Keoni's Fight to stay in School
Aged eight Keoni was excluded from education. No one would have him. He was a tortured soul filled with anxiety which manifested in daily violent tantrums. It was difficult getting through to him. Night times were unpredictable rampages so doors and cupboards were locked to ensure safety. As he grew the violence became more difficult to cope with and we were close to the limit of my our capabilities. We never gave up on the idea of Keoni having the education he deserved. After a long battle where our health suffered, around his tenth birthday we secured a place for Keoni at St Christopher's, Bristol; a specialist residential school.
Seven years on Keoni is transformed. Years of patient techniques and therapies mean the violent tantrums are in the past. He's learnt sign language and overcome many anxieties and is calm enough to flourish in the classroom. He ceased manhandling people when feeling anxious, able to convey his discomfort and seek an alternate space without violence. Above all he feels safe and secure enough to participate in his education.
Keoni is learning skills to give him independence. He's accomplished much since joining the school. Basic skills we take for granted; learning how to cook, to do his laundry, cleaning his living spaces, managing his personal hygiene, dressing himself, demonstrating an eye for fashion and pride in his appearance.
His carers at school were bold and determined enough to unearth within Keoni a talent for rock climbing that is both transformational and inspiring. After watching her brother eftortlessly climbing a 40ft indoor wall for the first time, his then 3 year old sister Zahra was determined to try it herself.
Keoni's a popular member of the community. He's well known at the barbers, cafe's and shops. As a boy just getting him to the newsagent and back was a challenge. We'll never be able to fully convey my gratitude to the care staff, Medical consultants, experts and management team of St Christopher's who've been so devoted to Keoni. They've given our son a chance of a meaningful life. A life we didn't dare dream of.
In Jul 2015 St Christopher's scored an inadequate Ofsted rating. Keoni's team reassured us his House was not a contributing factor. Despite this our Local Authority (LA) immediately tried to remove Keoni from St Christopher's. We fought successfully to keep him there from Aug 2015 until Apr 2016. The LA finally confirmed in writing their plan to remove Keoni from St Christopher's with a deadline of Jul 29th 2016. They named a non residential school in South London completely unsuitable for Keoni's needs at which point we had no choice but to employ the services of a Solicitor.
To further confuse things Christmas 2015 the school faced the threat of closure due to maladministration and austerity. A campaign spearheaded by parents led to a take over of the school early 2016. The takeover was seamless. The group are experienced with an impressive track record and have reassured us they will not rest until St Christopher's has received an "Outstanding" rating from Ofsted.
The LA still maintain they wish to remove Keoni due to an inadequate Ofsted rating that was awarded over a year ago. A subsequent OFSTED inspection Autumn 2015 recorded a significant improvement and the school has now been taken over by a group with a proven track record. These elements simply ignored as an "inconvenient truth" by the LA.
Keoni cannot speak for himself and the LA motivated by austerity are ignoring his needs as well as the directives laid down in "The Children and Families Act". Sidelined we were left with no choice but to seek legal representation and appeal the LA's decision. Because of his age Keoni is not entitled to Legal Aid so we have to fund his defence ourselves.
Of great concern is that despite our best efforts Keoni has picked up on the disruption. He's already displaying anxiety related behaviours we haven't seen for years. All the behavioural experts we've spoken to predict that the shock of the move would see all the good work of the past seven years unravel in months.
We both work but raising money for Keoni's defence is proving to be painfully expensive. The alternative would see Keoni fall through the cracks in the system and the inevitable conclusion is an institution or worse. He warrants so much more and we would appreciate any help that you are prepared to give him.
Our humble thanks.
Desta and Mike
We are overcome with emotion.
WE DID IT !!! We smashed the £15K barrier.
One of Mike's oldest dearest friends who he hasn't seen in 15 years put us over the finish line and of course we respect her anonymity. 331 people over 10 months reached down and picked us up as a family and gave Keoni the best chance in life as he approaches young adulthood. On the week that saw us tie the knot we feel truly blessed.
Thank you so much to our wonderful circle of family and friends for helping us to fight for Keoni.
The phone rang July 2015. We had no idea how tough the fight would become to keep Keoni in his beloved school. Emboldened by Tory Austerity cuts the Local Authority (LA) saw an opportunity to save money with no thought or care for the impact on the childs welfare. A series of bitter e-mail exchanges and meetings followed and we fended them off for 8 months. We were advised that if we didn't employ a solicitor Keoni would be gone before the summer. The projected costs were frightening but we had no choice. That first quote doubled to the reality of £36,000 thanks to dirty tricks and numerous breaches of the law by the LA.
Facing bankruptcy in the autumn of 2016 Mike was hospitalised with a suspected stroke, thankfully Bells Palsy. Our Gofundme campaign was little more than a trickle and it felt hopeless.
Then something amazing happened. People reached down, embraced us and picked us up. The support was amazing and humbling. It's difficult to describe how low we were and without the help we would have gone under.
We were told initially that only 1% of cases go all the way to Tribunal
It was a grim feeling in Dec 2016 that we found ourselves on the eve of the Tribunal !
In a final act of spite the LA waited until 3 hours before the trial to concede, thus maximising our financial pain.
The last 18 months were like an out of body experience. It is with great pride we can report Keoni is flourishing and his future is now a bright place. We didn't quite hit our funding target of £15K but "We had a bloody good go !"
