This post has been brewing for a long time. But I've decided it's about time someone stepped out from the line and spoke up about services and schools in Worcestershire. Before I go any further I'd like to say that I have great respect for a number of teachers, schools and teachers for the deaf within Worcestershire - some of whom I know on a personal level and get on with very well.
The first time I experienced problems with Worcestershire County was when i transferred to a new sixth form. At that point the only support I had at school was a radio aid and infrequent ToD visits - I didnt need anything else and thats what we told the school.
About two months in to sixth form I had a very bad ear infection and other complications that caused me to lose some of my hearing and since then my hearing has for one reason or another continued to worsen. Nobody understands why, despite extensive testing at Worcester, London and Birmingham hospitals.
I know that sounds like a lot of hospitals and let me explain the reason why. When I lost my hearing the head of services for deaf students in Worcestershire contacted my parents and told them that the service belived I was lying about my hearing loss. The reasons given were a) that my hearing loss fluctuates and b) that my speech was too good.
We have since been told that a fluctuating hearing loss is characteristic of the type of hearing loss I have. As for my speech, I didn't even wear hearing aids until my early teens. Of course I have pretty decent speech. What a stupid comment.
I'd just like to emphasise that these comments and judgements were made by a man who had at that point never met me. Over the past couple of years he has stuck to his views despite extensive objective testing which I've had purely to prove him wrong - because if I couldnt prove him wrong then his service would remove all my support.
Whilst this was going on I totally failed my first year of my A levels - I put this down to a mixture of stress and an extreme lack of support.
The lack of support culminated when the county audiologist arrived unannounced at school during my mock A level French exam and demanded to see me. When told this was impossible she kicked up as much fuss as possible; when my Mum complained the county audiologist told my Mum that I had been extremely rude to her. I'd barely said to words I was so scared.
At the suggestion of friends my Dad took me to look around Mary Hare - and although we now accept that it probably would not have been the right choice for me we decided to ask the council to fund a place for me. With no consideration at all the answer came back no. This is not unusual but over the next six or seven months we fought against the council who despite medical evidence from two hospitals still denied that I was deaf.
Try coming to terms with the fact that you can no longer hear, in the middle of that argument.
After a lengthy process - and lots of help from NDCS!!! - we eventually came away with a mediation agreement stating that I would have a full time note-taker. It took the council a further ten months to sort this out. At one point I had four different note-takers and still not all my lessons we covered.
We had hoped that the school would be more supportive - fat chance. My school became an academy last year and from that point on everytime extra support was mentioned they ran for the hills and refused to answer emails or phone calls. At one point my Mum urgently needed to talk to the SENco - she left a million messages, sent hundreds of emails. In two years of me being at the school my parents met and spoke the SENco once.
Things got worse at the beginning of this year; I've been ill for a while now and unfortunately I've had a bit of time off school. A lot of the time through sheer exhaustion that I haven't physically been able to overcome.
One day I went to school as usual. I had three lessons: Chemistry, Psychology and finally Biology. I attended all three and as we have a "cake day" once a week in Biology I even made and took in a chocolate cake as it was my turn that week. Period four (after lunch) as class ended my head of year came in to talk to me about my UCAS application. After that I went to biology - ate cake - and then walked to Mums office as normal. When I arrived she was in a total panic. At 3.30pm, just 20 minutes after having seen and spoken to me in a lesson. My head of year had phoned Mums work telling reception it was an "emergency" and told my Mum that I had truanted every single lesson that day. My Mum asked her what I'd done with the cake...
Instead of apologising for what was clearly a misunderstanding the next day my head of year dragged me out of my form room and shouted at me for not attending lessons.
Things like this happen on a regular basis between us, the hearing services and the school.
My reason for finally wiritng this blog is this.
Last Friday I was off ill; I was still ill on Monday. I went back to school on Tuesday and by break-time I'd passed out twice and been sent home.
Before being sent home on Tuesday I went to collect my notes from the SENco's office for the lessons I had missed. The file was missing, after much searching with a lovely TA we found my notes. At the top of my notes was a green sticky label on which the note-taker had written "withhold from NG until reasonable explanation for absence given and discussed with SENco."
It goes further... At the top of each individual page was a note saying "unauthorised absence" or "student absent, reason unknown."
Now I wouldn't mind as much but on that day my ToD had been told I was ill. They'd been given more of an explanation than they necessarily needed as far as I'm concerned...
These are the notes that sit in my file next to my work and they have "withhold" written all over them. Well that's great. But why would they need to be withheld?! And why write it on the notes?
Last night my Mum emailed the head of service - also my ToD to raise this question. The email she's had back answers every other point in the email other than the one she actually wanted answered. It says that we seem to be confused; that he'd like to meet her in person. That we haven't established the correct timeline. What timeline?!?!?! there is no timeline...!
Enough of my rant; my point is this. As far as I'm concerned the situation in Worcestershire is getting worse.
This year two part time ToDs were let go. This summer one senior ToD retires. The head of service took partial retirement at the beginning of this year. None of these people will be replaced.
A few months ago a group of us had problems with our Radio Aids and Receivers. The county have informed our families that they have no budget to buy new equipment - even though Phonak themselves have recommended this.
This is no secret amongst parent of deaf kids in Worcestershire; yet noone seems to be doing anything about it!
At the beginning of this year one of my friends had her support hours cut for no apparent reason.
Some of my friends now only see their ToD once a month or once a term whereas before this year it was every couple of weeks.
When the senior ToD leaves she will not be replaced - who will cover her students?
These are questions people need to be asking - I've tried. I wrote a letter to our local MP this year. The head of service was told about it by his boss and actually asked me not to write as it would "make things worse".
If services are being cut behind people's backs and if the budget for equipment is gone then parents deserve to know about this. And they don't!
It's about time we had a campaign about this... But noone seems to be bothered. If they are bothered they're not prepared to stick their necks out and work to campaign against cuts to services.
Come on people! Aren't we a little sick of this?! Deaf children and young people deserve better!