Wednesday, 4 April 2012

This and that and vulnerable people and benefits

I completely forgot my email address. No, I did. Shamefacedly, I had to ask my eldest who, of course, told me immediately. It's fortunate that something so important as education doesn't rely on good memory, isn't it? Or... wait... it does. What else are exams but a test of memory?

Anyway, I recall I wanted to natter about something else. It's this:

That was posted in the home educating business forums and thanks to A.P. for finding it.

A quotation from it:

"I am not going to speak for any of my friends here, but I am going to cite the case of the treatment our family received from our local LEA. Our son was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome when he was eight years old. We had already withdrawn him from our local school after Primary 1 because he was having clear difficulties that the school were putting down to bad behaviour. If I were to be truly honest, we were left feeling that we were to blame for his poor behaviour as being bad parents."

Oh, the first rule of schools and LAs - blame the vulnerable or, even better, blame the parents of the vulnerable. It's the same in the rest of society. You're poor? It must be your own fault so you shall be punished by removal of basic subsistence levels of income. You're fat? You should cut down on the cream cakes and jog six miles every morning even though your parents and grandparents were all full moon-shaped and the latest (apparently surprising) scientific evidence tells us that we may indeed take after our ancestors and turn out to be full moon-shaped too)... I digress.

Back to the topic.

A friend's son, J, once got called into the head teacher's office for some minor disobedience (a healthy sign in the young, I think) and had the following shouted in his face: "YOU JUST HAVE BAD PARENTS!"

Putting aside the extremely poor manners and threatening behaviour of the head, he was just plain wrong. J's mother and father are completely involved and amazingly good parents. But the point is that schools love to shift blame which is a pretty useless way of dealing with any problem (or a successful tack to avoid dealing with any problem).

We shouldn't have an adversarial position in schools. Basically the ideology is that teachers, parents and students and support staff and politicians and Uncle Tom Cobbley and all are involved in or have a stake in a student's education (or schooling) and we, and they, should all work together because we all have a stake in a student becoming an educated being or, at least, schooled.

That WAS a long sentence. I'm quite puffed out. Of course, the ideology is quite misleading and teachers blame parents who blame teachers and... well, you know the spiel well enough. No one takes responsibility, do they? And no one quite seems to realise that you CANNOT FORCE ANYONE TO LEARN ANYTHING. (I'm not shouting at you. It seemed too important not to put into capitals).

"When he came to Secondary age we all decided to give the School a second chance, as my son is very keen on Science and we lack a laboratory. We took the long approach and contacted the LEA an entire year in advance of his joining S1, and tried to use that opportunity to describe his needs to the School so they could be able to deal with him sensibly."

Yes, well, I would've hired the local secondary school's lab or built one in a shed in the back garden. Many brilliant discoveries have been made in sheds or basements all over our fine planet.

And did the LA (LEA) respond to this challenge from responsible and sensible parents? Aye, indeed (I just have fallen in love with the word 'indeed' indeed).


After a battery of hoops to be jumped through, this:

"Next our son had to undertake a series of tests with the (new) Educational Psychologist, to prove once again that there were areas in which he both had difficulty with and others were he excelled. Then there were more meetings, and the school was still not prepared to meet the things we had asked for. Our son attended some of the induction days. We had more meetings, complaints had to be made about the conduct of the staff at some of these meetings as things were beginning to become highly stressful for us with the schools continuing intransigence."

They love their meetings these institutions, don't they? When in doubt, have a meeting. When not in doubt have a meeting. Meetings solve everything, don't they?

"The year he was in S1 contained so many disasters that to list them here would be both tedious, draining and, frankly, personally upsetting. Our son was repeatedly accused of bad behaviour and the school repeatedly blame us for imposing "preferential" treatment for him. We went as far as to take out an FOI on his records, place formal complaints, take those complaints to the council's Corporate Complaints dept., get sick lines from the doctor because our son was becoming increasingly anxious with every day at school and to attend mediated meetings where nothing constructive ever took place."

What did I say about those meetings?
The point, I think, about this blog post is to say that no institution will meet the needs of every one person. I'm sorry but I think that institutions are not there to meet the needs of their users. I think that institutions are there to perpetuate themselves and blame the victims of their machinations.
This concerned mother says:

"It ended with an ultimatum from the school that we either send our son full-time, part-time to their timetable or to withdraw him from school again. By this point we were going through the process of talking to a child psychologist and a neurologist about our son and they both agreed that the classroom environment was an unhealthy one for our son. They recommended we went back to home education, which is exactly what we did.
This was not the end of the process, as we now had to deal with the de-registration process, which was a trial in itself this time. Last time we did it we withdrew Alex over the course of one summer and it was actually painless. This time we had to meet a social worker and an officer from the LEA to approve our request.
The number of people we have had to explain our son to has been phenomenal, but worse still is the number of so-called professionals that have failed to listen to our advice about our son has been nothing short of criminal.

We are not alone, we are not unique. The heavy weight of the hand of the state on it's vulnerable members is not currently a source for good at all, but a source for great stress and worsening of many problems. If you take the case for not extraditing Gary McKinnon, a large part of it hinges on the possibility of the likliehood of introducing psychosis to Gary because sufferer's of Asperger's and ASD are much more prone to such things while under stress than other people.

The UK Government wants to make this harder for vulnerable people. They will want to put my son into a work placement when he is older, and we cannot trust them not to send him somewhere where his problems will be exacerbated.

The UK Government wants to assess whether terminally ill people should be assessed to see if they are fit for work. The UK Government plans to introduce big changes to DLA for children. The UK Government plans all in a timeline that runs all the way through the referendum campaign up until 2016.

These benefit changes are utterly unwelcome and frankly cruel, and we can avoid them by gaining our Independence from such toxic Westminster policies. The economic argument is familiar but the social democratic argument is becoming clearer.

We need to have Scotland's future in Scotland's hands to redress the awful damage the current system does to our vulnerable people. We have to opportunity to bring some sanity and unity to the process of helping our vulnerable people. That's good enough for me to vote yes."

If I were living in Scotland the treatment of vulnerable people living in a rich capitalist money-worshipping uncaring society would worry me and I'd probably vote to leave the United States of Britain. Since I'm living in England I just worry about vulnerable people living in a rich capitalist money-worshipping uncaring society in each and all of the United States of Britain. Or anywhere.

We have the power. We are a large number of people who have power. Why do we put up with these people in so-called power? Have we lost any sense of charity towards other folks who are not as well off as we are? Have we lost any sense of charity towards anyone? Is it all cuts and making it harder for those who haven't been supported by rich parents and wealthy families? Is this what we have been reduced to?

Is it?

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