Story 22: Cheryl, Somerset

The hardest part about being neurodivergent, at school, was the realisation that it was *ME* that was the problem. Of course that wasn’t the case – it was two clashing cultures and I happened to be in the minority one – but when you attend four different schools and in every single one the other children bully you relentlessly even though you thought you’d get a ‘fresh start’, you start to realise that it’s not some mistake that made you the target in the first place.

When you’re the only child with no friends, left out by everyone and bullied at every turn, you know it isn’t random. With each school change came repeated reminders that I didn’t get a ‘fresh start’. I was who I was, and I deserved what I got.

At first I wondered if somehow notes had been passed from child to child across the country, telling them that I was the perfect victim, but in the end I accepted that I, myself, was the note. They didn’t need to be told. They could pick me out in moments. Easy victim. Vulnerable. Weird. I didn’t belong, and no change of school was going to fix that.

What could have made school better:

Provide a safe space for spending free time. No moment of the school experience was positive, but the absolute worst memories were of standing in a quiet, empty corridor every break and lunch time and hoping I wouldn’t be seen because I was ashamed of being alone, but would’ve felt even worse if I’d been amongst my peers.

Story 21: Harley, Somerset

  • ASD
  • ADHD

What school was like:

  • The classroom had too many people in it
  • I generally didn’t get to learn in a way that worked for me.
  • It was overwhelming
  • I was told I talked too much
  • I was told I didn’t try hard enough
  • I asked for help and didn’t get it
  • My mental health needs were not met
  • I felt that my opinions were not important
  • I felt I didn’t have automomy over my body (ie having to go to the toilets at certain times or not being allowed a certain haircut)
  • I had to spend too much time sat down

What worked well?

“The very rare occasion I was allowed a fidget toy.”

What could school do to help?

“Not use a one size fits all model.”

Story 20: Young Person, Somerset

My journey through school has been sad and a struggle . I am dylexic and autistic. I had to wait 4 years for a diagnosis . Most of my school memories are of know one understanding me .

Going to secondary school has been awful experience to the point my mental health hit rock bottom . I could not face going in anymore my anxiety was horrible it made me not eat sleep and I felt unwell.

This week my family made the decision to de register me and I cried happy tears the pain and anxiety of school had gone . I still have the memories but I know this will make me a stronger person. I have been let down by the education system and I hope other kids like me don’t have to keep going through this .

Story 19: Harry, Devon

Hi. My name is Harry. I am 17 years old, and I’ve been home-educated since the very start of Covid-19 in March 2020. I spent my primary school years in East Sussex. I probably enjoyed primary school the most out of the schools I’ve been to in my lifetime. This was probably because there was less pressure at the time, the school was smaller than the other ones and we were all new together.

I remember feeling quite upset and gutted being left out of football tournaments. Football is my absolute passion in life and not being able to be part of the schools’ football team really hit me hard. I will always remember how I felt when I saw the ones who were chosen to be in the matches/tournaments leaving the classroom when the teacher called them to get ready and stand in the corridor waiting to leave.

Once I was at secondary school, I found school life just that bit more challenging than primary school. My worries and difficulties included:

  • I really didn’t like the teachers getting angry
  • Disruptive children in the classroom
  • Feeling alone at break and lunchtime
  • Finding it hard to make friends and get to know people
  • Pressures of work and keeping up with the teacher despite trying hard to listen and understand and process information
  • Frustrated that I couldn’t finish work in time before the teacher moved onto the next topic or the lesson ending
  • Lack of extra help in lessons
  • Class sizes of 30 – 35 children in one lesson
  • Noise
  • Lack of learning general life skills

Since I have been home educated, I think I have found things less stressful and just doing things at my own pace and to my best ability and actually finishing topics. I am trying to learn different skills which will help me in the future such as finance, cooking, team sports and general life skills.

Story 18: Sally, Warwickshire

My daughter struggled (with the amount of people, noise, proximity, demands) in nursery and primary school but we didn’t get a diagnosis until she was 8.

Until then we didn’t know what was wrong and how to help her. At its worst she would refuse to leave the house, was violent and destructive, began to restrict food and couldn’t sleep.

After many battles with the council (she masked in school) we managed to get her a place at a specialist school and life is completely different.

She is doing well academically, has friends, engages in school trips and activities, eats, sleeps and is much happier at home.