Being booed by a public gallery full of parents of children with special educational needs must be a first for a Leader of Derby City Council!
These were not superficial boos from a collection of rabble-rousers with nothing better to do on a Wednesday night than to taunt you, it was the result of months, and years of frustration about how they have been treated by your Council. The last straw in this, is the fact that their children, and those with special educational needs are the most impacted, have had very little schooling since the beginning of the year. Something for which your Council has a legal obligation to provide. Some might view that your current policy is discriminatory as you are allowing the disabled community to be most disadvantaged.
Your Council fails to engage with Parents on a level which respects their perspective, and addresses your legal obligation. Any conversations get reduced to blaming UNISON and calling on them to end the strike. UNISON don’t have the accountability to educate – you do!
But if you think the only concern of the parents is the consequence of the TA strikes on their child’s education then you are sadly mistaken. If you speak to any parent you will hear of the years of anguish, anxiety, fight, battles and sheer frustration in trying to get their child their human right to an appropriate education. This is nothing to do with funding. This is about how they are being treated by Council employees – the lack of communication, the delaying tactics, poor understanding and training, the seemingly deliberate policy of blocking SEN statements/EHCPs to then allow them after appeals. This is not idle anecdote – I have spoken to many parents over the last 12 months, I am aware of comments from Council employed professionals, who are shocked by your tactics, and others, who are afraid to speak out.
What you heard last night was parents venting their anger after many years of being ignored.
I know you have tried to engage with parents but singularly fail to understand their problem causing more anguish by your attitude. Anyone who seeks to take you to task, you either simply ignore, block on Twitter, or in my case, refer to as “Fake News”…you will not meet with anyone to hear their concerns. Parents feel as though they are being fobbed off on a subject which is damaging the lives of their children. This is not melodrama. Across the range of parents I have spoken to this is a very common theme where independent professionals have seen dramatic reductions in behaviour and emotional state due to the incompetent performance of your Council.
It is for this, and more, why you were booed last night. What was the answer of the Council? To ban everyone from the public gallery, so all dissent can be muted. It does not go away, it becomes more pressurised.
You declare Special Educational Needs children as a priority, yet, your actions simply do not bear this out. They are being treated in an uncivilised way. There was no statement in your Budget document to try and rectify this – that speaks volumes about how important you consider this.
I urge you to reflect on the message from the protest last night, and be creative in your personal approach, and how you direct the Council that you lead. You owe a “duty of care” to these children, who are “vulnerable” and their health damages are “reasonably foreseeable” and enough insight has been given to you about this possibility – you now have a personal accountability…and duty.