Page last updated at 23:33 GMT, Wednesday, 10 June 2009 00:33 UK

Keeping son in school was 'abuse'

By Alison Smith
BBC News education reporter

Callum
Callum learns about things which interest him the most

When nine-year-old Callum was bullied in his first year of junior school, like many children, he bottled it all up.

But his Asperger's Syndrome meant he found it impossible to articulate to anyone what was happening.

Instead he would lash out at the bullies - not straight away, but sometimes days after the event.

Teachers who did not understand his condition treated his actions like unprovoked attacks.

His mother, Sheila, says he was fearful of most situations, hiding under tables if new people appeared.

He was "on his hands and knees begging and sobbing" because he didn't want to go to school.

"Enough was enough," she said.

"To me that would be abuse from there on - I would have been an abusive parent, sending him there."

Drained

Callum's verdict on school is: "The worst place in the world. Never again.

"Boring!"

He is quite adamant that the primary school failed him.

"I only remember that it didn't provide me with what I needed.

Callum and Sheila
We have a community, we look out for each other, people do see us. It's very difficult for our children to be hidden
Sheila, home educator

"When I got attacked, I attacked back, but I always got the blame."

Sheila says a programme to support Callum in infant school was not transferred to his new junior school, despite their requests.

Other local schools were not an option either, so Sheila, drained from the struggle of getting Callum to go to school each day, decided to educate him herself.

She had to learn too - with no teaching experiences she admits that at first she was trying to replace school.

But gradually she realised she could be guided by Callum.

Two years on, she says her son mixes much better with other people as he is no longer in fear.

Sheila can use discussion when Callum feels in the mood for talking, and cover topics in a less structured manner.

Like many with Asperger's Syndrome, he is fascinated by certain things - particularly cars and traffic.

He has a real road traffic light in his bedroom, which he can turn on and off, and decorates the garden with discarded road signs.

All these things can be used as learning aids.

Since Callum also loves everything to do with water, Sheila devised a project spanning geographical, scientific and environmental themes to last an entire year.

'Abusive state'

She says her local council, Gillingham in Kent, were supportive of her decision to home educate.

A welfare officer and home education adviser visited once in the early days, but there have been no other monitoring visits.

Sheila is sure this does not leave children who are home educated at risk of abuse.

"Most parents who home educate do so for their child - because they have had a disastrous time at school," she said.

"It is very unlikely they will be putting it into an abusive state - they are more likely to be taking it out of one to home educate.

"We have a community, we look out for each other, people do see us.

"It's very difficult for our children to be hidden."

She is somewhat cynical about the government's home education review, suggesting that it was launched to deflect attention from the more difficult problem of children's services which have allowed child abuse to slip through the net.

"It feels like they are accusing us," she said.

"We don't tick their boxes and they don't like it."



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