PRESS RELEASE MAY 2013

Press Release re Elluminate Ourlives

 

“When our 15 yr old was diagnosed with cancer, we thought that was the

only battle we had to face, now we have to fight for her to get her education”

 

 

 

Every day, all across Northern Ireland, there are 1000s of children of school age who are not in school. This may be due to an issue concerning the child, or due to a school without sufficient training, resources, protection, ability or capacity to provide the environment a particular child needs in order to be able to manage in school. These children need options and access to education immediately today and every day.

 

Please see headings below for who we are, what Elluminate is, why it is important, who may need it, when they need it, what is the problem, what we want the Government to do, what we need people to do and additional information.

We Need and Appreciate Your Help for These Children In Need.

 

Who We Are;

Elluminate Ourlives Campaign group are a newly forming and growing group of parents whose children are out of school, or at risk of leaving school before they complete their primary or secondary education. Our children are those who are ill, have disabilities or other conditions that mean they are unable to attend school or are suffering acutely within the school setting and may need to be removed by parents to end their intense distress as parents observe their health declining. Currently most of those joining the new group are those with children who have a diagnosis of Autism in particular Asperger syndrome and those with cancer; we are also aware of many young people with long term illness and who wish to connect to learning but are currently being blocked or not offered the facility we seek. What we are asking for is just as relevant for any child unable to attend school due to any illness, or other factor preventing them from attending such as suspension, or expulsion or children from the travelling community, or those who had to opt for home schooling by necessity and they or their children may wish to access teachers and the curriculum.

We have come together to campaign to tell people about Elluminate and to ask the government to sort out the problems blocking young people from accessing this critical lifeline to their education and thus their future.

We are linking with parents in need across NI and setting up groups and a campaign Enabler for each Education and Library board area in Northern Ireland.

 

What is Elluminate?

Elluminate is computer software programme that has the capacity, among other functions, to allow a child to access their school classroom or other learning centre from their home computer or computer outside of school or in school - anywhere. C2 K's Elluminate was made available to all primary post primary and special schools in September 2011 and training was offered to all schools between September and December 2011 and remains available to all schools which require it. The video conferencing / collaboration facility of Elluminate provides a variety of online e-learning opportunities to staff and pupils. This could be to link to educational events, to link to a different teacher in another school and to offer tuition to pupils outside mainstream school settings at home.

According to C2k 618 primary/ post primary schools received training in Elluminate with a total of 1,265 staff trained (in Sept-Dec 2011)

 For example it has been used for; connecting to a book launch, connecting to an event and resources, to deliver training and for a number of pupils within EOTAS (Education other than at school) settings in Newry / Craigavon district have been using Elluminate for tutoring / home schooling. It is also being currently used by a pupil of a grammar school who is based at home to connect to live lessons.

Elluminate can be used to open up the classroom to pupils who are at home for example a pupil who is recovering from an illness can be linked to their classes by the teacher who is based at school.

 

Why Is It Important?

Already disadvantaged, these are some of our most vulnerable children, often they get no education, or a couple of hours of home tuition or their parents doing their best to educate at home. Currently when a child suffers acutely, often developing severe mental health problem due to school environment parents (already under pressure) are often threatened with prosecution and bullied in an effort to force them to force their very vulnerable child into school. This often results in already vulnerable young people more suffering severe mental health issues, depression, panic attacks, self-harm, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and becoming at risk of harm. The whole experience leaves families in despair.

Children who are unable to attend school due to short or long term illness but feel able and wish to participate in some or all of their school lessons should be allowed to in order to lessen the impact of their illness on their future. Many find engaging with learning therapeutic and aids their recovery, they feel connected and more focused on their ambitions for the future. Those who are suspended or expelled should not be further distanced from a positive future by not having access to their teacher’s lessons.

