Demand no child with a serious illness is left without an education. #InvisibleChildren

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This week children will return to school. But not all. Children with serious illness will be left behind and in desperate need of home learning. As a nation, we don’t know how many children are affected, that is why I am asking you to sign this petition to ensure all children unable to attend school are recorded in a national dataset.

My son Sam was isolated for the last four years of his life until he died last November. He was diagnosed with leukemia at 8 years old and could no longer go to school. I had no idea what education Sam could have, or how disruption to learning would also tear away his connection to the outside world. 

Learning for children like Sam is often forgotten. They are known as “invisible children” because there is no dataset to record them. And without it, authorities can’t allocate help, nor be held to account. That’s why I’m calling on Gavin Williamson to ensure that isolated children are correctly identified within the education system - so that they can access the educational experience to which they are entitled. 

School is not just about teaching children English and Maths, it’s a place they foster friendships and learn key social skills for life.

The support available varies based on where you live and how proactive authorities are at keeping local records. It’s a postcode lottery. I had to push hard for Sam to get some education and although he received on average 3 hours a week of home tuition, he remained socially isolated from his whole school community.

Sam developed post-traumatic stress disorder which manifested into anxiety and OCD due to extended isolation. I believe that if more had been done from the outset to provide Sam with a full education with available technology, Sam’s mental health would not have deteriorated to such an extent.  

After 3 years of limited tuition, Sam was loaned a robot (AV1) which he named Marvin. Marvin would be in class and Sam could control him remotely. It transformed Sam’s ability to participate in lessons and interact with his friends. To get Marvin allowed in class, we had to challenge the school and wait 7 months. No child should have to fight to be included in education.

Despite everything, Sam was tenacious and creative. He created a superhero cartoon “Bubbleboy” who was with him throughout his struggle. If Sam were here, I know he and Bubbleboy would be on a mission to make sure no child is left invisible. Now, I take this campaign forward in his memory.

In the pandemic, people saw a glimpse of what isolation is like. This is everyday life for some children.  Don’t leave these children behind. Please help by signing - so that no child is invisible.

Amy Dixon