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Struggling to get DS into local school - advice?

(27 Posts)
PootlewasthebestFlump Thu 11-Feb-16 14:20:49

As you know from my 'whingey' thread, we are going to panel in a week or so shock

DS-to-be has SEN (speech and language and GDD) but no EHCP as he has caught up amazingly from being non-verbal a year ago to managing OK with FT 1:1. His Ed Psych recommends reviewing this at the end of his year as he may need an EHCP for the next school year as he is around 2 years delayed and it may be too difficult without ringfenced funding.

As a LAC our LA has reassured us he is entitled to a place at any of the local schools and 'don't let them tell you they are full'.

However, in practise, we are getting the serious cold shoulder from all the schools bar one. The local school is a faith school with LAC at the top of the admissions criteria but they just are dragging their heels in arranging a visit and have gone 'non contact'. Having read their public minutes, I gather they take in a lot of SEN pupils but do not get adequately reimbursed for their costs (we are on the borders of two towns and one funds in one way and the other in another) and I suspect they are reluctant to take him on as he needs FT 1:1 even during breaks (the school he is currently at fund this through a special fund of their own topped up with LA funding).

Another school said 'the head is a very busy man, email us your request and he can see if he has time to show you around'...

A third said there was a 2 year wait, I challenged it as he is LAC and am waiting for a response...

Our DS's SW has said they are happy to get their Virtual Head to liaise with our Virtual Head (he is out of area) to get him into any school we see is the best choice but until we have viewed and interviewed them we can't say which would be best.

Now, I could get the 'big guns' in and tell his SW the schools here are not playing ball, and get them involved, but, I am a bit reluctant to do that as we have not yet been to Panel and I don't want to jeopardise it if they feel we don't have good school options for him. They might turn us down as potential adopters if we can't meet his needs.

I have emailed all the schools again to push for a response so that it's in writing.

Next steps?

I'm aware I could pick any school on the forms and he should, in theory, be given a place, but for various reasons school is a really important aspect of his life (his school were instrumental in getting him moved into the care system) and it needs to be the right one.

Grr. Don't make me go Mama Bear on yo asses, schools.

fasparent Thu 11-Feb-16 14:45:33

Have you been in touch with LA's Disability Statutory Assessment team , who would be able too advise, Would contact and find sutable nursery, school, who would put child on a PATHWAY Plan, assess needs then would move on to EHCplan, after assessment by Educational Psychologists.
Think this is correct procedure, are at panel next week., after following this.
Too be put on the Pathway plan list, after which a suitable school, nursery will be found prior too the EHCplan is put in place, which can be reviewed on a annual basis.

PootlewasthebestFlump Thu 11-Feb-16 14:51:35

There's no plan to put him on an EHCP this academic year. He will be eligible for Higher Level funding and Pupil Premium. The Ed Psych recommends assessment next year and consider an EHCP then as they don't believe his SEN to be organic but as a result of his early experiences.

I will check with our SW if he is eligible for Pathways, thanks.

fasparent Thu 11-Feb-16 15:18:47

The new EHC Plan is statutory too all LA's for children from age 0 too 25.
funding is from central Gov via LA , should not add too additional cost for schools.

fasparent Thu 11-Feb-16 16:54:43

Must apologise Pootle Pathway plan has been replaced by SEND, just that our team are still using old name, but will still use new SEND can Google it
for details of how it works.
Sorry again.

tldr Thu 11-Feb-16 18:16:35

I can't imagine panel would be anything but delighted you're already fighting his corner tbh so I wouldn't let that be a concern. If you think getting an SW involved would help, I'd say go for it.

I don't have any clue about actual schools though, or how to get them to engage.

mumofblueeyes Thu 11-Feb-16 18:36:59

It is my job in a Secondary School to deal with LAC admissions. Schools have to take LAC children, it is not an option. Some schools just try to delay things to avoid the situation. Ensure you get the paperwork and complete it and book an admissions appointment. Be clear and firm - they are not doing you a favour, this is what schools have to do! If you have any problems involve the Virtual School. Good Luck.

mumofblueeyes Thu 11-Feb-16 18:39:19

Forgot to add - turn up in the Office. We hate it when parents do that smile
Much harder to avoid parents and not answer questions etc when they are stood in front of you!!

slkk Thu 11-Feb-16 21:20:56

If he needs 1:1 it looks like he needs an ehcp. Schools just can't afford this on their own and this may be why they are reluctant. It may help to discuss with schools that you would support an application. Without ehcp ds would not survive. It means additional pp funding can be used for other things like therapy.

PootlewasthebestFlump Thu 11-Feb-16 22:15:07

We can apply for an EHCP when he moves to us if we want but at present there are no plans to obtain one for him by his LA because it is too early to assess his level of need going forwards (apparently) - it's suggested we apply in September for the coming year if he appears to need it.