Elluminate can illuminate lives both of the young person and the family in despair. It helps greatly to restore hope, confidence, self-esteem, as they re-engage improved mental health, choices in how many subjects they can manage, optimism and choices for their future. Elluminate can help restore equality of education and opportunity to those young people most disadvantaged simply by the click on a link to a classroom.

 

Who May Need It?

 Young people who cannot attend school because they are ill, or have a disability or cannot cope with school due to sensory issues and are not at school. Those who are in school and suffering acutely due to school environment in order to get their education, some are suicidal, others have anorexia, others with disabilities coming home regularly bruised or devastated by the bullying they are suffering in school, often resulting in suicide attempts and sadly sometime completing suicide. Young people who are suspended or expelled as they could not manage their behaviour in school often due to undiagnosed disabilities. Such young people are 70% more likely to end up in youth justice system. 80% of those in prison have often undiagnosed learning disabilities or autistic spectrum disorder.

What the WELB say about C2k on their website ........."This access to learning is particularly helpful to pupils unable to attend school because of illness, severe weather conditions or prolonged absence........"

When Do They Need It?

Urgently, we cannot delay the delivery of this to young people in need. Those who are out of school are getting little or nothing by way of education, this having a huge negative impact on already vulnerable people, their wellbeing, their futures and their families. We must Elluminate their lives as a priority. Every month of their young lives they do not get the education they need and deserve impacts negatively on them, their families and their future.

What Is The Problem?

Nobody knows about it. Only a small handful of the children in need are getting it.  It’s not being offered to those who need it. Some unions are still blocking it since last September – but it is not the union’s responsibility to educate our children –it is ELBs.  This is not the priority it should be. These are our most vulnerable children in NI, there is no point of contact for parents who need it for their children, and they are meeting a brick wall when they ask for it. Some in the Education and Library boards think it’s a summer scheme. Many teachers have never heard of it so how can they provide for a child absent from their class? The financial impact of failing these children and creating an avoidable dependence of benefits, and adding to their vulnerability is immense. The solution is funded, resourced and effective – but not being made available.

 

What We Want The Government To Do;

 

At the time of writing these are the things we consider need to happen to Elluminate the lives of many of the most in need in Northern Ireland.

 

 1. Recognition by the Department of Education, ELBs and C2K that this issue is urgent. Whatever the wonderful aspirations they planned for C2K as additional added value for those children in and able to stay in school, the priority must be given to those children who are out of school and out of mind and getting little or no education.  There are today real young people, real lives, real needs, right now. Elluminate for those in need has been blocked for over nine months now. We need it opened up and made available urgently. Each day and month is an important one in a child's education. Elluminate is a vital connection for those most in need. We need the government that gave this £170 million of tax paying parent’s money to make meeting the needs of young people in need, often with disabilities it’s No 1 priority.

 

 2. Tell people about it. Parents and young people need to know what Elluminate is, how it works and how to access it. Most teachers asked locally knew nothing about it, were suspicious of it and did not understand how it worked.  An urgent bulletin needs to go to all teachers explaining it, how it works and that there are no child protection issues with its use – otherwise they can’t offer it to a child who needs it.  All organisations who may have contact or provide support to those in need, should be made aware of the facility immediately. All relevant people for example; GP's social workers, CAMHS, paediatricians, educational psychologists, EOTAS, EWOs, in patient mental health facilities, police, youth justice, disability support organisations, autism support groups, probation services, Extern, youth workers, care homes for children in care, organisations supporting travelling communities, those currently networked with home educators such as HEDNI and Education Otherwise and anyone else who may be a point of contact for a young person who may be unable to attend school. Schools themselves need to be directed to tell parents and young people who are having difficulty attending school about the facility.

