Local authorities and parents have been struggling to find alternative schools for children who had been attending the Royal School for Deaf Children since it closed down suddenly in December. Some of these parents talk to Kevin Watson about how they only heard about the school’s closure by email on the day it shut its doors and how their children have been faring since.
“Sasha needs a BSL environment but finding one that can accommodate her needs is hard”
My daughter, Sasha, is 11. She is profoundly deaf, has no spoken language and is a BSL user. Sasha also has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and a feeding tube.
She has two younger brothers. Joshua is five and also out of school because there are no places for him at our local schools and a baby brother who is seven weeks old.
Sasha has been educated in a deaf school since she was six years old. She was previously at a school in the south-west before moving to RSDCM in September 2014. They were more able to meet her complex needs so we moved to Kent for her to be a day student.
“As Margate was more able to meet Sasha’s complex needs we moved from the south-west to Kent so she could attend as a day student”
The closure of RSDCM was a shock for me. I was at the school when the administrators were called in and also on the Friday when they announced the closure to staff in a meeting. It was dealt with in a terrible way because staff, students and parents had no time to say good bye and there was no way of preparing our children to deal with the sudden change.
Sasha at first didn’t understand and then became very frustrated and angry. But parents have arranged regular meet-ups for a group of children each week. They attend activities together such as horse riding, art session, drama group, swimming and soft play.
Sasha was offered a place at the hearing impairment class at a maintained special needs school in Thanet. The class is currently made up of three younger children from RSDCM and they have staffed it with a teacher and TAs from Margate.
I refused the place because Kent County Council were unable to provide Sasha with a 1:1 support worker or the intense therapy services that she received at RSDCM. I’m frustrated with the system and I can’t understand how KCC were able to pay for all her requirements at Margate but are now not willing to find the funds to meet her needs. Local authorities are saving themselves a lot of money by placing children in maintained schools but they are not meeting these children’s needs.
We have also had assessments at two deaf schools, one in London and the other in Brighton. The deaf school in London was unable to meet Sasha’s needs.
I feel strongly that Sasha should continue to have a rich BSL environment but finding somewhere that can also meet her complex needs is very difficult.
Since the closure of the school Sasha has received no physiotherapy and I have received no support from Kent County Council or social services for helping to continue educating her at home until a suitable school is found.