Transport, tribunal and bumping in to people.

Normally when the F1 is on early on a Sunday, I get up to watch it, although the 4-5am starts seem to be a thing of the past now. The joy of modern technology now means that I don’t have to be poised in front of the TV by the opening lap, I can put a programme on record and watch it from the start whilst it’s still recording.

The F1 came from China this morning & kicked off at 7am. I’d woken at 6am and gone back to sleep, I’d woken again at 7.30am but couldn’t be bothered. Finally at 8.30am I hit the shower. What I’m saying is, this morning I was out-of-sync. Hubby & I decided to go for our usual morning walk before bothering to watch today’s F1, as we were having a later-than-usual start to the day.

There once was a time when our boys would come walking with us, whether it was a local trudge across the fields, a saunter along the beach or a walk around the local country park. Occasionally, we’d venture to a National Trust property, but there aren’t many in Norfolk – and you can only do the same ones so many times in a year. Great for when we were on holiday though, many an itinerary was based around the NT!

This morning, like virtually all walks these days, consisted of just me and hubby. I started out by telling him how overwhelmed I’d been at the response to my last post about home-school transport. It is very much a thorny issue and often a seemingly easy target for LAs to ‘misrepresent’. I have to admit though, I had very little problems myself, to the point that I get irritated by the LAs waste of money! Yes, for the first year or so my son required a single taxi, but after that, he should really have been transitioned into a shared one, but the only way to do so would be to know who he’d be sharing with – and for him to agree. Only problem with that was the LA! Data protection you see. Apparently data protection means that you can’t give out the names of those travelling locally – even though everyone in the school knew each other!

My son’s taxi fare must have cost in the region of 10k p/a. What would have been the cost of sending out a survey asking about transport and requesting potential basic info-sharing, and having a member of staff analyse this? Seems like it could be done at most schools where a number of pupils require special transport arrangements. I’m sure the savings could be huge. However, my son didn’t share until the sixth form. A new lad joined the school who live just around the corner and it was decided that another who lived in the village would share too. I hadn’t realised that two taxis were sent to the same village, to do the same 26mile journey! Sharing with the third lad was a no-go though. The newbie wasn’t an issue, but the other lad behaved in a way that was detrimental to the welfare of the newbie. I actually had my medical evidence lined up in case I had to act but within the first month, others had acted and the other lad was given alternative arrangements.

Newbie had problems settling in to his new school, but these were aided by my son’s presence. It does go to show that there could be benefits to being selective about who goes with who, but the LA created an unnecessary barrier of DP. Admittedly, my son had to alter his school leaving times to suit, but it wasn’t a total pain. To explain further, the school is an independent. Lessons finished at 3.40, but first prep ended at 5pm, then there was 2nd and 3rd prep, depending on age. Newbie found school very tiring (the school day started at 8.10am, the taxi collecting him at 7.25am), so came home twice a week at 3.40pm. My son is diabetic and always came home at 5pm. While school provided a hot dinner (in with the fees), my son didn’t like the offerings so took a packed lunch. Between preps there was tea, but son had already had sandwiches and didn’t want more of the same. He never stayed for the two later preps.

School ending time also poses an interesting question – at what time should the LA arrange the taxi home for? Prep was compulsory, but the school would make reasonable adjustments. Very handy when you have a number of students who refuse to do school work at home, such as those with an ASD. A LA has to sort out transport for the start and end of the school day – but in this circumstance, when is the end of the day? It is, if you take a common-sense approach, any of three times, depending on age. Anyway, son agreed to match the hours of the newbie and we never troubled the LA with any argument otherwise. I only wish that we could have come up with a sensible solution to transport for the three previous years, potentially saving the LA 30k. A LA would only need a handful of cases like this and they could make savings of 100k p/a quite easily I’m sure. But they seem more bent on burying their heads in the sand. Maybe it’s because I was a small-business owner for 23yrs that I look for such common-sense approaches to saving money? LAs seem to be far more determined not to let on that a pupil is an ‘eligible child’ for free transport purposes than they are in working with parents to save money…….

Back to this morning’s walk. A new coffee shop has opened up in the village, down by the boatyard. I wouldn’t ever have known it was there if I hadn’t happened to read this quarter’s village book. I’m a bit short-sighted these days & didn’t totally clock this woman sitting in a squashy chair by the window until I was up close & already committed to my seat choice. It was the old SEN Governor at my son’s old (bad) school. Oddly, she looked like she was going to greet me, but I looked through her – well I would, wouldn’t I? You see, she was the one who threatened that unless I took my son off the school roll, she’d take me to court for his truancy. She was incredibly bullying. The way home from my walk consisted of hubby and me reminiscing about tribunal and ‘those days’. Every action I took I was held to be in the right, despite the (bad) school’s assertions that it was all a ‘parenting issue’. For those passing by my blog who are stressed out and p’d off with Children’s Services – and remember, it is the LA that maintains the statement/EHCP and NOT the school – maybe the following reminisces will give you cheer:

  • Three counts of disability discrimination against the school
  • The LAs complaints procedure at stage 3 found in my favour (school did not follow the statement)
  • Three counts of maladministration against the LA
  • CAMHS gave us a glowing report – ALL issues were school-related
  • New school gave us a glowing report – ALL issues related to previous school, not home life/parenting

In tribunal, the Head doodled ALL the way through, showing his absolute contempt for the proceedings. When he had covered one page, he moved on to the next, matching up the pieces. He did this under the full eye of the judge and panel members. They frequently rolled their eyes at his behaviour. He even got sarky when asked how he’d feel about apologising to us. I had to involve the Secretary of State in gaining this apology – such was the man’s breath-taking arrogance. Still, I hold no animosity, the guy is a prat who encourages discriminatory practice. The guy is also an active Christian, not sure the two marry up well.

The school did not improve their practices until they were visited after Ofsted had changed their gradings. A post-RI monitoring visit showed that Ofsted felt that the school did not have the capacity to improve, something did then change and finally they gained a ‘good’. However, I’m still being told on the grapevine that unlawful exclusions remain the norm….

As parents we need to stand firm and group together where possible, either in the physical or virtual world. I remain committed to encouraging parents to work with their children’s schools and, where necessary, work together to get the right resources from the LA. I think that I have harped on enough on the subject of tribunal & our situation. I have been asked if I could include other parental experiences of the SEND reforms on my blog, but I shall have to consider this carefully as I must ensure confidentiality.


2 thoughts on “Transport, tribunal and bumping in to people.

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