When we first started out, I thought annual reviews were about making sure our children were progressing and getting the support they needed. After a few reviews, I learned to be overly cautious if not downright scared of them.
Our first primary school invited the LA which I later learned was only done when the school thought they had a problem. Their problem was we were funded for ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis) following two tribunals. The head teacher didn’t want us in her school from the start. A few years and a few annual reviews later on a day which is etched on my memory for ever, we had three annual reviews all in a row! Yes, all three boys, one after each other. I won’t go into details but the school was determined to get us out. We had only just won our third tribunal for our third son’s ABA funding and we were not prepared to lose it.
We did leave that school a few weeks later and took our funding with us to a fabulous, supportive school closer to home and closer to our hearts. They did us a favour in many ways in kicking us out but the anxiety and stress caused by that move affected me badly.
From then onwards, annual reviews at the new school were totally supportive. We discussed the boys’ progress, we talked about how best to help them. I stopped dreading them.
Until a few more years later, when our fourth son started school and we asked for him to repeat a year, like his three older brothers had before him. We were told in no uncertain terms by the LA that he couldn’t stay down and the fact that we had asked was obviously proof to them that his ABA programme wasn’t working. They wanted to pull funding on that basis alone. That annual review involved so many reports and assessments just to prove that it was working, and working really well. I learned to be very wary of asking for any changes after that.
Fast forward to a transition review at age 16 for the twins. The LA turned up unannounced in May and declared no funding for the sixth form where they were but that they needed to move to a local college a few months later. It was a blanket policy to move all children back into the borough which has barely any special needs provision within it. It was another battle which we won but it caused so much stress while we waited to hear if we could keep them at their current, appropriate placement. We never told the boys, it would have made them so anxious and worried.
Finally today, another transition annual review for both twins. What a fabulous, supportive day. Their college believe in conducting comprehensive reviews at which everyone contributes and we discuss openly about all their needs. A really positive experience.
Do I have any advice? Only … always be on your guard, you never know who may turn up unannounced and try to wreck your world. Always have all the reports you might possibly need. Always make sure your parents’ statement outlines and enforces what your child needs. Keep one step ahead and think about what you might say if the worst happens and they try to remove your child’s provision.
I am always exhausted after every annual review and we have four each year. I get stressed in the weeks leading up to them, these days unnecessarily so, but I suppose it is a learnt behaviour now for me to worry about what might happen. The relief when we get through another one successfully is never to be underestimated.