Winnie is 9 years old. She is a lively, bubbly, charismatic little girl. She also has social, emotional and learning difficulties. And it seems there is no place for her in the British education system.
Winnie does have the ability to learn but she needs a lot of encouragement and support to help her with this. She attended a mainstream infant school for three years before moving to a special school for a year. She spent a year in a special school because we couldn’t find a junior school that was able, or even willing to support her needs. Most schools didn’t even return my phone calls or emails.
During her time at the special school Winnie regressed in every single way, emotionally, socially, behaviourally and academically. Although a lovely and well respected school, it’s strength lies in dealing with severely disabled children, not children like Winnie.
After a year of being there she had forgotten her letters and numbers and her behaviour was out of control. She needed the structure, boundaries and social interaction that she had benefited from in mainstream school. We took her out of school and home educated her for five months while we fought to get her in to a suitable mainstream environment.
It was a battle. We finally got her in to a local school, the only local school in our area, with an EBD (Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties) unit. Within 8 weeks we have seen huge progress in her behaviour at school. She is playing with other children again, she is listening to the adults and she is starting to read and write and show an interest in the world around her. I could not believe it when the teacher showed me a fraction worksheet that she had completed. A couple of months ago she was struggling to count to ten. And we are starting to see the bright bubbly girl who had disappeared in to a shell of hostility, emerge again. The school understands her. They can manage her behaviour and they have found a way to encourage her to learn.
But, we have now been informed that the unit is to close due to cuts in government funding.
What will happen to children like Winnie? What will their future hold. Surely in the long run denying them an education will cost the government far more?
Children like Winnie have potential. They may not grow up to be brain surgeons or stock market traders, but they do face a bright future if they are given the right support while they are young. Denying them this support is denying them a future.
I cannot sit back and let this happen. I will be taking this further….