Saturday, 26 June 2010

Talking Circles, Talking Sticks & Children

I have decided to try an introduce a Native American Talking Circle to resolve problems and discuss family matters. The idea is we sit in a circle listening to the person who holds a talking stick. The person that hold the stick is allowed to speak for as long as they wish without being interrupted. (In native American culture is is rare that people talk for too long but due to my kids tendency to indulge in long monologues I am going to restrict there talking using an egg timer.) Once they are finished talking the stick will be passed to the next person. Hopefully, this will make the kids feel more secure that they will be listened to without someone butting in.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

A Tribute To Red The Ferret

Owen and Anya's beloved pet ferret Red died this month. We found him three years ago in my new warehouse in Brixton. Mark (my husband) didn't want to keep him as he was frightened of ferrets. Red turned out to be incredibly gentle and great fun.
Owen used to communicate his thoughts and feelings to Red. Both the kids are very upset but Owen is particularly sad. The kids have learned a great deal from Red including the importance of nourishment, care, cleaning, vaccinations, play and finally death. This concept is tough for Owen as he is a non-theist and so can't be fobbed of with stories of pet heaven.

Owen's Experience of Inclusion in State Education

Both our kids have moderate special needs as determined by the State Education system (Action and Action Plus). On Owen’s first day I was told in front of my son and within hearing distance of other parents that my son "had been quite naughty". I started to have concerns that the more traditionally academic children were being given more opportunities than my son when almost every class assembly was led by the same children. My son was NOT included. On one occasion the teacher told me Owen had 'begged' to write a thank you letter to the farmer regarding a school visit. I was told that because he was so keen he had been given the opportunity to write a thank you letter with a handpicked group of more literate children. I felt concerned that he had to 'beg' for this opportunity. I asked his teacher if he was getting extra help and was told he got 'more than his fair share'. I was not introduced to the SENCO until the end of Reception. We were not involved in setting targets for IEPs. Simply given a copy of IEPs to sign. We did not know the school should be involving us. Owen was assessed by an education psychologist who wrote a brilliant report detailing many useful strategies to support Owen. We did not get any evidence of ANY strategies being implemented. Year 1 I started to feel concerned about where Owen was sitting as he seemed to be sitting with the same kids all of the time. He started referring to himself s stupid. Assemblies continued to be NON inclusive with the same children picked to lead and speak in assemblies. We applied for a statutory assessment for a Statement of Special Education Needs. Incredibly the school wrote a report which depicted that Owen as a 'normal' and able child. This contradicted the IEPs from the previous year which indicated clear difficulties. The school requested parents to complete a questionnaire prior to an Ofsted inspection. We filled it in anonymously and raised concerns about inclusion. We were then called into a meeting and told by the acting Head " I am going to explain why your answers are incorrect". In the same meeting, we discuss ability tables and our concerns that the school did not have a PTA. We were told "if you are not happy go elsewhere". Year 2 (this section refers to meetings with the head - There was only one meeting this year) IEPs were identical terms after term. Poor strategies were presented and Owen reported that he was not getting any help. In fact in one IEP Owen wrote “ i wont sun onw nex to me to help” Owen reported he is regularly excluded from the classroom. In a meeting with the head this is denied. However, Owen and a number of his friends all reported he was excluded from the class on a regular basis. Owen's self esteem reached critically low levels. He referred to himself "stupid" and a "dum dum". In meeting with the Head the school denies they have seen any evidence of Owen being unhappy. When we raised concerns that Owen may be experiencing bullying we were told that "you have already said Owen has communication difficulties". We had very limited access to the SENCO. During the same meeting with the Head we were given the impression it is our responsibility to communicate with the SENCO. In the same meeting the head expressed concerns "about the limited progress of below average and average non SEN pupils as a result of the over emphasis on the allocation of resources to SEN pupils in the class". Owen complained almost constantly that he is on the bottom table and sits in the same place ALL day. The school denied this and said he was only ability grouped for English and Maths. We arrange for a psychologist to assess Owen's cognitive ability to see if he was achieving his potential. There was a big difference between his cognitive ability and knowledge indicating he is not engaging in learning. During this year are daughters work was torn up in front of the class because she didn't follow the teacher's instructions. We wrote to the Head 4 times regarding this matter and NEVER received a reply. We requested a copy of the Statement of Principles, SEN policy and Behavioural & Discipline policy. The Statement of Principle was "unavailable", the SEN policy was at least 4 years old and still in draft and the Behavioural Policy was dated 1997! Year 3 The teacher confirmed that the school has a policy of ability grouping home tables. These are the tables the children sit at during non academic and social periods. This policy was also confirmed in a letter from the schools chair of governors. One IEP detailed Owen would see a literacy consultant. He did not see the consultant. On one occasion Owen was accused of throwing a stone. When asked if he threw the stone he answered possibly. He is autistic and very logical. What he meant by this was because he was digging in the sand and in theory a stone could have flicked up. He was told by one teacher "she would find out who did it in her dreams who threw the stone" and by another teacher " that because he was crying he must be guilty. Two weeks later he was MADE to write an apology letter even though he said he did not throw the stone. After hearing this we requested a meeting with his teacher. The teacher was thoughtful and agreed with Owen that the letter would be torn up.  During Owen’s 4 years at school, none of the teachers or SEN coordinator was able to offer Owen an education that suited him, facilitated his learning or provided him with a basis to grow his self esteem.  Owen left the school with very poor self esteem and a view that he was stupid.

Monday, 7 June 2010


In England when you want to remove a child from the school roll in order to home educate you need to go through the deregistration process. This involves writing to the headteacher or proprietor of the school. The relevant regulations are The Pupil Registration Regulations (England) 2006.

We have now written to the school requesting them to remove our children from the register. Our letter was based on the following which is provided from Education Otherwise website:

Your address
The Date
Head teacher's Name

Dear Head Teacher's Name

Re: Your Child's Name (date of birth)

After careful consideration I/we have decided to withdraw my/our daughter from school in order to take personal responsibility for her education. Please delete her name from the register in accordance with Education (Pupil Registration) Regulation 8(1)(d) 2006, as she is now receiving education otherwise than at school.

Please will you confirm receipt of this letter and inform us of the date that our daughter’s name was removed from the register.

Yours sincerely etc.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Planting The Vegetable Garden

We have spent the weekend putting together our vegetable boxes and planting out the vegetables. http//