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The education system is in crisis.

Recipient profile picture Will Quince
16 November
Dear Will Quince,
I write to you as the educational system is flawed, it is especially flawed for children and young people with special educational needs. I have had first-hand experience and exposure; I will first outline my position on this grave issue before explaining the specific issues. My name is Claire Frodsham, I am a student at the university of Nottingham, I study politics and American studies, I chose this subject, because like you, I want to make a difference. Before my studies, I completed an apprenticeship at 16, I worked in a mainstream primary school as an apprentice teaching assistant, during this time I worked closely with the SEN pupils on a 1-1 basis and saw how they both succeed, and struggle. After this, I worked full time aged 17 in a special educational needs provision for pupils ages 5-25, the pupils here have varying complex needs. But why did I do this? Why did I leave my A-levels and commit to working in education, specifically SEN. I am a care-leaver, a child born into addiction, poverty and neglect. I too, was let down by the educational system, but more importantly I am a young-carer and sister to a beautiful eleven-year-old boy, he is funny, witty and sometimes a bit too honest. However, he also has ASC, ADHD, ODD and Tourettes syndrome, amongst several behaviour needs. I like many other people know how the educational system completely destroys families and ruins the child’s chance at success. I will go into more details on specifics later. Your newly found position as the minister for children and families include responsibilities within ‘children’s social care’ ‘special educational needs, including high needs funding’ and to ‘children in care, children in need, child protection, adoption and care leavers’ to name a few. As these are your responsibilities, I feel it is completely necessary to express my frustration on the issues I will outline in this letter. It is a fact that the current system cannot cope with the increasing numbers of pupils with special educational needs. As of 2020/21, there are 356,618 pupils with an educational health care plan. This figure continues to increase each year, it is an increase of 51% since 2015/16. As a result of this, children are being sent to inadequate facilities. There is also a reported rise of 15% of pupils with an EHCP being sent to ‘independent schools’ of which aren’t SEN independent schools. There has also been a rise of 17% of pupils with an EHCP being sent to pupil referral units. I can only explain these detrimental statistics on how they have affected me personally. My brother was expelled and sent to a PRU aged 5, as a child on the autistic spectrum, this resulted in a lack of sensory facilities and lack of understanding. He was treated as a ‘naughty’ boy, a child with behavioural issues, he was, in his own words ‘locked in a padded cell’ when he had meltdowns, he was so emotionally distraught that he began to smear faeces on his wall every night. I was doing my GCSE’s at the time and each night, without fail, had to help my pensioner Nan, his guardian by cleaning the walls, bed and bathe him. This is only one case, imagine what each and every other person deals with. In some cases, children receive no education, in fact it is estimated that 1,260 pupils are currently out of education. It is no surprise for what I am about to say, my brother is out of education currently. He has no global developmental delay, but due to missing large chunks of education he is aged eleven and cannot read, write or do simple mathematic equations. He is miles behind children his age, even below his age and the reason is that like many other pupils, he was removed from education instead of supported. According to the Human Rights Act of 1998, protocol one, article two exclaims that ‘no person shall be denied a right to an education.’ I therefore bare the question Mr Quince, why are 1,260 pupils at present denied the right to an education? The National Education Union concluded that to address the shortfall, an approximate amount of £2.1bn extra needs to be funded in order to meet the ongoing requirements. Although, the government have raised funding to £350 million for 2019-20, £780 million for 2020-21 and the announcement of £730m for 2021-22, it is still not enough. The financial crisis has been made worse due to the coronavirus pandemic due to extra costs. Such expenses include PPE equipment and duplicate sensory reinforcers due to social distancing requirements. ‘ASK research’ conducted a study in which headteachers reported having insufficient staff members, limited space and inadequate funding. These are issues that immediately require addressing before the situation becomes even worse. I have seen first-hand how lack of support can affect children. My brother requires 2-1 support, as outlined in his EHCP, yet most of the time he barely receives 1-2 support, the EHCP, as I understand is a legal document and must be followed, if it is not being followed, due to no fault of the school then what are the repercussions? Who do we blame? Let me be clear, I do not write this letter as a sob story or to describe the horrible experience my brother has had. I write this as an advocate, a person with a voice who wants to use it for what matters. How are we meant to shape future society if education is forgotten? My teachers taught me everything, not just the national curriculum, but they taught me kindness, manners and love. Everything I have, I can thank my teachers for, they go above and beyond. I am privileged to have this experience, but education for all shouldn’t be a privilege, it should be a right. So, what is the way forward you may ask? First and foremost, you need to listen to teachers, parents, pupils, schools, you need to ask them what they need and meet those requirements. Don’t force SEN children in mainstream schools to follow the national curriculum, find their interests, talents and allow them to flourish. Pupils are being burnt out trying to mask within mainstream environments. Put out training schemes where people can learn and help those who most need it. Visit education provisions for yourself and see what they need first-hand. Focus on early intervention, focus on girls, of which ASC is largely missed. Provide more PPE, more sensory reinforcers, hydrotherapy, visual aids, more equipment needed. Never allow someone to miss the opportunity of education, to fall through the cracks, because this only gets worse. If you miss those early stages of help, they will grow into adults with very little chance at success. These are all just suggestions. I speak only from personal experience in what I believe is needed. There is so much more that needs to be done. The fact that I can speak for just one person is more than enough tragedy. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Warm regards, Claire Frodsham.

Claire Frodsham

Author profile picture Claire Frodsham

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