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Parental advice- arguing the case for independent special school...(13 Posts)
Its become suddenly very clear that mainstream school cannot meet ds' needs. He has been having extra input from LA specialists with the idea that school staff would learn from the specialist support worker and be able to implement the same techniques. However, its clear that it is not happening, partly because one of the support staff is not effective (the other one is excellent) and partly because ds is just too demanding and most staff in school just don't have the motivation/energy/attitude to take the techniques on.
So, these same specialists have now advised that a more specialist provision would be better for ds and I have to say I agree. They have suggested an independent special school which we have visited today and think would be brilliant for ds, so now we have to get this into his statement (we will hear from panel whether he will get one or not by 10th feb, but apparently he is a dead cert). I know that in practice I have to show that there are no LA schools that could meet his needs. But of course, I haven't been to all these schools so how do I argue this point most effectively. I'm wondering how to start...
I think that, apart from doing your best to demonstrate ds is not making progress in the mainstream, you really need to concentrate on part 3 and try to get lots of provision in there that supports the need for a special school and/or which would make a mainstream place really expensive and disruptive. For example, the need for small classes, specialist teachers all the time, a peer group like ds etc; or, if he were to stay in the mainstream, that he would need much more 1-1 support, lots of therapies brought in, etc. However, you do need evidence to support those arguments so you need to go through the school reports and any assessments very carefully.
Also visit the schools the LEA will suggest and show why they are unsuitable.
Its more about proving that your choice is the nearest suitable school that can meet his needs and its no more expensive than what LA option might be.
You also visit or try to visit other schools. In my experience a phone call to others school just trying to arrange a visit was enough, they just were not interested and told me they couldn't possibly say they could meet needs without seeing his statement.
Would it help to speak to someone at the independent special school? I am guessing that they have other pupils there who are being paid for by their LA so will perhaps have experience about what to ask for
Starfish has a good point. When I went to look around indi school and had a chat with HT, he gave me details of all the 'in house' provision that was on offer at the school, qualifications of teaching staff, class size and how they could meet ds's needs. He also said that if I named the school they had experience of attending tribunals and would be willing to attend if need be.
We visited them yesterday and the HT showed us around. It is very easy to show how that school can meet his needs but as i read the sencop, the point is that I have to prove no other (cheaper) school can provide him with an adequate or suitable education.
Agree about visiting the schools the LA will suggest. Do be upfront with them - let them know, when you visit that you're prepared to be open minded and even pleasantly surprised, but not convinced your DS would fit there, but that you need to see for yourself. They'll be used to people coming in because they have to. If necessary, ask for parent partnership's help with this, as they'll have knowledge of which schools are likely to be suggested and some schools are more welcoming of unaccompanied visitors than others.
Go through school prospectuses, OFSTED reports etc and build up a profile of the children who do attend those schools. You can also use your visits to help you with this. In our case, DS1 is extremely bright and even the LA admit that he'd have no suitable peer group in their own SS. The difficulty we're facing is that we need to convince them that he can not keep muddling along in MS.
The LA's responsibility is to use resources efficiently and effectively. So yes, your aim is to have a statement which has a Part 2 (needs) that is comprehensive and a Part 3 (provision) which is comprehensive and detailed.
Then, you find a school that can meet Part 3.
If the state special schools can do that and you're happy with them, job done.
If you want the independent school, you need to make sure that the indie school has features that the state special schools don't have and that those features are required in part 3.
If you end up at Tribunal to fight for an indie ss, then you can "win" it on one of two grounds.
a) That the school the LA have named cannot meet your child's educational needs
b) Parental choice is cheaper than the LA choice. When doing the costs, take into account the cost of the LA place (which is normally just your LA's AWPU - there is established case law on this, despite all the recent funding changes). Also addin any "bought-in" provision (eg OT/SALT/TA/LSA) & any transport. But the transport is only if the taxi/minibus/etc to LA school isn't already going there. So, for example, if there is already a taxi going from your area to the LA school, then it'll either be a zero cost or the precise amount the taxi firm add onto the bill specifically for your DC. Or, if there is no child going from your area to the school, then it'll be the whole cost of the taxi.
