Today, I go to another funeral of a student who has died too young

As a result of cuts to mental health provision, children and teenagers are dying on our streets, writes one veteran of SEND teaching in inner-city London

Taryn Neale

knife crime, rise in knife crime, schools and knife crime

I don't normally write. I don't normally rant. However, as I prepare to attend a funeral for yet another student of mine who has died far too soon, I realise that I am angry and I need to explain why.
First some background: I am passionate about being a teacher. I love being around young people and I especially love being around people that are differently-abled. I think of 'inclusion' as more than simply a word, I think it is crucial for the good development and cohesion of all people, young or old, 'normal' or 'special'.

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I disdain those people who call me 'brave' for admitting I am a SEND teacher. I am still angry at the colleague who told me I was 'wasted' in SEND. I'm pissed off at a system that would allow my QTS coach to advise me to switch my teaching role asap as SEND was a 'dead-end path', that I should aspire to become a 'real' teacher.
I am passionate about supporting and giving voice to our most vulnerable – the young people who are disadvantaged owing to their family circumstances, their learning abilities, their communication difficulties or their mental health difficulties (especially their mental health difficulties!).
I try to be a strong advocate for the families of these young people, often at the expense of my own professional relationships. I am relentless in my pursuit of getting these children a better deal. I am proud of working with them and for them.
I can say categorically that we as a society are failing these children.
Services – schools, local authorities, NHS, children and adolescent mental health services, social services – are now being so chronically underfunded, facing a near-constant struggle to recruit and retain quality staff, that they have to turn away more referrals than they can accept.
As a result, and through no fault of those who work in them, the output from these settings can be hard, slow and sloppy, especially for those children who are underprivileged and underrepresented.
This nightmarish recipe is producing a whole generation of young people smart enough to know that they are getting a shit deal but that equally, they have no real sway or power to affect positive change.
They are frustrated, they are angry, they are bored and a lot of them are terrified. And it is getting worse.
And now, because the system has failed again, I am going to another young man's funeral. His death was completely unnecessary.
Society does not appear to care. Imagine if this was your child, your family, your circumstances.
I am so very, very angry. And so very, very sad.

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