What degree of learning difficulties qualify a child for special school?

(12 Posts)
Nonie241419 Sat 05-Jul-14 20:11:27

I have had a child in my Y3 class this year. She has global developmental delay due to a chromosome issue. Her prognosis is that the gap, which is already wide, will widen as she gets older. She has a statement and 20 hours of funding. Despite a 1:1 support every morning since January whilst working with the year below for the core areas and having lots of support within our class, she has not made any progress in one area and very little in the other two. She has communication difficulties and cannot always make herself understood and her literacy skills are so poor she has no other way to communicate. She has not been happy about working outside class this year, but just cannot access our curriculum at all.
I spoke to the SENCO and said I thought we were no longer meeting her needs and we should maybe think about special school. She has said this will not be an issue until Year 5, and one of my colleagues thinks she will be too able at special school. For context, my class has a significant lower ability group and this child is 2-3 sub levels behind even the poorest other child.
I have no experience and little knowledge of special schools, so now, although I am sure we are not fully meeting her needs, I'm doubting my feeling that special school would be a better and happier setting for her. Does anyone have experience of whether a child with her challenges would be suited to/thrive in a special school environment?

Parsnipcake Sat 05-Jul-14 20:20:21

It really depends on what the local provision is like. My dd has autism, ADD, sensory issues, is deaf and is thought to have a connective tissue disorder of some type - so very complex. She has been in both mainstream and special schools, and has thrived better in mainstream, where the school were very motivated to help her. She did very little with her class, but her differentiated curriculum of special projects were something she looked forward to. Her class teacher did very little, she had a great TA and Senco who organised things.

She is now in the most specialist class in a special school. She accesses the curriculum and does normal lessons in her small class, and makes progress. In all honesty I don't know whether it's better, just different. She is happy. It is very expensive for the LA.

Maybe speak to your Senco about how to engage her - it sounds like a different plan or approach might be needed. It may be she could go to special school, but it does bring it's own issues, such as transport etc.

marne2 Sat 05-Jul-14 20:24:39

Depends on the school, some sn schools take children with moderate learning difficulties, others with severe and others specialise in Autism or dyslexia.

Dd2 was refused a place when we applied for reception, she is in mainstream and is now 8 years old, we only have one sn school near by that take children with moderate to severe LD's, dd2 has ASD with severe sensory issues but has no LD's other than her speech so she doesn't qualify for a place. They do have a Autism base at the sn school but they don't take children until secondary school age, we are planning to send her there on a joint placement with the ms school when she is 11.

marne2 Sat 05-Jul-14 20:26:57

Do go and have a look at some sn schools, you will know when you see them if they are right for your dd, we went to have a look 2 years ago as we were unsure if dd could stay in MS, we knew straight away that the school was not for her ( not for now anyway ).

missbluebird Sat 05-Jul-14 20:40:21

There are few special schools now that just cater for moderate learning difficulties. They are usually for children with severe learning difficulties. Her statement should specify her level of learning. She may have had a cognitive assessment done as part of her assessment for the statement. Level wise If for instance your year 3 class is working on average at level 3a and she is 3 sub levels below at 2a then that would not indicate severe difficulties. Working at level 1 or on p levels maybe.

If she is not making progress then support services should be involved. Can you ask the senco to contact your EP? They would generally need to be involved for change of placement anyway.

Let's not forget the parental preference here...are they happy with provision and progress? What about the child is she socially included? Inclusion is not just about academic attainment.

All change of placements have to go through the annual review of the statement. An early one can be called at anytime if there are concerns.

lougle Sat 05-Jul-14 20:46:17

As a comparator, DD1 is in year 3. She has a brain malformation thought to be as a result of a genetic condition not yet identified. She is classed as having MLD. She's still on P levels for all subjects except maths (1c). She has global development delay. Very verbal but articulation can make it hard to understand her (she's working on the /c/ sound, /j/ sounds like /d/, etc.) Very limited sense of danger and no concept of stranger danger, so very vulnerable.

She is one of the most able children in her cohort. The children in the years below her are more severe/complex than her.

