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Last week was quite a week and I am not entirely sure if this is a good time to start this blog but almost every week feels a bit like this now so I might as well.

Why the Blog? There are a couple of reasons. Mainly I am hoping it will become another avenue of communication between the Ealing Parent Carer Forum and its members. If I manage to blog as regularly as I am hoping parents would be able to get a better insight into what is happening between events or meetings I email about. In that respect this week is actually a good one to start off with.

It started with our Focus Group meeting on Monday morning on the topic of school funding / high needs funding. Matthew, our Chair, 6 other parents and me came to meet Gary Redhead, Helen Green and Tom Lindsay at Perceval House for a discussion about the future funding of SEND support of children in Ealing’s schools, nurseries, colleges and Children’s Centres. It was a rather difficult discussion and the notes I took will be published on this website but I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that we (parents) all left rather worried. One good thing to take away from it was that all parents who were present were extremely clear about their concerns and had various suggestions where funding could be used more efficiently and effectively.

After the Focus Group Matthew went on to attend the workshop on special schools’ and ARPs’ entry and exit criteria. We were both supposed to attend that one but the nasty cold I have had for a while now really kicked me back. However, Matthew was able to go armed with the many horrific stories you had emailed us or told us on the phone over the last weekend. He read every single one of them to a room full of headteachers and other senior leaders (anonymised, of course) and occasionally clear gasps were heard and murmuring such as “This should not be happening”. We have not received the results of the discussions and changes to the criteria that happened on the day but will distribute them as soon as we receive them. Matthew got the impression that the workshop itself mainly happened because of parents asking again and again what the exact admission criteria were for ARPs and special schools. Sometimes it is nice to see movement, albeit slow.

Time to catch up with emails and planning our next events on Tuesday and then we had a Steering Group meeting with our parent volunteers and partners on Wednesday. There is so much to discuss, around financial cuts to every service in the borough, events, consultations etc that we got about half way down the agenda before we had to vacate the room. So another set of handwritten notes now sits beside my laptop for writing up. When I told Matthew yesterday that I am always looking forward in a way to the SG meetings he told me that was weird. I can see where he is coming from but this job gets a bit solitary at times and for me work is always more fun in a group. Shame though, that almost everything we talk about now is rather depressing.

On Thursday I attended a self evaluation meeting on Ealing’s Early Year’s SEND provision at Grove House in Southall. The meeting focussed on “parental engagement” and we were supposed to answer questions such as: do parents know where to go for information, advice and support, do they feel well informed of the Local Offer etc. That was one meeting that finished on time and even a little early. There was very little point in pretending that anything but “No” and “No” were the right answers to most of the questions. Joy Barton, the PESTS Project Manager, attended as well and confirmed everything I was feeding back from parents.
One more day left of the week and both Matthew and myself attended the “Train the Trainer” day run by the Council for Disabled Children to enable us to bring the “Expert Parent” course to Ealing whenever and wherever possible. A lovely and very experienced parent called Anna Walker had delivered the course to us back in March on CAMHS and all parents who attended found it very helpful. So now we won’t have to rely on outside trainers anymore but can deliver it to Ealing Parents at no extra costs to the Forum. We just need to practice a bit, as Matthew put it, “by talking to myself in the kitchen”. 

Whilst we were away learning, two other parents attended the first Service Delivery Meeting of the Building My Future project. It is brilliant to see more parents taking on more active roles within the Forum. I am really looking forward to hearing how they got on. The more parents are speaking up in many different meetings and boards the better!

So I am now on the second page and haven’t even touched on one of the most pressing topics coming out of the various meetings and conversations this week: the struggle of children with a diagnosis of ASD in mainstream schools who do not qualify for an EHCP because for whatever reason their needs are not deemed to be “severe” enough. But I am sure Nick will tell me something about word limits and blogs and I somehow also feel this topic deserves a blog on its own. So I shall leave blogging for now and turn towards to the hand written notes next to my laptop.

Please leave comments! Otherwise it will end up a bit like “talking to myself in the kitchen” which is not really the purpose of this blog. I much prefer a conversation!

Cheerio!

Brigitte - EPCF Administrator

 


Ealing Parent Carer Forum writing about Life at the Forum (EPCF) on 28 November 2017

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