I am still vehemently opposed to the Every Student Every School policy and to the savage cuts made to education funding by the NSW Liberal O’Farrell Government. You can read more about my views on the policy in these previous posts:
- Every Student Every School
- Thank Goodness for Free Speech
- Update on Every Student Every School
- Fighting the Good Fight
- Open Letter to the NSW DEC Regarding Every Student Every School
However, despite writing letters directly to politicans, being interviewed for a newspaper and spreading the word as far and as wide as I can, it has made no difference to the rollout of the policy. I will continue to voice my concerns and do what I can to support others in opposing this flawed policy and to the ill-conceived funding cuts that followed.
However I am changing tack and starting to take stock of what I can do to proactively support my son in this new world since it is here and shows no signs of disappearing just yet.
1. I have joined the P&C
I have wanted to join the P&C for a while to give back to the school that has given us so much help and understanding and support. Up to now there was too much going on in our family for me to make that commitment but I attended my first meeting a few weeks back and in future I aim to be a contributing member to the committee.
I feel it’s the least I can do as I can’t volunteer for canteen or other regular commitments – at least this way I can contribute my ideas and experience and knowledge of special needs to other parents and to the principal. In this way I may be able to mitigate some of the flow-on effects of the policy and funding changes. At the very least I’ll certainly be better informed about what’s going on in the school.
2. I have nurtured a positive relationship with our school principal
I think this is crucial for anyone in a similar position to me. You need to be able to clearly and confidently advocate for the needs of your child, particularly if they are not eligible to access individual funding. Having a positive working relationship with the decision maker in the school will go a long way to helping you mitigate the damage that the policy and the funding cuts will have made to your situation.
The principal may not be in a position to help right away but letting them know, honestly and politely, your concerns in relation to your child boosts your chances of accessing future assistance. Having a positive relationship also makes it easier for you to keep reminding them of your child’s needs – it may not work for everyone but I know it has helped me to communicate Gilbert’s major needs for the coming year and prioritise them for the school.
3. I have enlisted external help
If the school is not in a position to maintain their current level of assistance why not look elsewhere for help? I have contacted ASPECT to see whether they can come out again to observe Gilbert and suggest a new set of strategies to help him cope with less direct assistance next year. I have also asked his speech pathologist to come out and do the same. This approach could easily be used for OTs and psychologists or any other relevant specialists as well.
In addition, Vision Australia is guiding us at home to help improve his visual scanning and help with his mobility and orientation. This will assist in mitigating the loss of aide time in the playground next year, which is a major cause for concern in the new world. They will also be undertaking an adaptive technology assessment to see whether he’s ready to use technology in the classroom which will also help counteract the loss of support there too.
Gilbert has also started attending a fortnightly social skills groups to improve his interactions with his classmates and other children. Fingers crossed that will also yield some wins at school too.
4. I am making a conscious effort to adopt a positive outlook for my son
I was becoming very negative and depressed about my son’s future in a mainstream classroom. I could not see how we could continue on without the assistance he clearly needs. I’m still worried about next year but I am trying to be positive for him. He is stressed enough about the end of the year and the transition to a new classroom and a new teacher without me adding to that with my negativity.
By being proactive and doing all I can to prepare him to cope with less support I feel better. I feel a little more in control in a situation not in my control and not of my making. I want this to work – I want him to be educated in a mainstream classroom. If that means I have to advocate harder and support him more at home, then I’ll do it.
It doesn’t mean that I agree that I should have to work harder to make this work – that completely sucks. HIS needs have not changed, despite his eligibility for funding having been changed. But I’ll do it for him. I owe it to him to do all I can and to never give up on him or his education.
I’d be interested to hear from other special needs parents – are you affected by funding cuts? What tack are you taking to ensure your child has the best chance to succeed in the new world?