Through the first half of 2013 we worried that Andrew wasn’t quite as mature and able to look after himself as kids of the same age.
We assumed that he would get there in time. But as the summer drew on, we were sure that he wouldn’t. So we contacted the school to discuss the possibility of a late deferral.
The only reason we decided not to pursue this was because we were informed that the school nursery was full, and we felt the risks in Andrew moving to an entirely new childcare environment were greater than the risks in him starting school in familiar surroundings and with his nursery classmates. We decided to monitor him over the first term.
By mid-November we had seen enough to feel sure that he was not ready for school, but given the importance of the issue we sought advice from others. We got written observations from Andrew’s qualified swimming and exercise coaches, and from a Kumon teacher who carried out an English assessment with Andrew. We also sought the opinions of adults who knew Andrew well, including a retired primary school deputy headteacher. The view was absolutely consistent; that Andrew was not ready for school and would benefit from another year in nursery.
We emailed a detailed explanation, a request for a nursery place and re-enrollment in P1 from August 2014 on 20 November, asking for an assessment and an observation by the child psychologist. We had a meeting with the headteacher, who contacted the education officer she thought was relevant to this by phone and email, but the official never replied. The headteacher gave us the official’s email address so that we could try, and after she ignored two emails from me I went to her boss. I also had a complaint against the official upheld.
By this time it was the penultimate week of the term before Christmas. We had wanted Andrew to re-start nursery at the beginning of January, but the delays made this impossible.
At 1.02am on Thursday 19th December an official finally got back to us to refuse our request, and to say that the law didn’t allow them to release a child from school once they had started, unless they were going to be home educated. After I replied to disagree, she said it wasn’t the final decision.
In the first week of January we had a Child Planning Meeting at the school. Rather than this being about whether moving Andrew back to the nursery and him re-starting primary one this August would be better for him than continuing with the status quo, it was only concerned with supporting him in school. Nobody was present who would have had authority to agree to our original request. We heard nothing at the meeting to make us think that Andrew’s age and maturity would not continue to be a barrier to his learning, or that school was the best place for him.
We were also told that if we had applied for a deferral for Andrew before he started school, it would not have been granted.
At the meeting the view that Andrew was fine in school was presented as a universal one among the school staff. But as we discovered through a Data Protection Act request, two of them had told the headteacher that Andrew would have benefitted from another year in nursery.
By this time there had still not been a formal assessment of whether school would be best for Andrew, nor had there been an observation by the child psychologist. Neither of these has yet taken place. So we gave the council a deadline of 17 January to make a decision on our request, saying that if they didn’t agree to allowing him back into nursery, or the compromise option to let him continue but re-start P1 in August, then we would withdraw him from school. After prompting, on the afternoon of the last day they refused us, threatening us with legal action if we took Andrew out of school.
So since Monday 20 January, Andrew has not been in school.
Let’s just say that the school and council didn’t take that too well. The blog entries pick up the story of threats and pettiness from there.