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GAD, SM and junior school selection. Advice much needed please (long).

(11 Posts)
OooohHorlicks Wed 19-Mar-14 20:43:59

So I'm going around in circles over what to do. Would love to benefit from your collective wisdom on this.

DC1 has generalised anxiety disorder and selective mutism. Is in reception at infant school and coming along nicely with really good support from teacher and TAs, LSAs. Really have nothing but praise for the school who seem to get it and understand how to support it.

No chance of a statement but DC1 is on an IEP under School Action Plus. Rejected by SALT as no speech and language issues (that's a discussion for another day), rejected by CAMHS as is making friends at school. Is on consultant paediatrician's case load. Have ongoing problems outside school (at parties, for example) with extreme anxiety - am trying to address myself with basic CBT techniques. Considering going for private EP.

In Y3 the bulk of the children at this infant school will go on to a particular junior school. It is big (5 form intake, over 600 children overall). Ofsted outstanding. Places very sought after. Hadn't really thought about what it didn't offer until DC1 was diagnosed. Then started talking to people who already had children at the school. Some examples from parents I've spoken to:

- One parent of a child with ADHD has had no support, her son is in a class with another boy with ADHD and when she suggested they be separated and her son moved to a different class she was told no-one moved classes. That's not how things were done. Her son is also being bullied. She has received no support.

- Another friend whose daughter has recently been diagnosed with selective mutism has received no support from the school for her daughter. When her daughter was recently assaulted and racially abused in the playground the head's response was that "we are a telling school and she should have told." Friend's response was "That works when you have a child who isn't struggling with SM." Head's response "Are you blaming me?"

- The SENCO, although very nice, has not offered a great deal of advice in either case and indeed went on extended leave for 10 months last year and was not replaced. There was no SEN leadership in her absence.

- The school prides itself on its residentials - they do one every year, starting in Y3. Children who don't attend are pretty much left to their own devices.

- The language on the website says nothing about being "inclusive" or "protective". It talks about raising confident children. There is a lunchtime club with the final line "The timid need not apply."

I have met a few parents who have some praise for the school. These tend to be parents of very confident children and on further questioning even they have admitted that they can see how a child who is in any way different or in need of support would probably be overlooked at the school and almost all know or know of at least one child who is either being bullied or who requires extra support and is getting none.

The Ofsted report (rated outstanding twice) gushes about the fantastic SEN provision. I have not found one person - not even those who are fans of the school - who would agree with this. Village school so easy enough to find parents of current children.

School choice locally is in short supply. There is another local junior school with better SEN provision but it is just as big. That's pretty much it, unless we can afford to go private. Which we can't. In which case there is a world of choice. It's that kind of place. There is a lovely primary school which we are slightly too far away to stand a chance of getting into in the normal Reception intake, but could go on the waiting list for Y1 or Y2 entry.

So my question is this. Would you:

1. give the junior school a chance, give DC1 a chance on the basis that there are 2.5 years to go and they may develop into a confident individual, able to handle the sink or swim nature of the junior school;
2. give the junior school a chance on the basis that DC1 will be going up with a friendship group of 3 years by then who may help the transition;
3. give the junior school a chance but be prepared to home school if necessary (I'm assuming that you'd need the school's support to flexi-school? If so, I'm not counting on that.)
4. consider yourself warned that in the event of a problem you will receive no support and in the absence of a statement are in no position to fight it and look for another school.
5. something else that I have not thought of?

If you would choose option 4, would you

a. put DC1 on the waiting list for the local primary and hope for a move in Y1 or Y2 (in any event before all the infant schools in the village release their Y3s and you're up against a lot more people), on the basis that it will go through to 11 and that DC1, while having to start again from scratch with friendship groups will receive enough support to cope with it (ie the earlier the better)
b. look for a junior school in the surrounding villages which, while having intake from local infant schools, may also take a few new children so opportunity for being around something other than established friendship groups
c. something I haven't thought of?

My head is hurting with the responsibility of planning for things that may never happen while planning around those things that feel inevitable, so I would value some perspective. I'm really sorry it's so long and thank you to anyone who has stuck with it!

OooohHorlicks Wed 19-Mar-14 21:14:30


clearly too long...

uggerthebugger Wed 19-Mar-14 21:23:00

First things first - visit the schools, the nearest and the furthest. You're the single best expert on your DC's needs, and a visit is the only way that you'll get many of the answers to your questions.

Second - how sure are you that there's "no chance of a statement?" Do you think that he needs one - and if so, who's telling you that there's no chance? A statement could open up your choices a fair bit.

From what you've said here though, I wouldn't touch the junior school with a sterilised shitty stick. There's a particular type of 'outstanding' school that devotes all its energies, time and vision to obtaining Ofsted outstanding status, and this school sounds very much like one of those. Square pegs - of which kids with SEN are usually the most obvious example - tend to be seen as an awkward inconvenience at places like this.

At this type of 'outstanding' school, kids with SEN have a nasty tendency to disrupt the school's carefully-crafted and utterly bogus attainment and progress tracking data. Kids with SEN have a nasty tendency to require additional support, using resources that the school would rather spend on things it really needs - like a data manager, or a Mocksted practice inspection. And kids with SEN often require the type of patient, child-centred pastoral care that gets in the way of the important things, like threefold marking schemes and show-progress-in-20-minutes-or-die-trying lesson plans.

There are some genuinely outstanding schools out there who do their level best for kids with SEN. There are others who care so much about the Ofsted status that they will do anything to keep it - even if it means cheerfully raising a middle finger to kids like your DC. You'll know within about 30 seconds of talking to the junior school's headteacher whether it belongs to this category of 'outstanding' school.

PolterGoose Wed 19-Mar-14 21:24:43

These boards are often busier in the daytime when kids are at school wink

I would go and look at all the schools that are do-able in terms of travel. See what you think. Get on their waiting lists and wait, review after a year maybe?

OooohHorlicks Wed 19-Mar-14 21:32:19

Thank you both. That confirms what I was thinking.

My understanding is that it is very rare for children with SM to be statemented - the PCT can't even agree a clear care path - and even trickier with clear signs of progress thanks to the current infant school's efforts.

I guess my worry is leaving a friendship group that will have taken 3 years for Dc1 to build up and starting all over again. But I guess a good school would address that.

OooohHorlicks Wed 19-Mar-14 21:34:28

and ugger your description of that type of outstanding school is spot on.

ilikemysleep Wed 19-Mar-14 22:18:25

Yeah, avoid that school. My son has SM and we have chosen a small secondary that has just come out of special measures for him. Because they give a damn and actually CARE about him, and I think when you have SM that is half the battle. I don't see (controversially) that a TA sat with my DS via a statement would help him at all (actually he would loathe that spotlight, like many SM kids) but he needs teachers who care enough to listen to the briefings on how to manage him, who will be mindful of him. For example, they are in the process of setting up a direct portal of some sort so he can upload any oral work (he is happy to do oral French etc at home, but can't do it at school) - we needed a school who would adapt things to keep him included, not one that would just shrug and say 'well he can't talk in French so we are giving him no oral mark'. Attitude is EVERYTHING with SM kids smile

HoleySocksBatman Thu 20-Mar-14 11:38:16

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HoleySocksBatman Thu 20-Mar-14 11:40:24

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

OooohHorlicks Thu 20-Mar-14 19:08:02

Holeysocks, I'm sorry to hear that. It sounds very much like our predicament. I am still finding it hard to believe that adults charged with educating our children can be so ruthless. Never used to consider myself naive until I had children.

HoleySocksBatman Thu 20-Mar-14 19:39:03

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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