Likewise with TA/LSA support - if Statement has 1:1 TA then you can add in 100% of the TA cost, but if it's not specified that it's a 1:1, then it'll assumed to be the regular class TA, so you can't add any TA cost in.
However, if you can establish a) then you do not need to worry about b) at all.
So you must establish that a) is the case - the LA named school cannot meet needs. You will also need professionals to help you with this. You may need an indie EP to go into the LA school and write a report about the LA named school compared to your DC's needs. It's also helpful if any LA report confirms something like small class size/peer group of similar children. Whilst a LA report will never state indie school, they might state small class size or peer group of similar pupils - my LA's EP report stated both but the LA ignored it - a fact the Tribunal's Judge picked up on and commented on against the LA. So look out for any phrases or words in the LA's reports that could support your case.
Also, visit the named LA school with a very open mind and ask very pointed questions about your DC's needs compared to what they can provide. Afterwards, document the visit, and if possible, get them to sign it that it's a true account of your visit (the school will probably not do this). If you get to Tribunal, ensure that your visit report is included in all your extra evidence. I did all of this and my visit report became a crucial piece of evidence during the Hearing because it showed that the LA school had no experience whatsoever of my DS's needs and that the teacher had admitted this to me before she realised there was going to be a Tribunal. The school hadn't signed it, but during the hearing, the teacher (who was a witness for the LA) agreed in front of the Judge that she had personally answered all the questions on my visit report. It proved more than even my indie EP's report that the school couldn't met need because the teacher had answered it honestly without realising the implications of a Tribunal.
When working on the Statement, there is established case law that you do part 2, and only when that's right, do you do part 3. Finally when part 2 & 3 is right, only then can you do part 4. However most LAs work from part 4 and fit everything else around it - this is wrong with clear case law showing this. Remember that part 2 is of equal importance as to part 3 - in fact it is probably of more importance. Part 2 is like a "doctor's medical diagnosis" so should state needs (or diagnoses), whilst part 3 is like the "prescription" to all those diagnosis/needs. So you can't have a provision in part 3 unless there is a clear "need" (or diagnosis) in part 2. If you DC has many needs/diagnosis then the Statement should show how complex your DC is. If your child ends up with much provision quantified and specified in part 3, then this too will help the case for an indie ss. My DC's Statement has over 17 hours a week of q&s external support (SALT/OT/Specialist dyslexia support) - a fact picked up by the Tribunal that this could not be done in a mainstream school without serious impact on my DS's access to the national curriculum.
Whilst it is important that the indie ss can meet your DC's need - ironically this is of less importance as everything stated above. For my Tribunal, all we had was a letter from the indie special school saying they could meet need and how/why they could, along with Ofsted reports & school brochure. No EP (either indie or LA) went into the school to determine if it could meet need - although I found out afterwards the LA should have sent someone in - in which case I would have to have counter-acted it with my own EP going in.
It really is important that you try as much as possible to prove point a) above. You will need indie experts and it's possible you'll end up at Tribunal as must LAs routinely fight indie school placements. But it can be done. I did it, as did most of the DC at my son's school.
Good luck! It's a long, hard fight, but it can be done.
With dd2 an ed psych told me to visit the units we didn't want for her to build a case for the sp sch we did
Towie, we definitely have a case for a. Luckily for us, there really isn't another school that could meet his needs. His current mainstream have admitted they are just babysitting him (at a meeting with lots of other profs but hopefully also in writing- I have requested copies of all the reports submitted for statementing process so will see in the next couple of days).
Another mainstream said they would take him but only if the LEA would provide a full time teacher who would teach him in a separate classroom- not exactly inclusion. There is one primary with an autism unit but that is full.
The few maintained SS that take ds' age group are all for children with moderate to severe learning difficulties but ds doesn't have any learning difficulties so they wouldn't be suitable either.
We have also looked at another indie SS which has a fantastic ofsted but is nearly twice as expensive as the one we want. However, we really don't think it would be the right place for ds. So, I am hoping that they will see we haven't just plumped for the most expensive option, but actually chosen based entirely based on getting ds a suitable education. I do know that the LEA have already placed a child at this school so there is a precedent for it.
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