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In September 2012, I started two Nisai courses in English. So far it's been great, I haven't missed a lesson yet, and as the lessons are only half an hour, I think I'm coping well. If I'm feeling really poorly I can still do the lesson as I don't have to get ready and go somewhere. The size of the groups are great, as it's not one-to-one intense focus, but we still get into the subject without taking forever for everyone to catch up. I love that I can do all the homework on my laptop, because I find it much less tiring to type, though it does sometimes give me a headache. I've got quite a poor memory so I can watch the recordings, even if I was in the lesson.
At the NVA everybody seems to have a much better understanding for kids that are unwell. I haven't been here long but it's simple things, like teachers emailing me back, and saying things like “oh dear I see so and so isn't here today, let’s hope they're alright”, as opposed to “oh I see so and so isn't here today, AGAIN”.
In the October half term of 2010, after years of never feeling 100%, I got ill with M.E.. After a couple of months I was diagnosed and the Doctor told me to try and go to school, even if it was only for an hour a week. Around about this time a lady from the council told my mother to “treat her like a toddler and force her to go to school”. Over the next year at school I tried to go to lessons, but I couldn't cope and many teachers refused to email me back. Then we decided I should do my work in a student support unit, but I wasn't given work (except a novel I had already read) and no teachers ever appeared, so I just sat reading the books my mum had bought me, after she had begged teachers to give her book titles.
Eventually, we came to the conclusion that going to school was pointless, and only making me more ill. For a couple of months I rested, but was excruciatingly bored. So in September 2011 my Mum appealed for home tutors (actually she threatened to sue as after 15 days of no school attendance you’re supposed to get home tutors). I got an English teacher and a maths and science tutor. We did have to time them though, so they didn't push it over an hour each session. By Christmas though it was apparent my brain just could not cope with maths or science, and had to stop that altogether. Then by some miracle I was given a social inclusion worker who took me out of the house once a week to keep me sane.
At this point we asked if could be excused from the GCSE exams and focus on just learning, as they would be hard for me to cope with and I'd only done a year’s worth of education for them. School said okay, but then the headmaster got involved. Things that were said by the school “my friend had cancer, pushed himself and got better, can't you just do that, and sit these exams?”, “you know we've always supported you” “what's an AQUA module?”; “can't you just sit the exams and get a really low mark? Isn't that better than nothing?”; “no, you can't be allowed into our 6th form without five or more GCSEs”; “the GCSE resit course has been removed from our A level courses”; “couldn't you just sit the exams, don't do any revision or any work for it?” To my mum they said “why don't we just show up one day and put an exam in front of her, and force her to do it?”; “You never do anything we ask”; “shouldn't there be goal setting?” My mum has a degree in occupational therapy, she knows about goal setting!
Other things happened with school, such them banning me from prom, for not trying hard enough to go to school, them blaming my home tutor providers for me not knowing where I would continue my education. School had suggested that I attend local colleges to get GCSEs the following year. They are all ten miles away and two of them only accept students who have gained D grades and above already. The other college offered night classes, but I'm still not well enough. In legal documents they wrote “Heather tends to give up easily, mum supports this”; “She has no siblings”; “Heather has stopped her home tutors only to go on outings”; “Heather has made threats”; “Heather stormed out of a meeting”. Not one of these statements were true. In my whole time at school I never got a single negative comment. To get a copy of these documents we had to quote the Freedom of Information Act.
Over the next few months, we met with a Connexions lady who was lovely. She was the first person to mention the Nisai course, nobody else had ever heard of it. Whilst we we're applying I passed functional skills English level one and two with the help of my tutor.