A problem and concern many parents of children with special educational needs (SEN) face is wondering ‘where does my child belong? What is best for my child?’
There is no easy answer and I’m afraid it will never be an easy decision for any parent. All parents want the best for their kids and want the best school for their child’s development and education despite their child’s ability/disability.
What is my opinion?
I feel strongly that no matter what school your child is in they will succeed, as long as it is a good school with dedicated teachers who are passionate about their role to help every child to succeed.
I have had successful experiences teaching SEN children within mainstream schools and if this is your choice, I can tell you from experience it is possible. I have also had experience in SEN classrooms and can also see the benefit and success within these classrooms too. To help you with your choice, here are a few points to consider.
Before choosing a school
- Visit a number of schools until you find one you are happy with. It should suit the needs, age and physical/mental ability of your child. Preferably visit during a normal school working day to see it in action.
- Ensure the teacher/school has an open door policy where you can speak to the teacher at appropriate times on a regular basis.
- Inquire about SEN provision in the school and if your child will be provided with learning support in the form of a teaching aide/SEN assistant.
- Ask to look at the schools SEN policy to see provision offered.This will be an indication if your child’s needs will be met in this school.
- Request a meeting with the teacher in charge of SEN within the school.
- Discuss the options of outside agencies who will support your child’s progress.
- Talk to other parents of children in the school. Ask the school to put you in touch with parents of children in similar circumstances. It is good to share worries and advice. Those parents surely will not mind as they will have been in your position once.
- Seek advice from local charities related to your child’s needs.
The most important thing to look for in a school
If you choose mainstream school, you must have a lot of trust in the staff who are working with your child. Ensure that you feel confident and comfortable after your first meeting with the school. It is essential that the adults with your child have a good close working relationship and work together towards one common goal- helping your child to succeed. You will quickly feel the good or bad vibes once you speak with other parents and meet the staff.
Ideas for your home/school relationship
I’m not suggesting you tell your class teacher what to do and in any good school the teacher may have all the strategies I have addressed below and more in place already. If not, they will not mind your suggestions if they enhance your confidence, peace of mind and help your child. Here is a check list of my recommendations that have worked for me in the past with SEN children.
- You must provide honest and accurate information about your child and their needs. Hiding anything will cause more of a hindrance to your child’s success. It is better for the teachers preparation to know everything about your child’s needs.
- Home to school diary. This is a book your child will bring to and from school everyday. You must inform the teacher in writing of anything that may affect your child in school the next day e.g. A cold, a bump, a family member moving away etc. Include happy things too. Share your child’s news of a visit to the zoo, a new baby etc. These provide your child with security that their teacher cares about their life. The teacher may want to include activities completed, report incidents and any problems that have happened in school and send this home to you.
- Request regular phone calls and 1:1 meetings between parents and teacher. This will provide more detailed discussions and will provide you with information of your child’s progression.
- Request that support materials be sent home on a regular basis. It is good to reinforce work completed in school. It keeps you as a parent up to date with your child’s progress.
- Volunteer to assist with extra curricular activity e.g. Trips, visits to the school from outside agencies such as a theatre company. It provides a chance for you to show your dedication and support and also allows you to see how your child is coping and progressing in school.
- My final word of advice is to listen. In a good school, teachers want what is best for your child too. They will know what is best for the development of your child. My above ideas are just suggestions that have worked for me. We must remember that every child is different and what works for one, may not work for another.
Why you should listen
Once your child is in a school it is important to listen to professional advice and guidance. Sometimes it is hard to hear a teachers point of view, especially if they are suggesting you move your child to a specialist school. You will feel they do not want to help, or cannot be bothered with your child. As I say, in any good school this will certainly not be the reason. Teachers will use their professional judgements and will guide you upon what is best for your child. It is their job to ensure your child’s needs are being met and that your child’s safety is their first priority along with the safety of the rest of the class.
Some reasons your child’s teacher may suggest a specialist school for your child
- They have a much lower pupil to teacher ratio.
- In many SEN schools there are nearly as many adults in the classroom as teachers – this includes teaching aides and teachers.
- They have important links with outside agencies and frequent supportive visits.
- Staff are generally more experienced with a wider range of needs and will most likely have received specialist training.
- The general set up of the classroom should be more adapted to the range of needs of pupils within it.
One simple thing to remember throughout the whole selection process is that your child’s needs must come first.
If you want any more advice, drop me an email and I can try to help.