As we come to the end of a sun soaked Bank Holiday weekend, there is a midst of hope and anguish. This week UK produced the highest figures in Europe in terms of Covid 19 deaths. We surpassed Italy, as our numbers went over 30’000 and counting. Ten thousand above the number, which the government had said, would be a good outcome. Globally we are now second, only behind USA in terms of death toll. Yet, with the death count increasing, well above what we had hoped it would stay under, the talks of easing lockdown is well underway and come Sunday we are expecting to hear Boris unveil how he plans to ease lockdown.
The nation is divided and there are divisions within those divisions. Nobody can guarantee the true nature of Covid 19 and what will happen when the ease of lockdown does happen. Will it re emerge again? Will we see another spike and go through another lockdown, if it does?
This weekend, I found myself running again in the heat, some might say I’m crazy, since not only am I running in peak heat but I am fasting too. But I’ve never shied away from testing my body under extreme circumstances. All the runs I have done during Ramadan had all been very good, if not the best ones I have done this year. Probably because I’ve been pacing a little slower and getting rid of negative toxins from the food I am not eating. Every supermarket and shops seem to have run out of flour and vanilla extract. I don’t know why that is, could it be people are baking more or stockpiling (flour is a very good ingredients to create many nutritional types of food)? Maybe its Ramadan and the Muslim community are in by large known for their dishes that require flour. None the less, I find myself a bit anxious, wondering if we will ever return to a status quo, where I can pop down the supermarket and not worry about a certain product not being there. It’s all a bit sad, since I am using this lockdown to brush up on my baking skills.
One of the hot topics, since talks of easing restrictions began, has been the status of schools. Many will agree the schools opening, will be the first major move of lockdown being over. The morning routines, the laugher of children, picking them up and dropping them off, all seem to be a memory of yesteryear.
Like the lockdown, parents all over the country are divided on schools being opened. Even Wales and Scotland have said they will follow their own rules rather than England’s. Yes, children are asymptomatic, but the risks they pose to others, is what makes us apprehensive about re- opening. Many people and unions have been vocal against schools opening prematurely and perfectly within their reasons and views. But as a professional who has spent years working in education and with a focus on Special Education Needs and vulnerable children and families. I feel it might be good to put forward an alternative view and how locking down schools might not be the best of interest for everyone.
Many children with special educations needs will have an Education Health and Care plan. This is a legal binding plan, a Local Authority will produce with outcomes and funding to meet the needs of the child at a school. Many SEND children in mainstream schools will have one of these plans. Nearly every child attending a special school will almost definitely have one too. When the government chose to close schools in March, they did state that for those children with EHC Plans, schools will remain open for them as well as children of key and essential workers along with vulnerable kids.
Yet, many parents with children with EHC Plans, have chosen for their children not to attend. This could be down to many obvious reasons, but overall it’s a mixture of the change of structure of how school will work during lockdown, the amount of restraints that have been put on all our daily lives to be able to take a child to school and not to mention the medical and health needs of a child.
Children with SEND are different, they are more difficult to cater for at homes, especially those living in already cramped spaces of in high amounts of poverty. The strain of caring for them on a daily basis for parents is difficult as it is on a normal day, let alone under lockdown. Through my job, I have spoken to families over the phone, who are stuck between a rock and hard place. Too scared to send their children to school due to the structure change or keep them home and deal with their care and difficult behaviour. There are parents that are not able to make a trip to the supermarket to buy essentials due to taking care of their children. The list is endless. To get a understanding of what I am talking about, just think about all the daily tasks that we do with our children, all the barriers we face, multiply that by five and then picture that scenario in a lockdown setting and you will get an accurate picture of the challenges being faced by families and a child with SEND. Yes and although they might still be a minority compared to the rest of the children population, we cannot ignore the issues they face. All inner city London Boroughs, will have at least 2000 children with EHC Plans, that’s roughly 2000 families who are vulnerable, but the numbers are higher, as not all SEND children are eligible for EHC Plans, but the issues they face still remain the same.
The same applies for the children who are under child protection. Even though they too are eligible to attend school, reports have shown that these families are not taking up the offer and there is little any authority can do to force them. These are children who are vulnerable to abuse and neglect. So as we think and talk about people vulnerable to domestic violence during this lockdown, let’s take some time to also think about all the children who are vulnerable to schools being closed. For many of them, schools provide them with a safe structure and stability, to make some sense in their lives. Lest we forget about the children left behind when coming to have a reasonable conversation about schools remaining closed.
Stay Safe, Stay Blessed.