Parents of boy battling leukaemia remove him from South Woodford school after facing ‘miserably inadequate’ care
PUBLISHED: 07:00 03 October 2019
The frustrated parents of a six-year-old schoolboy battling leukaemia have removed him from his South Woodford school after facing “miserably inadequate” care while he continues to have daily chemotherapy.
Ayaan Khanom, who is on a three-year treatment plan, was diagnosed in December 2018, and took 10 months off from Nightingale Primary School, in Ashbourne Avenue, for intensive treatment.
His family, from Chigwell, made the decision to ease him back into the "normality" of school in September, but soon realised he needed to do reduced hours after feeling "overwhelmed, tearful and upset".
Ayaan's mother, Nazmien, said: "We had a meeting with the school and his nurse to talk about his care plan.
"He needed some normality back in his life, but he really struggled in the first week.
"So I told the hospital and they advised that he really needed to do half days. His nurse emailed the school and informed them of the new plan and their concerns."
In an email, Ayaan's nurse told the school: "It sounds like he is getting so worried about making it through the day that he now can't sleep and is getting tearful and upset.
"The last thing we want is to induce a school phobia. It's important that he get back into school life as quickly as possible but we need to go at his pace.
"He is still on chemotherapy every day and once a month has steroids for five days, that is a considerable amount of toxic medication for his little body and each child copes differently with it."
The nurse and Nazmien emailed the school on Wednesday, September 18, but they didn't receive a response and on Thursday, September 19, Nazmien went down to the school to collect Ayaan at lunchtime.
"It was my duty to act on what they said - I picked him up at lunch after having no reply," she said. "I said he would not be coming back to school that day.
"I then got an email from the pastoral lead outlining what they had decided about his attendance plan."
The school put forward its own attendance plan saying he would be allowed to do half days only until September 27, but he would then need to stay for lunch for the next week, before carrying out another review of his attendance.
"They had not spoken to me about this - they just emailed me and put their own plan forward," Nazmien said.
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"They need to discuss what's right for the child and the parents know their child best.
"They asked him to stay for lunch, but he wants home-cooked food. Steroids make you really hungry and specific food."
The headteacher has refused to authorise Ayaan's absence from Thursday, September 19, because his attendance plan was only agreed and authorised later that afternoon, the school said in an email.
"But we need to look at his health and wellbeing first," Nazmien said. "The school is not dealing with this the way they should."
When Ayaan was first taken out of school for treatment, Nazmien said the first contact she received from the headteacher was weeks later asking when he would be coming back to school.
"I said, 'do you know what cancer is?' I told her I didn't know when he's coming back to school. We didn't even know what was happening at that time.
"Then we had no contact for the next 10 months after that. There was no contact from the school to see how he was or find out when he was coming back.
"There is no compassion - you need compassion to work with children."
Nazmien, who works at a primary school, is now moving Ayaan to another school in the borough.
"This whole situation has led me to take him out of school," she said. "It's not fair on him - he is sad to leave his friends behind. It's been a traumatic year for him overall.
"We don't live near the school but I will do that journey to make sure he has proper care at school."
A council spokeswoman said: "We believe the school put everything in place to ensure Ayaan's return was as smooth and comfortable as possible.
"They worked with the family and health professionals to agree a transition back to school plan.
"In July, the school agreed to work towards full time access to education in line with the medical advice and family preference.
"When health professionals requested that this was changed to half days to meet Ayaan's health needs, the school immediately agreed to move to half day attendance for Ayaan."