 

 3. The NASUWT or any other union is not responsible for providing education for children, the Education and Library Boards are and need to provide according to our children's needs. Even if teachers in NASUWT continue to block in an individual school, an internet link for a child could be provided from any computer anywhere in the UK following the same curriculum. Other private costly internet schools have students all over the UK. This would allow young people needing access to education now to get it immediately. There are options via internet to provide access to those in need, the teacher could be anywhere, consideration could be given to how home tuition service could blend with this however aptitudes of young people should also be considered if moving out of current school / level. Interim measures should be given urgent consideration if some board areas or schools are lagging skills resources or commitment to the needs of the most vulnerable children. Eg a maths teacher could be in any board for the GCSE students in need. However, for continuity, and practical reasons, concerning learning resources, a child should be able to link to their normal local classroom they are registered with.  Teachers should be open and transparent about their time with our children in the classroom and should want to extend learning opportunity to a child unable to be in school via this e learning opportunity. It should be about the child’s needs, that is what they are employed for and paid for, and that is their legal obligation, to adjust to the child’s needs and educate all our children equally so they are not disadvantaged by illness, or disability, or being unable to manage the school system.

 

 4. Currently the decision of how Elluminate is deployed rests at school level. Given the widespread needs of vulnerable young people across every area of Northern Ireland and the spend of £170 million of tax payers’ money, no school should be able to opt out of facilitating Elluminate  or have a veto on education for those young people most in need.

 

5. We want the government to appoint a Department of Education official, trained in special needs, who can understand and act as a point of contact for parents of the children in need who are encountering obstacles in accessing Elluminate in their local area. This person should co-ordinate access and ensure all those in need are able to access education for their child. It should be their job to work with ELBs data to identify children not in school, contact them informing of this opportunity for their children. Ideally this role could eventually be then developed for early identification of those in distress and at risk of leaving school early so all solutions, including Elluminate, resources at www.livesinthebalance.org and changes in school environments, can be considered so all children get the best chance to get their education without major trauma, gaps or disruption - currently endured by 1000s of children in Northern Ireland. We are aware of families with children with autism who cannot cope with school currently being pursued by EWOs taking court action. EWOs who have no understand of autism and no one is being offered Elluminate as a solution, even though ICT Inclusion / video conferencing / C2k are recommended if a child cannot attend school. This is in DENI’s own resource for SENCOs as referred to below under additional information. This is inexcusable cruelty on the families and carers of vulnerable children.

 

6. We are aware that there are parents who have de-registered their child as a last resort, and who strive to provide the NI curriculum for their child. It is the right of parents at any time to return their de-registered child to the school of their choice (thereby registering him/her again) and it is our submission that DENI should allow parents to opt to be re-registered as a pupil of Elluminate if they should wish. This would not include any programme of early re-introduction to a named school but be accepted as a longer term arrangement where the child received education through Elluminate at home for as long as needed. We would consider that it would be necessary to put safeguards in place to ensure that parents who wish to remain as full home educators and keep their child de-registered would not be adversely affected, for example by pressures to register for Elluminate , and/or adopt the NI Curriculum. Many parents who have chosen home education for children, whether ASD diagnosed or not, do so because they have a particular therapeutic programme or philosophical approach, they wish to follow and under NI and EU law it is their right to do so. We trust DENI will ensure those who de-registered, young people and parents will be given full knowledge and choice on Elluminate.

 

7. Representative parents from Elluminate Ourlives campaign who understand the needs of  their children wish to be facilitated in the development, problem solving re Elluminate so it works well for the children most in need. Children who need this service should also be involved in some form of consultation regarding it. All of this should be on-going whilst it is rolled out ASAP even in an interim measure.

 

What We Need People To Do;

Join us on facebook at Elluminate Ourlives, learn more, add us as a friend, let people know, if you need it, ask for it, if you encounter problems,  let us know. Share your experiences anonymously by private message, if you wish.  Or, volunteer to help; supporting other parents of vulnerable children in their quest for Elluminate, raising awareness, lobbying government, writing to the Minister of Education and communicating locally. If you have any particular skills or resources you can offer please let us know. Maybe your child is in school and doing fine – please remember children do well if they can and not all children can manage, please help us help the most vulnerable ones in need of their education just as much as yours.

