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How do you approch a school for a potential child?

(16 Posts)
Bananaketchup Sat 18-May-13 09:56:24

Hi all,

I am at an early stage of a link for a nearly 5 year old, the LA are looking to place probably August/September time depending on various things, but would want her to start school in January to allow time for bonding. I have been told by SW to approach schools - there are two in my town. I am completely clueless in this area, so can anyone advise me on any of the following?

- Would a school even deal with me on the basis of making an enquiring about a child I am nowhere near having yet?

- Do I ring and ask to meet the head, or senco or who? And how much explanation of situation and likely needs would you give at this stage?

- What should I be looking for in a school? One of them is in spitting distance of my house which might be good for this LOs significant separation anxiety, but of course distance from home is far from everything, any good clues as to how a school are likely to cope with adoption related addition needs?

- The LO will be 5 in September, are all the reception class places allocated by this point in the year and where would that leave us if so?

Sorry it's long list, as I say I am completely ignorant of any processes re school places, all I have is a vague idea it's very fraught! I'd be grateful for any help - I tried looking on AUK boards but their search function isn't working!

5madthings Sat 18-May-13 10:08:26

As an adopted/looked after child your child will jump to the top of any waiting lists (if there is one) for a school place. They get priority. You have essentially missed the application process for this years places as they have been allocated.

You need to find out if the classes are full, if so i think your childs looked after/adopted 'status' gives you chance to appeal for a placevon grounds of their need.

Get in touch with schools and look around and get in touch with your council who.allocate school places, they can which schools have places and which ones have waiting lists, if there is a waiting list you will be priority for a place because your child is (will be) adopted.

Good luck!

Ps tiggytape or phrbridge47 are the posters who KNOW about admissions, hopefully they will be along to help smile

5madthings Sat 18-May-13 10:10:41

I dont know what you need to look for specifically in a school. You do need to visit and talk to the schools and get a feel.for them.

Perhaps post in primary/education as well?

Will your child be going into reception or yr one ie are they five now? Or do they turn five after september?

5madthings Sat 18-May-13 10:13:21

Ah just seen five in sept. Yes all places are allocated but as i said your child jumps to top of waiting list and you have grounds to appeal for a place smile

mummytime Sat 18-May-13 10:41:35

I would suggest you phone and ask to visit all possible schools, at this stage do not rule out any on religious grounds etc. Go and talk to the head, ask questions, ask to meet the SENCo, and get a gut feel for the schools. If a visit to one throws up questions about one you've visited previously do feel free to phone back and ask.
You can also chat to people, and look at OFSTED etc. But do take these with a pinch of salt.
You are looking for somewhere with good pastoral care, and a warm feel.

Lilka Sat 18-May-13 11:09:33

It would be fine to contact the schools and ask to meet the head/SENCO and look around. You have the most opportunity to do this now before your LO arrives. You can tell them you have a child coming to live with you soon who will be starting school in January and you would like to look round and talk to the head/SENCO because the child has some additional needs.

Ask them their understanding of the needs a child who is LAC/adopted from LAC might have. Especially talk about the needs your LO has. Make sure they seem welcoming, and not trying to put you off when they hear your child has extra needs. Ask about their discipline methods, potential problem areas of the curriculum, ask what extra help they can put in place if your child finds x,y,z extremely difficult. Again, make note of thir attitude when discussing this.

The atmosphere of the school should be friendly and warm.

Basically - good attitude, warmth, flexibility, willingness to have a child with special needs in their school and to work with them, any understanding of the needs of LAC/adopted children is great, but if not they need to be willing to learn and to listen to you, friendly atmosphere.

You can consider academics, distance and other things, but IMHO if it were me i would happily sacrifice academics for a school with excellent pastoral care and a great record for helping troubled children. My view is that if your child is not cared for in school then they will get into such a state they can't learn anyway, but if they get the support they need they can make great progress in most schools including ones who do not get good academic results.

I might also talk to any other parents you know whose children go to these schools, and ask about pastoral, and ask about the school dealing with issues like bullying etc. Ask about how the school communicate with parents. Ask about how they deal with 'naughty behaviour' etc. I would also ask whether they think the teacher turnover is low or in their opinion quite high because your child does not need their teacher changing often and supplies coming in and out.

Lilka Sat 18-May-13 11:12:22

And yes, all the places will be allocated by now. If the schools are oversubscribed your LO will go on the waiting list, and will in all likelihood be at the top of it because of their LAC status. You may find a child leaves over christmas holidays or something and you get a place for January, otherwise you would have to appeal for a place at the school you wanted.

