When we started our participation project for young people affected by school exclusions, Sharando was one of the very first young people to become involved in the conversation on exclusion. Sharando was already familiar with Just for Kids law, having received support from 2014. Since then, he has devoted himself to his studies after earning a scholarship from Accenture to study Mathematical Science at Bristol University. In his spare time, Sharando enjoys creating music and is also writing a book on his life with Aspergers, which provides advice, guidance and anecdotes for others on the spectrum. Sharando has come a long way from when he first reached out to us for legal advocacy and advice and is now at a point in his life where he is able to reflect on his experiences.
I thought my school had a pastoral process but that just became part of this removal system.
Summing up his time at school, Sharando places a lot of emphasis on the social isolation he felt navigating his way through mainstream education. He said he knew his fate had already been decided by his school and often found himself tangled up in repeated attempts to permanently exclude him. Sharando knew he needed help but felt that “there was not a lot of support at school for students with ‘problems’ like me. I thought my school had a pastoral process but that just became part of this removal system”. Sharando recalls a period where several allegations were made against him by his school, all of which were unfounded. He quickly discovered that this was the beginning of the end of his time in mainstream education. He knew he wasn’t the ideal pupil but insists he didn’t receive the appropriate support to help him succeed. It wasn’t until Sharando got involved with Just for Kids Law that his Asperger’s diagnosis was confirmed, and by this time he had already been placed in a Pupil Referral Unit and was seeking legal representation for criminal proceedings.
More than 1.2 million children (Around 15%) of all students in England have special educational needs (SEN), but only 253,000 have special educational needs statements or education health and care plans (EHCP). Children and young people with SEN are particularly vulnerable to being illegally taken off the rolls by schools that are under pressure, both financially and academically, to improve their exam results. They are also disproportionally affected by school exclusion and make up almost half of all official permanent exclusions. This means that these students often end up in pupil referral units where they are vulnerable to child criminal and sexual exploitation.
Getting [pupils] involved in something positive… something that is a good outlet and makes them feel properly included is a must.
“Getting [pupils] involved in something positive… something that is a good outlet and makes them feel properly included is a must.” said Sharando when asked about what could have been done to help him and others like him during their time in education. Sharando strongly believes that schools are under a lot of pressure to perform but doesn’t think that this should mean certain pupils are “pushed to the side [and] forgotten about.”
Seeing where Sharando is now in his life, it is clear why he felt like just another student with “unfulfilled potential” during his time in mainstream education. He was always capable of achieving great things and has proven just that, successfully gaining a place at one of the best universities in England and pouring himself into his passion for music and writing. Every school should be accommodating for children and young people with Special Educational Needs, but the reality is that many schools are under-funded and over-stretched, and there is no national education inspectorate that puts inclusion at the heart of its monitoring. A substantive, consistent and deeply rooted inclusion system is paramount if we want to protect and champion the educational rights of every child and young person accessing mainstream education.
If you identify with Sharando and want to know how you can get involved with the youth-led School Exclusion Project please get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 0203 174 2279.