Start Here – a transitions diary: JUNE

Follow Harry* and his mum in their own words through his final year in school, planning and preparing for his next steps.

*Names have been changed

You never forget kindness

What a star! Harry’s trophy from school prizegiving

The story so far…

For all young people, leaving school is the end of one chapter in their lives and the beginning of another. Harry’s last year in school hasn’t always gone as planned – in and out of lockdown, few in-person meetings and some uphill struggles to get planning and support on track. He has a place in college, but many questions are still awaiting answers and there are plenty of loose ends still trailing. For now though tomorrow can wait … it’s about celebrating how far he’s come!

Read previous instalments here: AugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecemberJanuaryFebruaryMarchApril; May

June 2021

June whooshed by in a flash. Can’t quite believe that is Harry’s secondary education complete now.

Harry’s education journey

I’m so very glad he was at a special school for this part of his education journey.  

A disastrous primary one placement really threw him – he was constantly in trouble for not being fast enough, whether to get changed for PE or to read and write. He got no extra support despite the school having his epilepsy diagnosis and slight brain damage highlighted, and I had to fight for an educational psychologist (the headteacher gave me a row for involving them). Even then he never got the support he deserved.  

To be told at the end of P1: “We don’t think your son should move to P2, he should repeat P1 or start P2 elsewhere – and he will never pass an exam in his life,” was, at the time, a real kick in the teeth.

A mad scramble ensued, calling all the local schools to find they had no places and his primary had already rung ahead to “advise them” of his issues – in other words, effectively blackballing him.  

Eventually in the next council area we found a very small, Roman Catholic primary who seemed sympathetic. Harry was invited to visit, given the tour and introduced to the other pupils. I will never forget the school secretary finding him a spare jumper so he would feel part of the place, or the very kind phone call during the summer from the headteacher welcoming us as a family and reassuring us of a clean slate.

His following primary years were like day and night in comparison.  

He was assessed by an educational psychologist and occupational therapy, various adjustments were suggested, and in the smaller composite classes he learned. But by P5 the gaps between him and his peers were more obvious and his headteacher was very honest with us that it would do no harm to look at specialist provision. Harry was still made to feel like a valued member of the school and when the time came they supported us fully to apply to special school.

He started not knowing anyone in his year. He could read very simple books, his writing skills were poor, he couldn’t tell the time, was confused about money (aren’t we all?!?) and still learning who he was as a person.

Now 6 years down the line, although he isn’t at the level of his mainstream peers, his reading skills are much improved and his writing, although still childish, is legible.  He has a basic grasp of money, time, weights and measures. He knows about different countries and has a grasp of current affairs.  He knows how to keep himself safe, he understands the basic premise of relationships with others and the meaning of consent.

 In other words he’s pretty damn amazing!  

He also has Nat 1 and 2 certificates plus extra curricular achievements including the John Muir Discovery Award, and Saltire 25 and 50 hour awards for volunteering.  

I would love to see that headteacher from Primary 1 now and show her what a successful young man he is despite her dire forewarnings.

Harry made a speech at school thanking his classmates and teachers, saying how excited he is for college but also how sad he is to leave.  He came home with a gorgeous photo book with photos of him through the years and a folder of achievements – it made me realise how far he has come.

Does the left hand know what the right hand’s doing?

We’d wondered why we seemed to have heard nothing from college, as Harry was looking for answers I couldn’t give him. Then we discovered school had set Harry up with a Gmail account and that all his college information, including funding information and a health questionnaire, had been going to that email. Harry of course was blissfully unaware!  

We managed to get things tidied up – but again it made me wonder how students with disabilities manage if they don’t have someone who can fill out endless forms for them?

Last school day

Adult Social Care Direct rang to say they would continue 4 hours support per week with a review in September.  But the social worker was nippy when I told her I had been using more than 4 hours in the Easter holidays and had hoped to do the same in the summer, as we had so many hours we couldn’t use due to the delay in getting things fixed. She was really cross with me and made a point of reminding me that the SDS budget isn’t mine: “It’s still council money and everything has to be accounted for”.

I explained I had permission to do so from the Children and Families Social Work team, but it left a bad taste in the mouth. 

This conversation took place on the final morning of the last day of school, and when I came off the call I couldn’t get Teams to work so missed the leavers assembly and rang the school in tears.  They calmed me down and got someone to call me back to say they were recording it and going to put it on the school website with a password.  I was so relieved. 

The school maybe couldn’t have a prom but they made each leaver a special good luck poster that featured photos of them through the years at school. They also had a balloon arch and a piper with a red carpet for their final time leaving. 

We then went straight to college, as one big thing that was worrying Harry was that he knows how to get there but not where to go when he gets in the door!  Thankfully we got a little tour and reassurance that college would be in touch over the summer to finalise his timetable and starting times. 

Finally, Harry went off to a bowling party for a friend from school.  He had a lovely time but was so stuffed from eating party food “all day” he didn’t want any dinner, had an early bath and wanted to go to bed at ten past seven! I managed to keep him up till 8 but finally let him go to bed and he was crashed out, fast asleep by 8.20.

On to pastures new…

Harry’s Mum

Harry’s followers and fans will be pleased to know we’re going to stay with him as he gets ready to start college and find out how those vital first few weeks go.