Inclusion Now 51

“Find your voice” – Amen Tesfay

Eighteen year old Amen Tesfay was one of a number of speakers at the recent Labour Party Conference who declared he was neuro diverse while making a great speech.

Young man (Amen Tesfay) featured on cover of Inclusion Now 51

I live in Enfield, North London, near the A10. A nice place; a good place to raise your children, but not a good place to be a young adult in. When I went to primary school, St Andrews CofE, I got loads of support when Labour was in government. Speech therapy, teaching assistants and 1:1 support in some lessons. They set up a plan for me to be more independent. I was on School Action with an IEP. I had no problems transferring to Enfield Grammar (a comprehensive), as my brother was already there. Enfield Grammar became an academy a month before I came, in year 7 with the promise that there will be more money and more freedom. In year 7 I did get plenty of help that I needed from the experienced SEN staff, but as Tory cuts came in there was a revolving door of SEN staff. The SENCO and SEN staff kept leaving and there were fewer of them. In Year 8 it got less. After that in Yr 9 to 11 I could have done with more. I don’t blame the school, it was the government funding. You had teachers writing to parents asking to fundraise.

However it is strange they got £1m for an Astro Turf as a sports school from the government and Football Association. I find it weird that there was money for that but not for books and paper. It is an old building dating from 1558 but other than the Astro Turf there was not much sign of improving the building.

For both my GCSEs and A levels I had 25% more time and I did the exams in a separate room from the exam hall. It was because they like to get all the SEN students in one room so the SEN staff can be there. They do brilliantly. I got an A, 2 Bs and Cs in everything else.

Now I am just about to start a degree in Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary University of London. I got at A levels in the Sixth form an A in History and Bs in Politics and Media. I want to be an adviser to a MP as a job. I joined Labour two years ago after Corbyn won the second leadership ballot. I am talking to the council Labour group about maybe being a potential candidate next time round.

Work hard and prove others wrong. I was made fun of because I have terrible hand writing. Now I have out-performed all those who made fun of me and I am going to the university and course I wanted. Find your voice, challenge cuts, speak to your local representative and if they do not do what you want kick them out.

Parents, keep on supporting your children. My Mum went out of her way practically declaring war on my schools to get the support I needed and keep loving your child and support them.

I have friends with SEND more than me and they are going to FE colleges and universities. Once they get their support, they can achieve… It is about incorporating into society. If they are sent to a special school they will be segregated for a long time. They cannot learn independence if they are sent to a special school.

Amen Tesfay

Interview by Richard Rieser

Amen’s speech to the Labour Conference is below