The inspiration behind this crowdfunding page.
As a mother of a child with a learning difficulty, the last few years have been very difficult. We as mothers/fathers know when something is not quite right with our children. Our suspicions prompt us to see a confused GP, as we explain our concerns. The GPs will refer us to paediatrics but they will also tell us to consult with the child's school (school age children). For some of us this is where the battle begins. Due to funding cuts and lack of knowledge amongst some professionals, getting the correct referrals for assessments from educational psychologists and speech and language could take years. In this time the child's academic age gap widens from their peers. The child then becomes more frustrated, developing new behavioural problems because the teachers do not understand their needs. Getting a late diagnosis again disrupts the child's learning because this delays the correct support that child needs, it delays the correct interventions required to support their needs, it delays them as a child and their mental growth.
At the age of 4-5 my son started reception, his differences and immaturites became more apparent. After years spent fighting with the school my son finally got his first educational health care plan (EHCP) at the age of 10 (end of year 5). At this point he still had no diagnosis of anything however there was still confusion in understanding how to manage his needs and what was causing them. Without finding the cause how can it be treated?
Then Finally in May this Year, my son now aged 11, nearly at the end of year 7 in a mainstream secondary school, got a list of diagnosis's. They are as follows: He has a rare genetic disorder 17q12 duplication, on the autistic spectrum, short memory loss, behavioural problems and of course anxiety. There is still no diagnosis for his short stature however genetics think it may be related to the genetic disorder. I first saw a GP about his differences at the age of 2 (now aged 12). It has taken me 10 years to get to this point and its not even over. The new battle finding the right school has begun.
The incorrect educational environment and support has had an impact on his future.
My sons whole academic experience has been a disaster. His teachers never understood his needs, he has never been able to engage in any of his lessons, his mental health was never taken seriously and he has always felt like he does not fit in. Years of the above have obviously put him at a disadvantage because he is now 6 years academically behind and still not in the correct educational setting or getting the correct support. As it currently stands, he will not be able to complete any of his GCSEs, if his current situation continues.
Small fish in a big over crowed pond, put yourself in their shoes (this is what happens to my son on a daily basis).
Imagine attending a work environment where there are hundreds of people, where the majority are employed because the environment suits their abilities and skills. But you look different, you are the smallest out of the whole place even smaller than the younger ones, you are 6 years academically behind everyone's working age and you are mentally aware of your differences. You do not understand any of the work being asked of you and you fail any tests given to you, even though your manager knows you are not academically at the same level as your colleagues, you are still told to get on with it. On a daily basis you get called names like 'short', 'weirdo' and 'know one likes you'. What impact could this have on your mental health? How are you ever going to progress and develop your skills? As adults I am almost certain you would get signed off work sick through stress and then put a claim through to the work tribunals, under the discrimination act. Why are our children expected to cope with no repercussions to their health or future?
Children are mean and they can get away with the bullying and name calling because their is no real impact on the bullies lives but the impact it has on their victims can be fatal.
I have looked into special schools but they too are unable to meet my sons needs in full. I believe it is important he can still develop friendships, have a conversation with his peers and share similar understandings and experiences of each others feeling. The majority of special schools consists of children who have complex medical needs, behavioural needs and communication problems. I do not want him to feel isolated in the opposite way his isolated in mainstream school.
Basically children like my son are stuck in the middle of the system.
I realised I was not the only one.
After joining a number of groups on Facebook, I realised there were many other children out there like my son, who suffer from anxiety and stress because their educational setting is just not right. Their mums like myself are faced with seeing their children unhappy everyday. My main concern is, if these children do not get the correct support now, the age gap between them and their peers will widen, their mental health will deteriorate and they may develop new struggles, ones that could have been avoided when they were of school age.
The above is why I have decided to try and open a school for children who are stuck in the middle (The Middle School), who's needs cannot be met in full by either mainstream school or a special school. The students would be taught the skills they need to manage life as they grow into an adult. We would work on their strengths and finding what they are good at.
Working on the basics.
The importance of how much knowledge we have in a subject depends on the career path we choose to take. Lets look at the subject Maths. Maths is a subject people tend to find more difficult. The level of our mathematical knowledge we need depends on how often we are going to use it. Accountants I assume would need to be quite good at maths, due to working with large amounts of money and client accounts, compared to someone who works on a Tesco checkout till, who too use maths on a daily basis but the tills do all the calculations for them. Their level of mathematical knowledge would therefore need to be much less. So, for those people who find maths more difficult, they can always turn to a calculator but still manage many jobs/tasks.
Children like my son will never remember how to do long multiplication, subtraction or division but as long as he can learn, when and how to use the different mathematical equations on a calculator he still will be achieving the answers he needs to manage certain aspects of life. For example certain mathematical problems at work, managing his own finances and when buying things from the shops. Teaching these children the methods of how to get the answers they need on a calculator is what is important.
The same goes for English , Computing and other relevant subject.
Visual learning, finding what they enjoy and what they are good at.
A lot of these children find school hard because there is just too much writing and words therefore incorporating a more visual approach to learning is likely to be more easy to understand.
In the video I touched on finding what the children enjoy, for my son it was castings and shooting videos. Attending castings make made my son feel like he was achieving something, it gave him something to work for without certain struggles. For stills shoots there was no academic pressures so he felt comfortable and at the same time he gained confidence and valuable experience. If we can get this school up and running, I will look at incorporating the above experiences into the school for children who wish to take part.
Our school environment.
How the school will open depends on how much funds are raised. If only a small amount is raised then I wish to start the school within my own home, then hopefully with the money made, this can go back into the school for a bigger premises.
With luck I would like to achieve a school, with a capacity of 30 -50 Students max, 10 per class. I do not want these children to attend 13 different unneeded subjects such as learning a foreign language because this is very difficult and just adds pressure to the student. I want them to access their classroom easy without having to remember room numbers or needing a map to find their way around.
Our main value.
Our main value would be to make sure each child is happy because a child who is happy and comfortable with their surroundings would hopefully want to achieve good things. I want the schools main focus to be on each individual child's future. These children deserve a good chance of getting a good job and achieving their goals. I want to give them hope and let them know we are here to help them until they leave us. We will monitor their mental health, giving parents feed back if we were to have any concerns. I would like to offer assessment on future potential students to ensure they are right for our School. Due to the very low capacity each child would be offered a much better chance.
These children are our future
These children are our future and with more children suffering at school because their needs cannot be met in mainstream schools may create more poverty, crime and lack of confidence in getting a job.
So I need help to fund a school that would enable these children to get qualifications, learn to manage life and have a good chance of getting a job.
I want middle class families to be able to afford sending their children to a school that does not cost as much as a private school. Wealthier families have an option to better their children's future, lets make that possible for the less wealthier families too.
I want to create an environment where all the children fit in, not feel scared, able to access first class education and offer a safe place where their mental health is monitored. I am a qualified nurse and mental health amongst our children is on the rise.
To start this school I need to register with Ofsted which cost £1750, if the inspection fails this is payable again. I need to build an outhouse in my garden, this would be one of the class rooms. To start with i am looking to enrol only 3-5 children for now, if a waiting list develops, this would be our opportunity to expand.
I want to help my son and other children before it is too late. Help me help them.