Academy failed me and other children with disabilities

Thomas Patrick Kendell

If you do a quick internet search on tax dodging search engine Google for “academy schools special needs/disability” you can clearly see the impact academies have on these children. The Tories, outlined in George Osborne’s budget, now plan to turn all state schools into academies.

As someone who has autism and went to a big academy school in Doncaster, I feel obliged to share my experience.

In a school with over 1,000 students it is very hard for special needs children to thrive, as there is a big rush of people. With social problems, it is very challenging to feel comfortable in such a difficult environment.

The school has a duty to look after all students, but a small minority of children with disabilities do not receive the sort of support and conditions in which they are able to have a real understanding of what is being learned and to feel valued.

As well as this, they also have strict rules, a strict dress code and disciplinary procedures. It is a real struggle for special needs students to be catered for because they’re not treated as individuals with individual needs.

I felt I had little support from the academy I attended, including an inconsistent level of care which did not meet any of my required needs. The school was split into set groups which were numbered on the child’s ability. I was in sets 4-5 for most classes when I joined, which was pretty high, but soon fell down in sets as I was struggling to cope.

I was also moved down in classes in which I was excelling in order to fit in with my timetable, which was unfair to say the least. There is a risk that children are seen as just a ‘number’ to make the school seem like they are getting good results. Sometimes they will happily expel ‘underachievers’.

The lowest sets were not even taught by qualified teachers, rather ‘special needs coordinators’. They treated the pupils’ varying needs as ‘bad behaviour’. Time management is especially challenging for these children, as academies require strict adherence to timetables.

Also, the levels of discipline in these schools are completely unacceptable even for mainstream students.

Detentions and isolation are given out on too many occasions for minor things, including perceived ‘bad behaviour’ which could be avoided with more understanding. Isolation is an appalling punishment of writing out rules for a whole school day.

When such procedures have been challenged by carers and parents, they have been dismissed. This will only continue and get worse if every school is made into an academy.