LETTER: ‘Dismayed and disappointed’

I have just read with a heavy heart the article in the March 22 edition of the Worthing Herald about the financial problems faced by Oak Grove College.

My heart is heavy because the way this Government is going, there may not even be an Oak Grove College before much longer.

Mr Potter’s comments regarding: 1) future problems for society being avoided by investing in schools now, and 2) not being sure everyone, including some MPs, understand (the complexities of running a special school), ring a very loud bell indeed. Let me explain further.

I have worked with SEN (special educational needs) children for most of my working life – I ran the library in a sixth-form college for 14 years and, on being made redundant, then went on to work in a secondary school for eleven years as a teaching assistant, working primarily with children with all kinds of learning disabilities including dyslexia, ADHD, visual/hearing/mental health issues and autism.

Now retired, I have a beautiful four-year-old grandson who is on the autistic spectrum and so my interest in education and the welfare of children with special needs continues.

I have been dismayed and disappointed at the way in which the Government is slowly nibbling away at the education system, gradually forcing schools to reduce the number of teaching assistants, end the contracts of qualified counsellors and increase class sizes because of funding cuts.

Last year, the special needs unit at my grandson’s nursery (Kamelia Kids) was closed, much to the consternation of staff and parents/carers, despite a petition objecting to its closure gathering in excess of 1,000 signatures.

I recently saw an interview on Good Morning Britain with Nadhim Zahawi MP, the children and families minister, and this was the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ for me.

I decided that I can no longer sit back and let the lives of these beautiful children be destroyed before they have even started by people who make heartless decisions based only on finance. Incalculable damage has already been caused to countless families by bureaucrats who, despite being called professionals, appear to have no idea (or indeed concerns) about how many lives they are ruining.

If SEN units are being closed now, how long will it be before special schools are consigned to history, leaving distraught families to cope with children with enormous physical, mental and psychological issues?

We’ve already seen various institutions close and their inmates left to the mercies of ‘care in the community’...need I say more.

I have started a petition in an attempt to stop the latest madness inspired by a cost-cutting exercise: the policy of ‘inclusion’ at any cost. Apparently, Mr Zahawi and his colleagues think that autistic children will actually benefit from being forced into much larger classes of 30 children or more and that they will be unaffected by (or, possibly, even benefit from!) the noise and general hubbub! I can tell you now that this is a disastrous move that will undoubtedly have a negative impact on a great many children who are already disadvantaged through no fault of their own.

I sincerely hope that you will take the time to read, sign and share my petition, especially as I need to collect a minimum of 10,000 signatures in order for it to have the desired effect of forcing a Parliamentary debate. It would be wonderful if you could publish the link in your newspaper so that all your readers have the opportunity to sign it and, hopefully, force the Government to discuss it at length – you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/special-needs-enough-is-enough-now-we-get-tough

Judy Wilson

Willow Crescent, Durrington

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