Some things make me so angry that I really feel my head may explode. I think one of the most annoying comments during this recent bout of illness for Herbie is the one regarding his education. In September 2013 Herbie started Primary School. He was so excited, his new class opened a whole world of opportunity. He asked daily when he would get his first reading book, told me in detail each lesson in maths, phonics and made us proud with his eagerness to learn. He had seen his big sisters and brother attend this school, he knew the drill, he wanted in! His puffed out chest and smiling face as he first put on his uniform is forever imprinted on my memory. He is a social butterfly, when I ask every day at 3pm “who did you play with today?” He replies “everyone, I like everyone, they are all my friends”. He tells me about the Christmas play, his dream to be a sheep in it (?) and sings the songs he’s started learning. He brings amazing junk models home and pretty much hogs the Monsters Inc Sully costume on a daily basis.
By his first parent’s evening in November he is off school ill, he has had a temperature for 2 days. “He’s made a great start” his teacher tells me “he’s such a comedian too”. He is, Herbie loves nothing more than ‘having a giggle and making people laugh’. We often discuss his perfect comic timing! I tell her, he’ll be back soon. Couple of days off at the most.
Herbie hasn’t been back to school since November 15th 2013.
Apparently many people believe this isn’t an issue…it is. Maybe they forget that I myself am a Foundation Stage teacher. I know exactly what he is missing and I know he wants to be back at school. During his hospital visits he attends hospital school when he can. He cooks, makes an amazing lantern, practises his phonics, his numbers and plays drums and other instruments. It’s a wonderful resource, he loves Juliet his teacher. During two weeks in lock down in a room in Bellhouse Drayson Ward in the Oxford Children’s hospital, Juliet brings school to him. We both look forward to this hour of respite , for me I can leave the room and drink tea! For him he can capture a moment or two of normality. One morning when the doctors come round they comment on how down he seems, he won’t speak or get up off of the bed. Finally he whispers to me why he is so down. His answer is not what I expect. He doesn’t ask to go home, to leave the confines of the room or even to have a break from the endless oral and iv medication. He simply says “why didn’t the teacher come, I wanted her to”
Juliet is brilliant, she tells me that he is entitled to outreach teaching and offers to liaise with everyone and sort it out. Today, March 3rd, Herbie had his first session with his outreach teacher, Victoria. He greets her dressed as a fox. He runs eagerly to see what she has in store and for just over an hour, as I potter around the house , they laugh, giggle and learn together. My heart sings! “When will she come again?” he asks just ten minutes after she has gone. “I want her to come every day.”
So the answer is “yes he is missing vital things when he can’t go to school” , he’s missed his first Christmas production, his first Christmas Fayre, First world book day and most of all he is missing out on learning and the social world of school that he loves so much. If they had witnessed his tears last Friday after he was reunited with his buddies in the playground when he asked me “can I go back to school now?” And I said “not yet” ,perhaps they would not say “it’s ok, he’s not missing much” …