I don't know about you, but as a parent carer myself, I've learned a lot about my daughter's (and my!) needs during lockdown. For example, she is much happier and more co-operative, if she can have a morning routine that matches her pace, not the taxi's time-table.
On the flip side, I've also witnessed the various 'fall outs' of 'reasonable endeavours' and her Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP) not being met. Bringing home the very real reasons that the support was included in the first place.
Perhaps now is the time to reflect on the last four months. What have we learned? What's still important to our child? What's more important? What's less important?
Using the summer to plan what we would like our 'new normal' for our children to look like. Being 'ready' and in control come September.
"My son has thrived in a home-school environment - who knew?! He only has one year left, so I'm torn over what to do now. But this has definitely made me think!"
But more than that. While we know that 'reasonable endeavours' was put in place until the 31st July 2020, it is being reviewed monthly. It may be wise to ponder 'what if' this gets extended? Giving ourselves some time to think practically about what our schools could put in place for our children in September, should we find ourselves still in a 'reasonable endeavours' boat.
What is reasonable endeavours?
Reasonable Endeavours, reduces a Local Authority's "absolute duty” to meet the provision in a child's EHC Plan, to one of "reasonable endeavours". This is very much open to interpretation, but will come down largely to available resources. The exact provision given, is discussed and agreed between the parents and the school.
If we are unhappy about any of the reasonable endeavours provision our child has received, then IPSEA have a really useful library of model letters prepared, and which we can use.
With time to think, what would our reasonable endeavours look like?
How have you felt about the term 'reasonable endeavours'? I had very mixed feelings. On the one hand, of course I understood the challenging situation we were all in. And how difficult it would be to meet my daughter's extensive needs.
And on the other hand, I had that familiar twinge of "of course our kids are being let down." I guess it's a learned behavioural response, based on previous experiences.
For us - I honestly struggled to see how they could reasonably support my daughter in any way. She follows a sensory based curriculum with a 1:1. It's certainly not something we can replicate over Zoom!
"I was just happy my child was able to go back to school in any capacity. I'm happy to coast with reasonable endeavours until the end of term. I understand how much pressure the staff and school are under. But from September, quite honestly, things need to rapidly improve."
But time has give me some clarity. We are not shielding, although we are being very 'sensible'. My daughter would normally have a full time 1:1 at school. And so, with time to reflect, I could 'reasonably' ask for the 1:1 to come to our house to deliver our daughter's sensory programme - even if just once per week, as long as full PPE was worn and guidelines followed. It may not be possible, due to reduced staffing numbers, but it wasn't an idea we explored.
It never occurred to me, that I could ask for this! And certainly no one proactively offered.
Other ideas, may include lessons over Zoom, such as Speech therapy or a class assembly for connection. Maybe your school has some equipment you could borrow? We borrowed a huge sensory tray for our daughter, which we alternate with sand, water, and shaving foam!
So, why not take the Summer to really think about what might be possible, should 'reasonable endeavours' continue into the new term?
"My son just can't learn or engage remotely. He's needs 1:1 support and lots of sensory input - it's not something you can do over a screen. He can't go back to school, as he's shielding. We've been completely left to it. But in all honesty, I don't know what anyone can do to help us. If we're still in this boat in September, I don't know how we'll cope. And I'm worried about the impact on him and me."
Given what we now know - What would we include/remove from our EHCPs?
I have no doubt we have all learned something over the last few months! Learned which parts of the EHCP are critical for our child, but also perhaps realised there are other aspects, we could include to our child's benefit.
Two obvious ones jump out at me. I'm sharing them below, as they may trigger some further thoughts for your own child or children;
A later taxi would allow our daughter to arrive at school in a more positive state, ready to learn. So simple! Rather than the tears and oppositional behaviour we used to have. Now clearly the funding for this won't be simple, but the idea is. Her state of mind, has benefited hugely from a morning routine matched to her own pace. She has a learning disability, and sensory needs. Rushing is traumatic for her (and us).
Oh how I've enjoyed telephone consultations with her doctors! Some appointments could take us five hours for just five minutes with the doctor. Not all consultations require a face to face, and I'll be pushing for more telephone consultations in her EHCP. It will save me days if not weeks of my life!
"It has been absolutely brilliant to have some phone consultations with our doctors. Previously we could lose a good five hours for a five minute appointment! That's a whole day of school missed for a brief follow-up! I'm definitely building this into our EHCP going forward."
We have a bit of time to reflect, think and plan, before we "go back" in September. Why not start with these 10 simple questions. If appropriate, we may also like to ask our child for their answers too:
Reflecting back over the last four month:
What has worked for my child?
What has made them smile?
What has caused them distress?
What/who have they missed?
In what way has their behaviour changed? (good or bad)
And why do we think that is?
What would our son or daughter's ideal 'new normal' look like?
How close is that to their current EHCP?
What changes am I going to ask for?
What evidence do I need to gather over summer, to support these changes?
Life may have felt rather out of control lately, but answering these questions gives us some control back. It allows us to plan for what we want, rather than being just swept along, which I for one have really felt!
Here's to taking back some control.
If you don't yet have an EHCP (Education Health Care Plan) for your child, and want to know more about your rights, then the charity IPSEA is a fantastic place to start.
Don't forget to join our Facebook community group to connect with other unpaid parent carers. This is a great space to ask and answer any questions perhaps our close friends and family may not have answers to.