Cowart's Common Room
Funding, funding, funding!

It's always about money isn't it. Everything in this country boils down to how much money the government are willing to dish out.

Last December I had a meeting to determine Amy's middle school (age 9-13). I chose a really good, well reputed school just 7 miles away which will accommodate Amy's special needs and will offer her potential particularly in technology and music due their excellent facilities. I had to think carefully about Amy's school because of her statement. There is another school which is approx 6.9 miles away, is CofE and, in my opinion, not at good as my first choice. I viewed them both and even though I'm not a school expert, my gut instinct told me to go with the 7m one. No problem.

Amy currently gets free transport to and from school. Long story but briefly, the reason why it's free is because I asked nicely after I'd had an epileptic fit a few years ago and was banned from driving for 12 months. They very generously allowed Amy free transport for the rest of her time at First school. But now, the LEA aren't prepared to name my favourite school in her statement unless I am going to pay for transport costs which are about £90 per term. £270 per school year! That's a school that's only 7 miles away. However, should she go to the CofE school which is in our catchment area, she will get free transport.

The letter I received has almost been worded to make me change my mind about the school I want her to go to just because it's more convenient for them. It's almost threatening me that if I go ahead and chose my first choice I am liable for all costs involving transport.

I understand this is the case everywhere. But doesn't it just take the biscuit as far as children's education is concerned. I am fortunate that I can afford to pay £270 a year. However, others may not be in that position and will feel bullied into changing their minds simply because the county won't spend a little bit extra to help.

Oh, they have mentioned I can appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal if I am not happy. Perhaps I might just mention it.

Bit of a black dog moment there - sorry on this beautiful sunny Wednesday morning.
Crystal xx

Posted at 2nd Apr 2008 - 09:46AM   Posted by Crystal Jigsaw   Funding, funding, funding! Comments: 18

Fennie's Avatar Good luck, Crystal. It does seem rather unfair. Maybe if you wrote very calmly explaining how their letter looks to you and saying that you would take the matter up with the powers that be, they would think again.

By my calculations, the authority appear to be wanting to charge 10p a mile
(39 weeks x 5 days x 14 miles = 2730 miles) this seems a lot to charge for a child on a bus - or would they be providing some other sort of transport?

Posted by: Fennie on 2nd Apr 2008 at 10:03AM

Hi CJ,

Although I can totally empathise with your concerns, and having had to jump through all the hoops that having a statemented child involves in terms of finding the right schools, getting the right teaching support and so on, I actually think things like getting our child to school is our responsibility. including the cost of it.

At the end of the day, the resources available for all childrens schooling, special needs and so on is finite, and I firmly believed it was my reponsibility to pay the additional costs incurred for my choices for where No1's education took place, not the tax payers at large.

I home taught my son for 2 years too, because I believed it was right for him at the time. That meant I lost 2 years income pretty much, but it was my choice. Whilst I expect the State to give my child the best possible chance to become a successful educated person, and fund that in school, I didn't expect them to do things I thought were my responsibility, like get him there.

I recall getting letters from the LEA refusing places, trying to bamboozle me in very similiar ways to that you described, they will do everything they can to save resources; at the end of the day the pot is limited, and what they spent on my child, another child with similiar needs didn't get the help they deserved. I think you have to get used to that, they have so many kids fighting for so few resources, I don't think its intended to threaten you, its just the way it is.

I think sometimes you have to be pragmatic about choices you make and swallow the costs if you really think its worth it. At the end of the day, your after the best education, not the best transport.

There is hope, I have to say our experiences of accessing Disabled Student Allowance when No1 went to University was a whole lot more enlightened and a far easier process to negotiate, than getting help at Primary or Senior School. I knew the SEN Code of Practice almost off by heart by the time No1 was 16!

I know this possibly isn't what you want to hear, but it did help me get through the process by being more realistic in my expectations, you may lose this battle, but you will win the war.


Posted by: ZoŽ on 2nd Apr 2008 at 10:13AM

Milla's Avatar I agree with Zoe. We are having to pay £720 a year in school bus fees when T11 goes to the grammar in the autumn (plus a drive to the racecourse to get him onto the bus, about 3 miles away). But it's our decision to pursue the grammar education for him. Even so, were he going to go to the local comp, it would be a tenner a week in bus fares which would add up - no school bus. Only a mile and a half away but a nasty bendy fast country lane so no way I'd let him walk or cycle. Too many trashed cars spun off into trees litter the route. But as Zoe says so wisely, resources are finite and if everyone can contribute something it helps. It does seem unfair about the fractionally nearer school being free to travel to, but they all have their rules and bending them for everyone would be time-consuming. It's got to be worth a calm rational letter as Fennie suggests, stressing Amy's special needs - nothing to lose?

Posted by: Milla on 2nd Apr 2008 at 10:26AM

Crystal Jigsaw's Avatar Zoe, I am not fighting a battle for transport. I understand where you are coming from but if you saw where I live you would appreciate why £270 is a lot of money. What would I do if I didn't drive? What happens if I have another seizure which can happen anytime? I know all these things are not the "tax payer's" problem and I would never expect the "tax payer" to fork out for Amy to get to and from school. However, some poor folk can't afford that money, they have no transport of their own and would have no choice but to appeal. That was the point I was making. Not to mention the fact that Amy is actually entitled to an assistant to drive in the taxi with her as part of her statement. Who pays for that?

