The schoolbag is packed. It contains exercise books, pencilcase, long ruler, timetable, planner and a space for the water bottle.
I know, because I packed it myself. I know, because it sits there every day, mocking me. The bag sits smug and full and pristine, and mocks me.
When I walk past it, I am reminded that my child has not been able to go to school again. I have phoned the school absence line again and have given the same details of ‘child’s name, year group, reason for absence’.
And yet… If I put the bag away, out of sight, it means accepting that this is the new normal, accepting that maybe the adjustments needed for my child to manage in mainstream education are just too many and too complicated to arrange. It means accepting that maybe a different sort of education needs to be found. Something perhaps fashioned out of elements carefully chosen from various education models.
Good mental health is far more precious than forcing someone to fit into an environment which causes them such intense anxiety that they can barely breathe. Without some sort of plan (however vague or flexible), no learning will take place in these formative years, which isn’t right either.
Surely it is better to keep the child’s trust in the parents, keep the child’s faith that they will put his or her wellbeing first and that, as adults who know him or her very well, they will find a way which works. It may not end in GCSEs at 16 but it may instead spark an interest in learning itself rather than in simply attending school just because that’s what most children do.
It is a daunting challenge to even consider opting out of the standard education system and improvise an education in which mental and emotional wellbeing is at its centre. One size certainly does not fit all where education is concerned. No one ever claimed parenting was easy!