 

Additional Information;

On our new facebook Elluminate Ourlives  page you will find, more information on Elluminate and how it works, more info on the C2k project for Northern Ireland, more info on the laws re parents and children’s rights to choose education, examples of current e-learning operating very successfully,  an example of how Elluminate works in practice for a young person, more in-depth info on those in need including personal examples of parents experiences reported to us, more on what we need and why. Please scroll to the bottom of the facebook page and read upwards for info.

 

We are working on developing a website but as we have no experience, and many of us had to give up our jobs to be carers we have no money but we have a domain name and hope to build from there. www.elluminateourlives.us so watch this space in coming weeks. (now live via your brower bar)

 

What the Minister of Education said;

 

In announcing the new contract the Education Minister, John O’Dowd said: “This significant contract, representing an investment of just under £170million over the next 5 years, will offer schools greater flexibility and choice.

 

“It will give teachers and pupils access to the best learning resources from across the world and will bring these resources into the classroom. Access to the ‘digital classroom’ and its e-learning tools, lessons and resources will also be possible from any internet connected device, 24 hours a day - allowing teachers, pupils and parents to work in real partnership to support learning".

 

“The communications and e-learning elements of the service will support real collaboration between schools allowing them to work together to deliver a shared curriculum and give all their pupils a richer learning experience.”

What the WELB say about C2k on their website ........."This access to learning is particularly helpful to pupils unable to attend school because of illness, severe weather conditions or prolonged absence........"

 

Elluminate is recommended best practice for schools according to the DENI -

 

The Department of Education Northern Ireland have issued to schools

 A Resource File To Support Children With Special Educational Needs.

 In it there is a chapter on ICT for Inclusion On page 320 it says;

 

“Video Conferencing

 

 Is a pupil unable to make it to school?

 

 Is bad weather affecting pupil attendance?

 

 You can keep in touch by video conference to support an LNI course (group) area.

 

 This is ideal for transitioning to a new school, Area Learning

 Partnerships and SENCOs.   All schools have the facility to use video conferencing (provided by C2k). Find out more at Virtual Classroom

https://www.c2kexchange.net/c2k_services.html

 

The introduction in the document is dated March 2011

 

We want to know- When was this to start? For our children who could not make it to school?

 

 Later on in the same resource for SENDOs is this quote;

 

 "Dealing with parents and their children with honesty, sensitivity

 and competence will help develop trusting effective relationships

 between parents and professionals. The combined efforts,

 knowledge, experiences and motivations of parents and

 professionals help children to develop to their fullest potential". (Buckley, 2006)

 

 

Links

Example of Elluminate – how it works

http://www.elluminate.com/Services/Training/Elluminate_Live!/?id=418

Link to C2k

 

http://www.c2kni.org.uk/index.htm

This report ‘Is Anyone Listening?’ from Autism NI shows the incredible suffering of families with autism and failure of services – Elluminate is full of potential to link families with Middletown Autism Centre and world experts

http://www.autismni.org/is-anyone-listening.html

 

Contact Us

Email; elluminateourlives@gmail.com

Message us on Facebook at Elluminate Ourlives

 https://www.facebook.com/elluminate.ourlives?ref=tn_tnmn

Follow us on Twitter

https://twitter.com/ElluminateUs

Telephone; Elluminate Our Lives Local Area Enabler for your Education Board Area on

 

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“I am as a parent, bullied, intimidated, threatened and humiliated and feel forced by the ‘authorities’ to put my autistic child into school and through assessments which leave her huddled in the corner of her room hysterical, all in the name of education. Elluminate is a compassionate solution in an awful situation allowing her to be well and get her education, In 2011 technology offered us a new choice – but we need it to work now for our children”

 

“We are not trying to keep our kids from an education. We are just trying to get them an education and keep them (and us) sane”.

 

 

  
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