There will be a special needs school near you with a PTA or a School Association that will welcome volunteers with open arms. WE NEED YOU!
After a year on the equivalent of the PTA at GGs special needs school, I find myself compelled to put pen to paper and try to describe the difference between this and a mainstream PTA.
I have always been an active mum who enjoys playing a role on the various committees associated with my children and their schools. This coming weekend I have managed to rope myself into running a Lego stall at the Spring Fair at my eldest child’s primary. In two weeks I in charge of salad at a school BBQ – a daunting responsibility….!
When I volunteered to join the the special school fundraising committee, I figured that I knew the score. I could attend a few meetings, support a few events and go home with that glowing feeling of having done something useful. Having completed 3 years on a committee for a pre-school where the livelihood of the staff relied on our management skills, I was pretty unphased when asked to take on the role of secretary. Agendas and minutes I can do, plus churning out a few thank you letters as needed – no issues at all.
The reality however is a world apart from my previous experiences. When you are faced with the decision of providing specialist seating for a child as the Occupational Therapists have run out of funds for this year vs. paying for IPads that will allow a child who cannot otherwise communicate in class to take part in lessons – you find yourself torn and reaching to your own pocket in desperation – in my case usually to find a snotty tissue and a few 5ps.
It is heart wrenching to spend months organising a school Christmas fair, to find that of the 40 odd families at the school, there are several children too ill to attend, parent volunteers dropping out at the last minute due to hospitalisations and in the end you manage to raise a few hundred pounds. I have never been to a meeting where the requests for funding are under several thousands. Just keeping the minibuses on the road costs £4000 per year.
I know I am in danger of stating the obvious here but if you think mainstream school staff are stretched – take a look at the special needs school staff. If you think mainstream parents are time poor – just read some of the many fabulous blogs about being a parent to a child with needs so complex, they attend a special needs school. Add those two together and you are left with the resource that has to fund vital equipment for a school that is desperately under-funded. The maths does not add up and it is soul destroying.
We are extremely fortunate to have occasional funding from the Rotary Club and other local fundraising groups. However when we nominate the special needs school to be charity for the local car rally or sports event, there is always a need to provide a band of volunteers and we simply do not have the numbers.
So my call to action for anyone with a little spare time on their hands – there will be a special needs school near you that would welcome you with open arms. Be prepared for some tough decisions but nothing matches the sense of satisfaction when you see the kids on the bus, off to their therapies and knowing you helped to make that possible.