So. The next big thing in my diary (how will it ever top Westminster I wonder?!) is that on Monday I will be attending a conference locally. It's all about schooling - specifically, schooling and education for SEN children (yep, those three letters again, Special Educational Needs).
Getting this education lark right for my children is my number one priority in life at the moment. After all, such a large amount of their time is spent in school and it really shapes who they are. Most parents worry about it, and some stress more than others - not always in relevant proportion to how their children are doing at school.
Parents in our town are pretty lucky as there are several good schools to choose from - and even the worst school isn't actually that bad. I wish our choice was as simple as that.
We don't actually know what level of schooling will be suitable for Sasha in 5 years time, and we need to be prepared for any scenario. It's not being pessimistic, just realistic. What I am 99% certain of is that it will not be the relatively straightforward decision that we will make for Tamsin. I also know that I need to find a school suitable for Sasha - in my head and my heart I know that homeschooling will not be an option. So many parents are forced into homeschooling these days (although there are of course several families who homeschool through choice) because the school their child was at is just not doing it right, not doing enough for their child, not set up to cope with the 'different' behaviour.
I digress. Back to the conference. I have a dilemma and I'd love some advice and feedback.
There are two strands to the discussions. One will be about the possibility of setting up a Free School in the area to provide for 'our type' of children. This may be done in conjunction with the National Autistic Society who already run 7 other autism specific schools but who have now also successfully started a Free School for higher functioning autistic children in Reading (Thames Valley Free School opened Sep 2013. Another in Lambeth is planned to open Sep 2014). So this is not a pipe dream but a project waiting to happen if enough parents support it locally.
The other will be about the possibility of improving services for autism in current mainstream schools by pushing for 'Autism Bases' or 'Inclusion Units'.
On the face of it, it sounds like an easy decision to make. Especially as we are in the position where we have an 'NT' (Neuro Typical) child who will definitely attend mainstream. I think a majority of parents would rather their children were included rather than sent away to a 'special' school if at all possible. We would love for Sasha to be at the same school as her sister.
But what if it becomes apparent that the topic of inclusion units has been discussed with the local authority for years and years, with conversations going round in circles, and generally coming back every time to the lack of funding to make any great difference? On top of that, the 'whispers' that a decision was made to trial autism bases or inclusion units, but when local school governors were approached to see which schools could champion this, the idea was batted back by ALL of them with the refusal 'but we don't want that here'.
As a Governor myself, I'd see it as a way to improve a school and offer something new. I believe that education should be all about the children and helping them all individually. I think the reality is that for most others not already involved in the world of Special Needs, it's seen to be a headache. Extra work. And what school wants to gain a reputation as being good with Special Needs, right? Then they'd just attract more of 'them'! A sad but true reflection of how things stand today.
So given that extra information, the choice now becomes less clear cut for me. Now though, I have to throw my energies into one route or the other, I can't hedge my bets. Both will have their own challenges, but one may have higher obstacles.Which path would you take?
Oh and if anyone would like to nominate me in the Britmums Brilliance and Blogging Awards, category Family, I'd love it if you clicked on the badge below and entered my URL http://www.stephstwogirls.blogspot.co.uk/ pretty please! Thank you :)