If you have certain schools/areas in mind it might be an idea to put out a general message on the education boards (without giving out too much identifying information) and ask for personal experiences.
We're looking at secondary schools for my AS DS1 (and soon for his AS younger brother too!) and I did this, and got a lot of useful information from Mums who contacted me privately, as well as some who answered on the boards.
I second that you should also talk to the SENCo and see what they say, ask what they do for AS kids they have in the school now. If they don't have any, or not very many, I would be wary.
You will need to apply for a statement asap once you are in the UK if you feel he will need help beyond that which can reasonably be provided without one. (Schools will probably be able to supply some 1:1 support, social skills groups etc but not full time 1:1, not SALT or OT support etc). If the local authority agree to assess then they should look at his needs and get appropriate professionals involved in seeing him. They may then issue a statement but often it is a fight to get assessment and also to get a statement issued after that. Many parents have to go to tribunal along the process, and even after issued many parents have to fight the content of the statement and maybe also placement. Check out the IPSEA website for advice on the process.
You may find you have to start him in the local school that has spaces and have little choice, unless his needs are very severe. If however after the assessments the school is not working out well or you have a good reason for a change of placement then that can be sorted through the statement, but again it may require a tribunal to make that decision if the LA don't agree.
Today I called the local council to get some advice and it was as clear as mud! Presumably someone out there can advise me. Do I get my boys into a school first and then apply for a statement or vice versa?
Personally, I would mention the AS, at least to the SENCo or head. The office staff, however, none of their business. It sounds like one school is already more welcoming than the other but that could just be a dragon in the office!
Thanks for your reply. Yesterday I contacted two local schools (although I didn't mention the Aspergers) - one replied and said of course I could visit but the other said I would have to contact the LEA directly to apply for a place and they couldn't possibly allow us to visit as it would be too disruptive to the classes! Maybe I should reply and explain more?
Tricky. IME it's really hard to tell without a visit and chat to the SENCo (special educational needs coordinator, sometimes called InCo, inclusion coordinator) what provision they could provide without a statement and experience they might have. Officially, all MS state schools should be able to deal with any SEN that doesn't require specialist provision such as a special unit attached to a school or a SS. But in the real world, some schools are just so much more inclusive and welcoming than others, which can make a real difference.
Every state school must have a member of staff who takes on the SENCo or InCo role. It can be telling how much time that role is given. In my current school the SENCo is 0.4 full time equivalent (4 mornings) and takes small groups of DC with SEN as well as the paperwork side of the job and managing the TAs. In my DS's old school the SENCo had 0.1 FTE, just 1 morning and just did the paperwork.
I'd be tempted to ring around the local schools and ask for a telephone appt with the SENCo in the first instance.
My son (aged 7) was diagnosed with Aspergers six months ago and has made some progress although it is rather difficult as we live overseas and the teachers he has are not as familiar with it as I feel they should be. We are planning to return to UK at the end of the year and I am starting to think about schools for him and his older brother. How do I go about choosing the right school for him? Do all schools have an SEN department? Are some schools better equipped than others? Having read the OFSTED reports of the schools closest to our house it appears that both have "very few pupils requiring Special Educational Needs". I'm not sure whether this means my son could get good support or does it mean the staff are not very experienced? Your thoughts?