Protesters SEND message: it’s not just money that matters

Families who deal daily with SEND feel there is a crisis of neglect of their plight

CROYDON COMMENTARY: Families who have children, teens and young adults with special educational needs and disabilities have become increasingly frustrated with the lack of care and attention provided by their councils. Yesterday, they staged a march on Westminster.

About 15 months ago, some parents were moaning on social media about the difficulties families were facing about SEND – special education needs and disabilities.

Tom Bowell, with mum Sarah at his side, is interviewed at the protest by the BBC

Eventually, the complaints turned to action and some decided to organise a protest. Poppy Rose, Nadia Turki and Sharon Pratt set about organising demonstrations in towns and cities around the country that would cover as many areas as possible. When your child has SEND, it can be difficult travelling to another city whatever your depth of feeling is for the cause.

Coordinators for each area were found, funding sought, permission gained and finally, a date decided that would be in school holidays so that school runs would not affect timings and for those that could manage it, having the children there was inclusion at its finest.

SOS SEN is a vital support agency which operates in Thornton Heath

There are many affected by SEND for whom a crowded environment came be too daunting, too much to cope with, so this also meant numbers at yesterday’s rally in London were lower than they might have been.

With other protests being staged on the steps of other London town halls (though not, sadly, in Croydon), there were perhaps 1,000 marchers at the central London rally, a handful of us from my home borough.

The day started with a petition with 12,000 signatures being handed in at Downing Street.

We then marched to Parliament Square where guest speakers had been arranged.

The protest was inclusive of children of all ages

Kevin Courtney, the general secretary for National Education Union, Carrie Grant, the broadcaster and activist, teacher and parent Emma Parker, YouTuber and autism advocate Max J Green, and Jennette Arnold, the Labour London Assembly Member, were among them. One MP – just the one – Laura Pidcock managed to make an appearance.

Despite this being the same day that the government’s Augar Review into post-18 education was published, social media saw the hashtag #SENDNATIONALCRISIS trending.

It was a shame not to see more councillors from Croydon involved, as one might think that funding cuts are having as big an effect on them as they are on parents.

Broadcaster Carrie Grant was one of the speakers at the rally

There is, however, another event on June 22, Together For Education. Organised by the NEU, details can be found by clicking here.

It was great to see the SOSSEN organisation represented at the protest. They offer invaluable advice to families struggling with all matters SEND, and they hold a regular surgery at Thornton Heath. The next surgeries are next week, on June 3, and July 1.

The last word should go to Tania Tirraoro, the founder of Special Needs Jungle, and one of the day’s speakers: “It’s not just money that matters, it’s the culture.”

Let’s hope councils across the country are taking note.

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1 Response to Protesters SEND message: it’s not just money that matters

  1. It is “the culture” that is so toxic and brutal. There is no aspiration to support families to prevent and overcome problems. I would require every Royal Court case to have a local councillor in attendance so that they take personal responsibility for what is happening in their borough and the behaviour of their officers and lawyers. It is not just Croydon, but that is no excuse. No-one in public office should accept the mess that is SEN.

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