatures reached
To: The UK Government
Special Needs: Enough is Enough - Now We Get Tough!
I want the UK Government to reconsider their plan to integrate ALL children within the education system and acknowledge that they have a duty to provide the best possible educational opportunities for all children equally, regardless of their state of health and regardless of cost. Not to do so must surely contravene the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998, which "compels public organisations (including the Government, police and local councils) to treat everyone equally, with fairness, dignity and respect."
Why is this important?
This is vitally important because integration is NOT the answer to the crisis in education at the moment. The rights of children with special needs are being swept aside as if they are of no consequence, instead of being considered equally important. I see no sign of the required 'fairness, dignity and respect' mentioned in the Human Rights Act 1998 in these proposals.
I have just watched the interview on "Good Morning Britain" with Nadhim Zahawi MP, the Children and Families Minister. This man has been in post for the astonishingly long period of "three or four months" (his own words) and already seems to think he knows better than parents/carers of children with special needs. "Children with autism are twice as likely to be permanently excluded" and yet, as part of the 'alternative provision' mentioned in the current review we are told that "The Government is to invest £4m to help students back into mainstream schools", a statement which sends chills down my spine.
In an ideal world every single educational establishment would have a fully funded special needs unit of some kind; in the real world, however, you are more likely to see unicorns following pigs as they fly across the sky. Much to the consternation of parents/ carers and specialist staff alike, the number of teaching assistants (as pointed out by Kate Garraway) IS being reduced and special needs units ARE being closed completely.
While I applaud his obvious desire to address the problems regarding children at risk, and to encourage the cooperation between all the agencies involved, it is blindingly obvious (to all of us who work with special needs children, whether it be in a parental role or a professional role) that 'integration' per se is NOT the answer to the best education possible for these children. Exactly what will it take before the Government realises that an autistic child, for example, will NOT thrive in a noisy mainstream classroom with thirty or so other children or be able to achieve to the best of their ability in an environment such as this. Integration will work for SOME children with special needs but will damage the more vulnerable children in our care and put them at an even greater disadvantage.
If, like me, you have personally been involved in the loss of specialised teaching facilities for a member of your family or someone else that you know, I am asking you to please sign this petition to stand up to the Government and let them know that we are angry, really angry, and that this anger is totally justified. Just as has happened to the NHS, education has been neglected and underfunded for years and we are now reaping the 'benefits' (as perceived by Mr Zahawi and his pals) of impending total integration. This utter madness has got to stop and it seems that the only way to stop it is for those of us who are battling on a daily basis to secure the best possible future for our special needs children to shout out loud and clear that "Enough is Enough - Now We Get Tough".
My four year old grandson has already had his special needs unit taken away from him at nursery and it has impacted on his learning and behaviour. So much for 'Equality' and 'Every Child Matters'! Thanks only to the wonderful staff there (who have gone out of their way to reduce to a minimum the distress caused to him and the others in his little group) he is managing to prepare for entry to school in September. Of course, the school may not exist for much longer, even if it is still there in September. Can you imagine the terror and pain it will cause if ALL special schools are gradually phased out? Why can Government Ministers not see (as the rest of us can) that they are building up the most horrendous problems for the future by not providing the necessary intervention NOW? Surely they must see that by trying to save a few quid now they will undoubtedly end up spending far more in the long run? I have worked with special needs children for many years and I know for a fact that, with the appropriate resources and professional support, many, many children are capable of leading a happy and independent life; if they are consigned to the rubbish dump (which is how many of them will feel if these proposals go ahead) they will lead unproductive and unhappy lives and will rely heavily on the benefit system to finance that unhappiness. I call this a 'lose - lose' situation...don't you?
It's time to take a stand...either you're with me and you care about the future of ALL our children, or you're not and you couldn't care less about these children, in which case you'll be paying for their care out of your pay packet for the foreseeable future anyway. We need to plough MORE money into education, save the jobs of the thousands of highly skilled and experienced teachers and teaching assistants and actually give our special needs children a future, not cruelly take it away from them.