Lilka Sat 18-May-13 11:13:58

ps. I also recommend asking on primary education about getting into the schools because there are several posters there who are extremely knowlegable about getting into school/appeals/ everything else admissions related

TeenAndTween Sat 18-May-13 11:14:18

Arrange to visit any possible schools. They should be happy talk to you, if they aren't then that would be a huge red flag about them anyway.

I would look for flexibility. e.g. If your child needs you to help them put their coat away every day until mid y1, would they let you, or do they have a 'no parents at all under any circumstances after week 1 in reception policy'

Sometimes schools with more 'mixed' catchments can be more understanding/tolerant/helpful for children with additional needs.

My DD's school (officially least good in the area) was fantastic when DD1 joined us in Y3. They had ELSA (emotional literacy support) which was very helpful for her. They were also fantastic in being willing to talk to me either regarding her emotional issues or academic catch-up. They have been equally good with DD2, now in Y3 herself, who has never been very good with separating from me.

I don't think you would be able to apply for a place until the child is formally matched with you. Looked after / adopted children are in the top priority so you would be at the top of any list. The placing LA should be able to assist you getting child in to your preferred school, even if officially full. As it is a yR place I think you might be able to accept it and then defer for January.

If you don't start until Jan, it would be worth doing some phonics stuff at home in games, as this would be the big thing being missed out for your new child. Depending on how they settle it could be worth starting earlier but coming home at lunchtime, as most of reception learning is done in the mornings.

Definitely check with potential schools how flexible they would be to your child doing half days.
It is not up to office staff or heads to decide whether there is room for your child, that is the LA, so don't discount a school just because some tells you it is going to be full.

Bananaketchup Sat 18-May-13 12:46:15

Thank you so much for replies. I will post again in Primary Education (I'm so ignorant of this stuff I didn't even know that bit of MN existed!) as well, to hopefully get people in the know on admissions to comment. I'm going to ring the schools on Monday and pretty much put it as Lilka did upthread, because I think that's perfect in terms of the amount of information to give at this stage, and ask to come and visit.

Thanks all!

Italiangreyhound Sun 19-May-13 01:05:26

Bananaketchup hi, welcome, and congratulations.

Just wanted to add my twopenneth! I am not yet an adoptive parent. We have a birth dd aged 8.

Echo all the others have said, excellent advice.

Also would say, you don't mention a DP or DH, are you a single adopter? If you are, well done for you, and if not, please make sure your dp/dh comes with you if you can for all school visits; it helps to have a person who can remember exactly what was said or who you can buzz ideas off.

Over the coming months you may have informal ways of visiting the schools, for example they will probably all ahve a school fete or fair this summer (often in June) and many will have a MacMillan World's Biggest Coffee morning in aid of Cancer care. These can be good opportunities to see the school operating in this area, and help to judge the feel of the school and maybe meet with other parents.

One person some schools have is called a School's Link Worker, we met ours a few ago (via our health visitor) when we had some problems with DD's behaviour. The Schools Link Worker can be a great person to help with issues and it might be worth meeting them (although all schools in the area may share the same person).

Also, just an idea but if you want to chew the fat with some mums/dads locally you could find a local Toddler group and join them for a coffee and chat. Almost certainly some of those parents will also have older kits at the local schools.

All the best.

Italiangreyhound Sun 19-May-13 01:07:46

PS the informal visits I mention are in addition to meeting the head, the SENCO and looking around of course.

Bananaketchup Sun 19-May-13 07:47:07

Hi Italian yes I am a single adopter. That's a good idea about going to school events, I'm off to search the posters in the High Street to see what's coming up!

Italiangreyhound Sun 19-May-13 12:46:34

All schools should have a website, so check those out too.

I would not be too swayed by OFSTED ( my pesonal opinin here but I am not much worried what OFSTED think!!). The head, what they say, what they do about integration, bullying, making every child realise their potential and feel good etc is more imporatant to me.

I would also sy if you can sound your ideas off a good friend, it woudl help you, when choosing fertility clinic years ago (!!) I made ane excel spread sheet and listed all clinics and rated the things like distance, cost, servies etc. For a school you would be rating totally different things but it would help to compare them, what they say, what they do etc and having a friend or family member who would be willing to chat about this decision with you would be helpful (IMHO).

All the best and good luck.

Bananaketchup Sun 19-May-13 15:48:41

Little update - I've emailed the local schools and asked for a visit and to meet the head, putting it as Lilka did upthread - that I will have a child coming to live with me who is expected to start school in January, and I would like to look around the school and meet the head/SENCO as the child has some additional needs - and I've already had one reply and booked a meeting! I feel a bit of a fraud looking round a school for a child I haven't got, but it's exciting as well!!

Italiangreyhound Sun 19-May-13 19:07:32

NOT a fraud, a mum-in-waiting!

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