Ms Fitty does a lot of domestic things at home, as I work. She cleans her room and hoovers the floors and weeds the garden. She needs to be in my sight, you see, and it does her no good to be watching tv. When I take a break, she and I do a lot of walking out together. Young woman and middle-aged mum – poor Ms F. She should be in college, but no – they’ve said they cannot teach her. She is ‘too ill.’ (See post, Groundhog Day)
Its lucky we like each other, because Ms F and I have spent a lot of time together, over the years. This is because she has been failed by the British education system over and over again. Thank you, Secretaries of State Estelle Morris, Charles Clarke, Ruth Kelly, Alan Johnson, Ed Balls, Michael Gove. You couldn’t have made a greater mess if you’d intended it! Ms F has been educated in good mainstream state schools till age 19 (indeed, has continued in education till excluded last month for being too ill – AGAIN) but she has yet to manage more than a single GCSE pass. Art. And that was a close thing. Mr Gove would gnash his teeth.
Sorry, that’s Michael Gove, Estelle Morris, Charles Clarke, Ruth Kelly, Alan Johnson, Ed Balls. Because you are all equally responsible.
Can I just drop my mask and weep a bit ? because for a loving mother her situation is very sad.
Imagine MsF, the brightest of my three bright children, struck suddenly down by a condition which causes catastrophic changes in consciousness . From that moment on it’s a half-life at school: slowed down by a succession of psychotropic drugs which still fail to control the condition -and taught largely by people who are either frightened or ignorant of epilepsy and impatient/disbelieving/uncaring of the problems. The state hasn’t cared that she is clearly one of the 50% of young people with epilepsy who have achieved below their predicted capacity because of inappropriate teaching. Oh no. Schools’ failure to teach has been presented throughout as my child’s failure to learn.
In statutory education, the troubles are of one sort. Teachers tend to feel there is little they can do. She is petted at school, but disregarded (pretty much as the state treats carers!). If she looks ‘strange’ she is sent home at once. I keep on asking for homework to come with her – and the messages always get ‘lost’. When I complain, the school – to justify their stand – start criticising the freedom I try and give MsF. The mother as the monster. Every mother and carer of a disabled child will know what I mean.
As a result MsF and I spend term after term together, reciting Shakespeare by rote, learning about wildlife and wild fruit and wildflowers. Playing cribbage to create number bonds. Why not? Got to learn something. Yes, it’s also hard on me -a lone parent and sole carer bcause I’m trying simultaneously to support us all on what I can earn – but nobody offers help so I have no option but to earn around these constraints. And succeed.
Ms F’s GCSEs are less successful: education minister after education minister has chosen not to recognise the full extent of the difficulties of a student with epilepsy
“If every education minister that has ignored the exam issue had live electrodes attached to their brain for 5 mins and then was punched hard in the face without a gum-shield (causing considerable damage to lips, teeth and tongue) and then was asked to prove all their years of knowledge in an exam paper 2 hours afterwards, would they consider this to be a reasonable test of their own abilities? “(Mother of child with epilepsy)
You can’t put off a GCSE exam if you have a seizure. Ms F gave in one english paper that was covered in vomit, she had collaped over it so many times. She failed. Again. But she wouldn’t confess herself beaten. Suck that up, Estelle Morris, Charles Clarke, Ruth Kelly, Alan Johnson, Ed Balls and Michael Gove.
When MsF leaves statutory education the fun really starts. No GCSEs but she still wants to get qualified! The law doesn’t oblige her to be educated – but discrimination law obliges schools and colleges not to discriminate on grounds of health. .. Hahaha
I become expert at the coded phone calls that mean ‘ by the way, we’ve decided she’s leaving us’. Trying to resit GCSEs MsF is excluded from one school for being too ill, and is passed onto another school that specialises in learning disabilities (she hasn’t any) where they only teach Asdans. And so she loses her chance to resit the GCSE she only just failed. Possibly the one chance to get them easily. (And, no one can explain why or what she can do with an Asdan). She’s then passed onto a college for a diploma and those GCSE resits : the diploma disappears into thin air and the college tell us (untruthfully – in terms of what they provide to others) that they are not set up to do resits.
Undaunted MsF applies to another college, and they accept her to do a Level 1 qualification. But they find halfway through the first term of level 2 that they can no longer teach her. They have to come clean on this after all sorts of weaselly evasions such as ‘she’s not happy’ (she’s very happy) ‘she’s not committed’ (she’s very committed) ‘she’s depressed’ (no she isn’t) have been successfully refuted.
So, now MsF sts at home, unhappy and unqualified. But still committed to learning. And I, her carer, committed to supporting her to learn.
Estelle Morris, Charles Clarke, Ruth Kelly, Alan Johnson, Ed Balls, Michael Gove: Given a young person desperate to learn, and an educational system that each of you supervised and which has never wanted to educate her, what do you suggest MsF should do?