This afternoon I attended the EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan) review meeting for my 5-year old son with special needs, who attends a wonderful special school. Alongside the professionals who work with my son, there was also a representative from the LEA who heads up ‘assessment’. She doesn’t know my son, but will be writing his ‘care plan’. In turn, each professional (speech therapists, teachers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and his CHAD social worker) all gave a wonderful report on his progress. They used anecdotes, video footage, and photographic evidence to support everything they said about him. It was incredibly touching, and demonstrated the unique personal relationship they each have with him. Their faces and their voices also resonated a genuine regard for his well-being, a celebration of his progress and a child-centered ideology that reflected a curriculum that matched his learning pathway. My son’s progress is important to them because they value him.
When it came to the turn of the LEA representative, she asked me what my ‘goals’ were for him. I was asked to agree to a set of SMART targets for my son to work towards and be measured against using a percentage scoring system. I suggested to her that this line of target setting was wholly inappropriate for any 5-year old child, and worked against the ethos of the EYFS curriculum that he was currently in. I reminded her that cognitively he would still need to be taught from the EYFS curriculum for the significant future. When she told me that “all children were measured”, I suggested that offering one-year and five-year target benchmarks to a young child with multiple special needs was nothing more than a data generating exercise; she responded with ”that’s the way it is”. I reminded her that pigeon-holing young children into a closed-ended outcome system disregarded the progress they made in all other aspects of their development. I asked her how and why the four targeted areas were deemed more important than everything else and what continuum they were extracted from. I asked her why percentage scoring was necessary and what relevance it had to his ongoing learning. When she questioned my rationale and asked me what I wanted, I asked her to produce a ‘plan’ that was relevant and supported his (‘Outstanding’) school’s approach to teaching towards short-term goals holistically. I said that I would refuse to sign a care-plan that contained SMART targets, and that I wanted his EHCP to be relevant and meaningful and one that reflected an understanding of him.
My children have taught me many things; among these is how to be an advocate.
I will always advocate for my own children and I will always advocate for the children I teach.
I refuse to pigeon-hole children into an irrelevant outcome system.
I refuse to teach towards close-ended data generation that values only what it is testing.
I will not be complacent.