We've wanted to do this for a long time. A thank you on behalf of our family to those of you who supported our campaign and carried us to Victory (respecting the privacy of 69 anonymous donors);
Ann Bostock Amy Gould Oliver Pieterson Sally Bull Sinead Thompson Rachel Merrifield Lisa Millett Vanessa Edwards Adeola Amphlett Yvonne Ward Trudie Lee Erin Neeley Brodie Ross Robert French Michael McMullen Selda Deveci Nicole Wren Marilyn Kirby Nich Overend Lisa Jayne Boyd Matt Rivers Laurens Levin Danielle Hawley Chloe Hazell Matthew Cooper Kimberley Godfrey Christy Mullis Daniella Scarlett Margaret Davis Kelsie Sandilands Anne White Veronica Jones Phyllis Boland Sheelagh Boisvert-Williamson Aria Barmi Timi Abayomi-Ofarn Sue King Carl Robson Kate Ford Jess Thom Rich Sandlands Michael Chowdhury Anke Eissman Mark Regan Kay Arthur Emma Menhinnitt Noel Johnson Glenworth Cummings Tom Coady Andre Le Bault Jean-marc Poinsignon Robert Guy Karin Sowden E K Sparks Sadie Monks Dianne Hempsall Kerry Peppiatt Kim Braybrook Samuel Foston Mark King Phillip Keefe James O'Flynn Ray Woolford Olly Drew Slater King Jim Le Messurier Lisa Shanahan Scott Ramsay Lynsey Hetherington Aniyah Israel Lisa Millett Fran Lewis Sharran Alexander Jane Warren Tanya Lord Marianne Staley-hill Jo Jo Green Julie Ann Clark David Steele Ann Barry Graeme Tait Julia Todd Alison Sally Yates Jacquie Perry Joanna Richardson Molly Monkhouse Fiona Colgate Debbie Cope Tanya Marais Debbie Evans Harris Kim Shong Ho Chrissie Kelly Eschley Wilkinson Angela Fu Amanda Hartley Lorna Pyke Turner Siobhan Curran Alice Herve Raymond Riggens Diana Norman Paul Griffin Rachel Brand Shelly Palazzo Julie Barrett Aine Cabrey Muller Linda Mogan Norma Sinclair Tanya Cumming Marina Hormoso Gehan Wijeratne Carl Obeyesekera Andrea Yates Marie-Louise Elliott Elaine Noble Maria Celia Perez Mourin Kate Foulsham Si Anderson Maria Cowley Paul Wyborn Pippa Young Frances O Farrell Donna Brown Christine Woodington Phillip Keefe Nora Millett Anne Mills Christopher Meeking Michelle Smith Karen Southwood De George Isabella De George Angela Kaston Irene Harrington Leigh Harrington Paul Ward Jo Jo Bentley Ross Wilding Jeff Fernandes Marie Gicquel Claire Ssali Cardy Becky MacKillop Beverley Blackman Kirsty Gonzales Andrea Walker Lynn Perkins Michelle Rochester Saul Rayson Fran Lewd Harry Tels Mandy Lloyd Nicole Arujo Xavier Mariage Matt + Julie Barrett Curley Ley David Northcott Caroline Eveleigh Kim Breckenridge Tanya Buck Debbie Beeson Sarah Brummitt Francesco Nicodermi Stuart Wilson Simon Quinn Ruth Thewlis Chris Jones Helen Johnson Arthur Bowman Sam Morris Emma White Jessica Moore Kelly Eroglu Letitia Avah Patricia Milne Polly Mullins Brad Mullins Pedro Soares Suzanne Marie Forbes Matilda Murray Elaine Vaughey Elizabeth Dalrymple Lowri Bostock Sally Shepherd Morris Nicola Kenealy Nicola Kenworthy Eve Rayner Sujoy Kumar Jeanette Turk Isabella Feiras Maggie Jennings Elsie Denny Nicki Holt Huw David Fran Matthews Kati Teugels Louise Holley Duncan Holley Eilidh Ferguson Christine Enright Jonathan Enright Lucy Walker Charlotte Ellis Lambeth Met Police CC Karen White Will Scott-Barrett Stephanie Newland Adeola + Stephen Amphlett Stuart Phillimore Phillip Staiano John King
We are still creeping towards our target of £15K
Minding our own business trying to give our son the best chance in life. June 2015. The Local Authority emboldened by the Governments Austerity programme tried to remove Keoni from his special needs school. 18 months later having been dragged through the courts it was agreed that his needs are so profound he should remain in place. A moral victory but a high price to keep in place what was rightfully ours !
Congratulations to both of you. Double celebration! .
Lovely pic - you all look so happy xx
Amazing news ❤️❤️❤️. So happy for you and Keoni. He's come such a long way and long may it continue xxxx Well done
Some good news finally! And just in time for Christmas!
So proud of all you are doing - praying for a good outcome for Keoni
Good luck with this. Sorry for the delay in helping. One thing after another.
Get well soon Mike.
Sorry for the delay - yes I'd approached IPSEA for advice also NAS and armed myself with all the relevant legislation the local authority were in breach of; but they played hardball and used a lot of delaying tactics, knowing time was on thier side. In the end we had to hire solicitors to prevent them removing Keoni from his school. As it stands we have forced Social Services to take a stronger hand in the game, now we are waiting to see the result of that.