This year, after years on the waiting list, my boy has started at his new school. A small, independent school that will better teach him in the way he needs to learn, in a safe and supportive environment. I’m so happy for him (and us) I’m still pinching myself our day has arrived!
At the end of Grade Six, we were deeply upset to leave. My boy didn’t feel ready for Secondary School- and he wasn’t. We’d already learnt that funding he’d had for primary school would be over forever. Despite requiring much learning support, he’d no longer be eligible for educational funding once he left. Talk about insult to injury, thank you very much.
Having just turned twelve, his social and maturity levels were closer to that of a ten year old. What parent wants to send a ten year old to Secondary School? My boy was too naïve and unprepared for such change. Too many students/ teachers/ classrooms/ subjects. Too many scary things and no one who knew him or his needs.
Who knew we’d feel this way seven years after he started school at age five? Here in Victoria repeating the 6th grade is no longer really an option. As we waited for our place at the Independent School, we had little choice but to find the best local high school we could in the meantime.
Shopping around we saw great disparities in attitude towards additional needs students. With the aid of our Grade Six teacher we found a school more welcoming than others and with a Welfare Officer who was wonderful and reassuring. Accommodations would be made, an Individual Learning Program implemented and let’s just keep positive, right?
Despite the hard work and best intentions by the Wellbeing department and only a couple of Mr14’s teachers over two years, the reality was harsh. Communications were too difficult for some time until emailing teachers became more reliable. Student Support Group meetings I believed were mandatory proved too difficult to bring about more than once every year and usually too late.
My boy hid in the sick bay for hours a week and office staff knew him very well. His pleas to call me received compliance but varying degrees of acceptance. Lunchtimes were always spent in the library for safety reasons. The bullying, though treated very seriously by the school, seemed relentless. For every kid who got suspended or even expelled, in a school that size there was always another idiot waiting to step up.
Overall it would seem my boy took it better than I did, bless him- but my nerves were shot. I was sending my kid to school every day, not knowing if he was really learning anything or if he’d be targeted. It wasn’t all bad, but it was simply nowhere near good enough.
We didn’t open his reports right away. What is the point of having an Individual Learning Program but still being constantly assessed as well behind your cohort’s state average? Why bother? Square pegs and round holes yet again. Too many kids like these fall through the cracks. What made my blood boil? Teachers’ comments ‘he‘d do better if he would focus or pay attention’. If they’d cared, or read his fucking file they’d have seen he tries, despite having ADHD as well as being on the Spectrum.
All that is behind us now. We’re back with one main class teacher again. Imagine a world where a child is taught, graded and celebrated as an individual with strengths. Where independence and life skills are strongly reinforced and advancements are praised on their merits. Where staff know all students by name and a bright future is the aim. The way it SHOULD be. I’ve heard many encouraging things about the Catholic system but that is not an option for us. The current mainstream state model places too many promising kids outside the box and leaves them (and their anxious families) floundering there. It’s unacceptable.
Today, my son caught the train to school for the first time without one of his parents in tow. I received a text message at 8.20: “I made it.” Yes he did and yes he will. We are exhausted but thrilled- this is only the beginning. I only wish there was room for all.