I live in an incredibly wealthy city. A city that is full to the brim of academics, doctors, and entrepreneurs. House prices here are only for the rich, and expensive private schools decorate the city centre like gold leaf. Last week I went to St. John’s College May Ball, where the smell of money drifted through every archway and over every bridge, eventually exploding in to the sky in the most incredible firework display I have ever had the pleasure to witness. They say that money talks, but in Cambridge it doesn’t talk at all – it shouts. And I’ll admit that over the past 15 years I have become decidedly attached to its lavish charms. I am lucky. I go to balls. I climb atop King’s College Chapel roof, and dine with the Fellows in college halls. I know amazing people who invite me to amazing parties. I love Cambridge. I am Cambridge.
For the past few weeks I have been working with Sawyer’s school to apply for what is known as an EHCP. Education Health and Care Plans are designed for children and young people aged up to 25 who need more support than is available through special educational needs support (which, by the way, is almost nothing). The plans supposedly identify educational, health and social needs and set out the additional support to meet those needs. Sawyer cannot access the curriculum in the same way his peers can, and I have doubts as to whether his school have the resources available to even ensure his safety each day. It isn’t their fault – they are overstretched already. They simply have no money.
At the end of May we sent off for Sawyer’s EHCP. The application was vast and thorough, and took several weeks to compile. Broken in to sections, the application asks for intricate details, extensive reports, consistently documented evidence, and more. We went through the form and ticked as many boxes as possible, thinking of examples that would properly evidence whatever it was that they seemed to be looking for. The most saddening, heart-breaking part of the entire process wasn’t reading about the fact that Sawyer doesn’t form close friendships, that he distances himself from other children, or that he isn’t reaching the targets expected of his year group (or the one below that). The heart-breaking part was realising that in order to get help, Sawyer first needs to fail. Brenda from Early Support told me plainly years ago that Sawyer had ‘too many positives’ to get a diagnosis, and sadly his educational life so far has followed that same pattern. Sawyer isn’t violent, he isn’t rude and he certainly isn’t beyond help. And therein lies the irony. He isn’t beyond help, and thus he is beyond help.
After two-and-half weeks the local authority sent me further forms to fill in with evidence of Sawyer’s issues and what my beliefs are surrounding his educational needs. I sent the forms off yesterday and they will have received it all today. They now have four weeks left to decide if they will even agree to assess his additional needs. Currently on their desk is 4 years worth of evidence, and the agreement from every health and education professional who has ever come in to contact with him. It is currently all lying on a desk somewhere, waiting for someone to decide if they will even bother to assess him.
In Cambridge, money shouts. Yet for Sawyer, money here is painfully mute.