We are the forgotten: the pandemic has shown how little our vulnerable and disabled children are valued

Attend or de-register. This is certainly not inclusion.

Parents United member Jeanette describes the frustrations being endured by families like hers, whose children are clinically vulnerable, and whose needs have not been met as a result of the Department for Education’s one-size-fits-all pandemic response.

My daughter is 10 years old and classed as clinically vulnerable. My GP asked me to remove her from school in February 2020, before the first national lockdown, and we have been shielding ever since.

Due to complex medical needs, we have an Education and Health Care Plan. Despite this, my primary school initially asked me to deregister her and remove her from roll. (Emails can be provided) I was disgusted. The LA intervened and ensured that she remained on the school register -the school have not asked again. Without her EHCP, I fear I would have been forced to do so.

For over a year , apart from informal chat zoom calls with a teacher on an ad hoc basis, we have had no structured and consistent, weekly educational support. We were only offered daily zoom lessons in January when schools were forced to provide this for the masses.  We have had no individual or tailored support, and we have been left to home educate alone and isolated. Even though my daughter has an EHCP, it has counted for nothing during Covid.

It is utterly abhorrent that parents have been forced to return their CV children to school due to the threat of fines or de -registration. Bullying does not instil confidence and schools cannot guarantee a safe environment when very little mitigating measures have been enforced. This needs to change immediately and any child forced out of education should be enrolled back with immediate effect.

Furthermore, I’m utterly outraged that the government continually refuse to acknowledge that these children exist and are still shielding. Not all the vulnerable have been vaccinated as they suggest, as there is no emergency approval for a Covid vaccine in the under 18s. Moreover, there is never any government update on a roadmap forward or any information on how and when it is likely the CV children will be offered a vaccine. It is utterly unacceptable to ignore these families.

The toll this pandemic has taken on our mental health is immeasurable. Many of these families will never be the same emotionally or mentally. We are the forgotten. It has also shone a light on how such little value is placed on our vulnerable and disabled children in society.

The pandemic has shown that inclusion does not exist in our schools. Rather than provide a supportive stance – one with flexibility, creativity and realism in such unprecedented times, all that has been done is a one size fits all approach. Either attend or be de- register. This is certainly not inclusion.

I am a teacher, and after this experience of being isolated and set adrift by mainstream education, I would never return to the profession. I’ve been appalled with how so many schools have treated their vulnerable children and families.

If your family is similarly affected support is available at our Facebook group. You can share your own story here.

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