Thank you for your replies,
CJ xx

Posted by: Crystal Jigsaw on 2nd Apr 2008 at 10:31AM

Hi i've had the same dilemma with nell, we finaly got her moved from the hell hole she was in to a new school 12 miles away, the bus for that school collects 2 welsh speaking children in the village up at no chargeConfused but i have to pay the same as you because it isnt the nearest school but the cost still out weighs petrol and time 48miles a day Shocked and nells happy ..

Posted by: Bodran on 2nd Apr 2008 at 10:33AM

CJ if a seizure can happen at any time, and you are not a controlled epileptic, I don't understand how you can drive legally anyway? I know my mate Andy is banned for life

I am not sure what you mean about where you live and why £270 is worth more there than here... are we talking remoteness, £270 is a lot of money to most households? Our local catchment comprehensive is over 5 miles away. The primary school was almost 7 miles away.

Posted by: ZoŽ on 2nd Apr 2008 at 10:44AM

Crystal Jigsaw's Avatar My epilepsy is controlled with medication. I have been declared safe to drive for 3 years now. We are quite remote here. I really don't want to get into a disagreement about this. I was merely sharing a rant!

Posted by: Crystal Jigsaw on 2nd Apr 2008 at 10:56AM

I wasnt looking to get into an arguement CJ, just confused why you thought where you lived was any different from where I live, thats all.

I leave it there, as I said above, I understand the difficulties all too well, having been through it myself.

Posted by: ZoŽ on 2nd Apr 2008 at 11:02AM

We were so remote that we set up our own school. Our nearest school was thirty miles away and that included a small boat (16') crossing a sea loch. The road went over a high moor with snow gates

But then Life is never as hard as it was

Posted by: Miss penelope on 2nd Apr 2008 at 11:04AM

Crystal Jigsaw's Avatar Smile

Posted by: Crystal Jigsaw on 2nd Apr 2008 at 11:09AM

Very Happy

Posted by: ZoŽ on 2nd Apr 2008 at 11:26AM

Ivy's Avatar I do understand that it is frustrating to receive a letter like that but we never got free transport for our kids so I am astounded that this is free at all in some countries. We pay roughly 23,GBP per month per child so that is about the same amount you are asked to pay for Amy's transport and they are using public transport not a taxi or school bus. If we had just one child the cost would be higher (you pay full price for the first child and then get a reduction for the sibling) I know this probably does not help but maybe you are not feeling treated as badly as before.

Posted by: Ivy on 2nd Apr 2008 at 11:31AM

Vic's Avatar They will usually only pay for transport if the child goes to the school in the catchment area. We had a problem with my daughter, she is a year ahead in age terms. When she went to high school, the LEA wanted us to pay for the bus because she should have been at the middle school really because of her age. I did win that battle, but she starts 6th form in September. She has to go cos she's 15 but I bet I won't get free transport!

Posted by: Vic on 2nd Apr 2008 at 12:18PM

Westerwitch's Avatar I think if an area do offer you free transport - then clearly you are already paying for that in Council Taxes, taxes, whatever, but you will be paying of it. So maybe the compromise you could suggest is that LEA pay for Amy to go as far as the CofE School and you pay the balance. You have every right to claim for something you are already paying for - but not if it is something not offered by the area you are in and you do have to ask. In England I ferried our kids too and from first school for years and then later found out I was entitled to a Taxi which was never offered and didn't know to ask for and I was refused a rebate on the petrol I had used. In Scotland our kids were entitled to free transport and as their senior school was 17 miles away I was very glad of this - but of course I paid for it I assume in council taxes. Let's face it nothing is free and we have to fight what we are entitled too as it is rare that things are just offered.

Posted by: Westerwitch on 2nd Apr 2008 at 12:57PM

Crystal, I do not have any experience of anything like this but am
sorry you always seem to have to fight so hard for Amy. As a childless taxpayer I would rather my money went to help with things like this than wide screen tellies and coffee machines for MPs second homes!

Posted by: Fern on 2nd Apr 2008 at 02:14PM

Should that have been tellys??

Posted by: Fern on 2nd Apr 2008 at 02:15PM

Milla's Avatar Very true, Fern. Edward blogged about this today (and a few weeks ago, he's nothing if not cross about it) - rotwatch
- not Amy, I rush to add, but MPs and their wives at the trough.

Posted by: Milla on 2nd Apr 2008 at 02:23PM

Hi Crystal

You've had some great advice there-how unfair it all is with how these matters are decided.

My boys have free transport on the rural buses now because we live in the sticks! Yet when C went to previous school we used to pay over £1.50 per day to get him less than 1 and a half miles to school. I would happily pay for the safe journey he gets now on the council supplied bus and let a child, more worthy have the money. it seems very unfair with your issues.

So lots of dogged determination, which I know you are good at and naming and shaming and pins in the eyes for those who are being difficult and I agree, with your pen power, a carefully worded letter is most appropriate...
with a copy to your local MP maybe?

Chin up my friend

Posted by: Country Craft Angel on 2nd Apr 2008 at 02:58PM

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