How do her parents feel? They have quite a strong right to a ms education. So they would need to be on board for a transfer.

lougle Sat 05-Jul-14 20:47:46

One thing to consider is whether you could make use of an outreach service? My dd1's SS supports around 60 schools with children who have SN, giving advice, support and resources.

ReallyTired Sat 05-Jul-14 20:52:14

I am not a teacher but I have worked in special schools.

Counties vary considerably with how they choose to cater for children with moderate learning difficulites. Some counties still have MLD special schools where as other use inclusion more. A special school is not a magic wand and does have major down sides.

Special schools tend to have a lack of choice when it comes to key stage 4. Most MLD special schools do entry level certificates rather than GCSE. Its absolutely essential to be sure that there is not even the remote chance that a child would be capable of the lowest level of GCSE.

A big issue is whether a child is soically happy. A good teacher can differentate in the classroom, but its much harder to differentiate for the playground. A very socialable child might be very lonely in a special school.
A child with very weak social skills would be protected against bullying in a special school.

Can you seek outside advice if you feel you aren't meeting her educational needs? Do you have support from a speech and language therapist to improve communication?

lougle Sat 05-Jul-14 20:57:57

Why would a sociable child be lonely?

My DD1 is sociability defined and has loads of friends. She mixes with kids from all year groups and they all go on trips together at their respite club.

A good special school will adapt itself to the needs of the cohorts entering. The one DD1 will attend has gutted a vocational room and turned it into a cafe the students can serve food in, opened a new pmld provision because that's what's needed, changed the type of qualifications students take to suit the cohorts, even arranged split site attendance where suitable.

Finola1step Sat 05-Jul-14 20:58:54

IME, many children with complex learning needs stay in mainstream primary with varying degrees of success, happiness and stability.

They then transfer to a special secondary school. Or worst case scenario, the parents refuse to listen to all professionals and insist on mainstream secondary school. A school is duly found, the child attends and has a dreadful time. And then transfers to a special school during Year 7 or 8.

Wrt to the Year 5 comment- this could be when the school is planning on raising the issue of secondary school - very likely to be discussed at Year 5 Annual Review.

There is no hard and fast rule. Each child needs to be seen as an individual and their school placement be seen within the context of their overall needs.

Nonie241419 Sat 05-Jul-14 21:25:53

Thank you so much for all the responses. They've given me a lot to consider. She's working at P levels in one area and within level for for the others (sorry, being vague - trying not to make her too identifiable). She has no ASD. The factor which has made me most strongly feel that our setup isn't right for her this year is that she isn't happy anymore. She's a naturally happy child, but she has really disliked moving class for the core subjects and has been displaced from her small friendship group in the playground. Because the rest of her peers spend all day together, their friendships have strengthened and she feels left out. She hasn't bonded well with anyone in the other class, although the children are kind towards her.
I know the SENCO is requesting a visit from the EP, although I wasn't told why. SALT is a tricky area as she is undergoing a series of corrective operations, and they keep delaying SALT until they're finished, despite her issues. I will ask if there are any other outside support agencies we can access for her. The sad fact is, it comes down to money. My school lost out massively when the changes came in to SEND funding and we really struggle to meet more complex needs now.
I looked at the website of our local special school. It was quite non specific, but did say that they will put children forward for key stage assessments if they feel they are able to reach that level of attainment. I think it is highly unlikely my pupil will have gone beyond (or possibly even reached) level 2 by the end of year 6. They also teach a sign language which could be so liberating for her.
She's a lovely, sweet girl. I've hated seeing her sigh as she goes out in the morning, and look awkward when she returns in the middle of a lesson she can't just join in with. She has such great capacity for joy and I want her to sparkle.

Nonie241419 Sat 05-Jul-14 21:30:22

Oh, and re her parents, I have no idea how they feel about it as the SENCO refused to raise it at the annual review (which happened without me, as I wasn't informed), and I now feel I can't approach her parents directly without contradicting the SENCO. I know it's never been mentioned before. When I suggested bringing it up with her parents, it was because I feel that the conversation will be needed at some point and it will never be easy to hear. If we've never suggested that mainstream may not be the right setting, how will they know?

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