The title may sound as if I’m slightly cynical and perhaps I am.
The new code of practice has got rid of behaviour as a category and has replaced it with Social, Emotional and Mental Health Difficulties. This may be the cause of the child’s difficulties but the manifestation is often in their challenging behaviour. Within school there are some families where their behaviour could almost be considered to have a genetic component. We appreciate that every child, even identical twins, are individuals and we always treat them as such. Today I wanted to refer a child who appears to have some Social, Emotional or Mental Health Difficulties to our Educational Psychologist. He wanted to have a chat about the child before accepting the referral, fair enough, I was happy to chat.
“Why do you want to refer little Johnny?”
“Because his behaviours are X, Y, Z, which are similar to big brother Tommy and big sister Susan. We’ve tried the strategies that you suggested for them and we’re not making much progress so we’d like you to come and observe them and see if you can give us some different recommendations.”
It seemed like a reasonable start to the conversation but then it was suggested that just because Tommy and Susan had these difficulties didn’t mean that I should treat all of the children the same. I explained we didn’t. I was happy to save my money by having a chat rather than have him come in though so we kept chatting…
Have you considered making your expectations clear? Yes!
Have you given him a safe place to go? Yes and he does sometimes go there but often sits there and happily screams loudly.
Have you considered making your expectations clear? Yes,
Why is he absconding, hiding and screaming – have you asked him? I haven’t really got an idea and he doesn’t seem to be able to explain.
As Susan and Tommy had some language difficulties perhaps Johnny may have too…
The EP doesn’t really want Johnny to be referred. So we have him in a small group of children with a high adult ratio all morning and with a 1-1 in class all afternoon. This uses more than our £6000 funds for this child. We have several children who, at present, need 1-1 support in school, some to support their Cognition and Learning and some to support their Social, Emotional or Mental Health Difficulties.
We want these children to be in school and learning. To do this they need this degree of support without it either their difficulties mean that they don’t learn effectively or their behaviour means that either they or others are not safe and they risk exclusions.
For a couple of children I have had the EP in and he has carried out cognition tests, I have support from our local MLD school and the children are still a long, long way behind their peers. I have said that I think the time has come to apply for an EHCP – the EP either says no, not yet or implies that he won’t support the application. Without EP support there is little point in applying. The EP does agree that the child needs support. The same is equally true of a couple for whom we give full time 1:1 support for Social, Emotional or Mental Health Difficulties.
Without the intensive support the children will not be able to cope in school but it is draining our school budget. If I apply for an EHCP and it is decided that support is needed then some of the money will have to come from the LA budget. If it is decided that a specialist placement is needed then that is a bigger drain on the LA budget – that is if a place is available. I have a child in school whose EHCP says a specialist placement is needed – but the local special schools are full.
It seems that decisions for some of our most vulnerable children are not made for the good of the children but for the benefit of bank balances.