Ruth Kelly did the right thing by her child, but what about instructing services to help the rest of us to do the same, writes Angela Basoah
As a mother of four, including a son with severe learning difficulties, I could not begrudge Ruth Kelly her choice of private specialist education for her son. But frankly, that is not the point. She claims to be trying to do “the right thing” by her child. However, without a sizeable wallet, parents like myself are sapped of energy trying to convert local authorities, like mine, from an inflexible, dogmatic and blinkered approach to inclusion.
My son Mawuli only received the excellent secondary education that he needed because an independent tribunal upheld both professional and family opinion. Eight years on, Mawuli’s teachers, Connexions advisers and social worker have recommended that he would make maximum progress at a residential college offering a 24-hour curriculum.
However, Newham Council has rejected this, instead giving promises of an “in control” assessment and future access to local provision. They have ignored the fact that Mawuli is demonstrably more excited about making friends, learning and living alongside his peers than two summers ago, when a solitary and ill-trained support worker “enabled him to access the community”.
I am not advocating for children and young people with learning difficulties to be educated exclusively in specialist units. Mawuli spent six good years in a specially resourced local primary school. Nevertheless, he now requires a structured and holistic environment to maximise learning.
Local authorities need better government guidance. They have an obligation to ground services in the experience of users and carers and objectively appraise services. There is also a need for pro-active partnerships with other boroughs, specialists, providers, and the voluntary sector.
I look to Ruth Kelly to enable families like mine to “do the right thing by our children” – thereby taking all our children and young people out of politics.
Angela Basoah is head of outreach and communications at One Plus One