During a one year PGCE course you spend over 20 weeks in total working in a school. At KCL we have two placements - one in the autumn term (Phase A), and one in the spring & summer terms (Phase B). When we filled in the forms for school placements, it was asked whether we had any special needs for placement (e.g. medical, religious, childcare). I wrote "Due to medical reasons, I need to be placed in a school which is 5 minutes walk from the nearest bus stop or station (absolutely no more than 10 minutes walk). This is especially important in cold/wet weather".
So where have they placed me? In a school that's 15 minutes hike up a steep fucking hill! And that's on a day with good weather for the season! I arrived exhausted and in pain - hardly in a good state for an entire day on my feet. The whole reason I asked for that consideration is that I don't want to arrive exhausted and in pain! Things like this make an enormous difference to my ability to do the job.
(I should add that to make my day complete, I then found the science block is up four long flights of stairs, and the lift is broken. But that's not the college's fault. The trainee teachers' mentor was very concerned about whether I could manage the stairs, but as I pointed out, I didn't have a lot of choice. I staggered up the four flights and then didn't leave the science block all day. Tomorrow I don't have a choice, as I have to follow a pupil around the school for the day. Really looking forward to that.)
I'm so unhappy about this, you would not believe. The lift will be fixed in the next few days, it's just one of these things that happens. But to completely ignore what I've said on my form... There is no way I will be able to do that walk when it's icy. The journey is long enough and the hill is steep enough that it took me 8 minutes to walk back down. The school seems really nice, well-organised and friendly, and I don't particularly want to have to go elsewhere. But unless someone will pay for me to get a taxi up the hill in the morning, there's no way I can get there.
When my LEA (Local Education Authority) finally deign to acknowledge my existence, I can apply for Disabled Students Allowance - which includes a component for additional travel expenses incurred due to the disability. There will in theory be no problem about paying for a taxi. But seeing as they haven't even sent me a letter confirming they'll pay my tuition fees yet, and the application procedure for DSA takes several months, the likelihood of me having any money before Christmas is pretty low. And I need the money now.
I'm going to talk to the Disability Office at college - but I'm really worried, because I don't want to get a reputation in my department as a troublemaker this early on in the course. And the office doesn't open on a Thursday, so I won't be able to speak to someone until Friday. I don't know what on earth the department will do in any case, because apparently their policy on refunding additional travel expenses (say for people who've been placed in schools in Guildford) is to only give money at the end of the placement. So they claim they don't leave students out of pocket, but... If I could get them to cover the cost until the DSA claim goes through, that would be okay. But it's a case of convincing them that it's their fucking fault I'm having to pay it.