I personally thought that having a severe S&L difficulty requiring quite intensive SALT support and therapy, plus 1:1 at school suggests a need for an EHCP but they say no and I don't understand it enough to question them.

slkk Thu 11-Feb-16 23:21:27

We were also told that but knew ds wouldn't cope and his s and l therapist suggested a s and l unit would be the best place for him. The trouble is, you don't want to change schools again once he is with you. We applied ourselves and managed to get ehcp just in time to start a s and l unit attached to a mainstream school for reception. These units exist but are frequently not full as people don't think they can get ehcp for s and l. Ultimately you need to show that a mainstream school cannot meet his needs. Maybe with all his paperwork you could get the local schools to say they cannot meet his needs. I'm not sure how it works when he is not registered in school. The trouble with waiting til September is that it will take another few months to get the plan and the attached funding so you may have ds in school for a year with no support and it may not even be the right school in the end. Please don't assume schools will be able to provide the same level of support as he has been getting. Funding is everything. I once taught a y5 class for a whole term either from the doorway (to stop escapes ) or with a child on my knee stroking my face or with screaming as a new child with severe autism arrived in the country and at our school with no paperwork. Sorry stream of consciousness. Try sossen or ipsea for advice.

slkk Fri 12-Feb-16 00:01:27

Sorry also you can maybe get an assessment place in a unit as he is new to the lea while ehcp is applied for.

poppystellar Fri 12-Feb-16 09:25:15

I completely endorse mumofblueeyes suggestion of turning up at school office. Much harder to fob you off in person. That said, I would be wary of the suitability of any of the schools who have been dragging their heels in getting in touch with you. They have a responsibility to accept LAC children as top priority and if they are demonstrating their reluctance to do this at the the admissions stage I would be wondering whether they would really be able / willing to meet his needs once he was at school.

Be prepared to have go all 'mama bear' on them. And don't be at all worried about asking social workers for help. They will not hold this against you at panel. Quite the opposite. During my assessment my mum was asked if she thought I would be a good advocate for my daughter at school. Whenever I go and metaphorically kick ass (politely but firmly ) at school or with the LA we laugh wryly about this.

For what it's worth I think you are doing an amazing job fighting his corner already. My only other advice (which I'm sure you probably already know) is don't necessarily pick the school that is 'best' in the are ie ofsted outstanding or best academic results. Go with the one that feels right and where you are confident they will nurture your son, know him well and meet his needs. Academic results and performance are important but developing our kids' confidence, self esteem, resilience etc is just as important f not more so considering all they have been through. (And I say this as an ex teacher and someone who values education highly). Best of luck with it all.

PootlewasthebestFlump Fri 12-Feb-16 10:06:34

Thanks for the support - incidentally slkk the school close to us who has been helpful is one with a S&L unit within it and we wanted him to go there - but they will only take him if he has an EHCP for S&L. They are mainstream but only taking S&L SEN children as they have unfilled places.

I thought he would have an EHCP for S&L but because he only became LAC a year ago and has made progress they are saying he has to continue as he is then be retested in his new school and then put on an EHCP if he is still in need.

So it sounds arse-backwards to me as I think he will get an EHCP for S&L SEN but not until he gets into a school - but he can't get into the school without the EHCP...

Poppy you are right we are very cautious about the schools who show no interest - but to date these are all our local schools! And many have an excellent reputation for pastoral care which is why we endorsed them in the first place.

I think I may approach the Virtual Head and find out more about getting him into the S&L SEN unit at the local school. I think this would be amazing for him as their Ofsted shows the children with SEN at this school make outstanding progress (above average) because it's what this school is good at.

It's a crazy system...

poppystellar Fri 12-Feb-16 10:20:50

It sure is. Deffo speak to virtual head as it sounds like this school with s & l unit would be a very good / perfect fit. I might be wrong but not having an ehcp shouldn't affect his chance of going to this school as by virtue of being LAC he has priority and as its a mainstream school this should be the criteria applied to admissions? Not sure. One other thought, I think with all the evidence you have of his additional needs (regardless of whether you have an ehcp or statement) you should stand a good chance of winning an admissions appeal for this school if it they refused to admit your child. Best of luck with it all.

PootlewasthebestFlump Fri 12-Feb-16 10:24:44

Thank you. I have sent an email to our SW asking if we can facilitate entry to the school with a view to gaining an EHCP by the end of the Summer term ready for the next year (his Ed Psych says he is not going to cope with the next year without an EHCP and funded support).

The school placement is complicated as they are mainstream but have to reserve spaces only for SEN S&L children in the borough. So they seem to genuinely have to limit the numbers otherwise local SEN children can't get a space - there is a limit to how many they can admit. Unfortunately they had a bumper crop for his year group - if he was any other year there would be no problem!

I used to be a teacher too but the whole system leaves me pretty baffled!

I really like this school for him and I might cry if he can't have a place!

slkk Fri 12-Feb-16 13:32:02

Yes I would push for this, even if he starts mainstream at this school with his lac status. Do ask about assessment places in the unit as well if it looks likely he will get his ehcp. Good luck!

PootlewasthebestFlump Fri 12-Feb-16 15:36:11

Well, bit more confused now!

Spoke with the admissions team - last time I spoke with them they told me he could have a place at any school even if full.

Today they confirmed that all schools are full and he will need to go on a waiting list.

They are allocating spaces for next term in the next couple of weeks - prior to us going to Panel - so any spaces available will be allocated then.

They are pushing us to apply to the local school we are in catchment for - the one which has been less than helpful - rather than the one we want, as they have a shorter waiting list.

It's unlikely he will be able to go to this one as it has failed its Ofsted although the SW said if we felt strongly it was perfect for him they would fight for it with their LA.

So - can a LAC get a space at a 'full' school, or not? If they are all full to bulging with long waiting lists, where do they go? Do I home school?

confused

tldr Fri 12-Feb-16 17:12:32

I'd ignore the admissions team and get his SW and the Virtual Head involved as quickly as you can.

tldr Fri 12-Feb-16 17:14:00

And yes, applying in year I believe they can turn you away from a 'full' school (or at least, you're not the first person I've heard this from).

PootlewasthebestFlump Fri 12-Feb-16 17:21:17

Thanks tldr - I just checked our LA and all schools are currently full for his year group, except for a possible few who may have moved in-year.

I checked the government's own documents and it seems to imply a LAC should be able to go to the most appropriate for their needs school and they are 'excepted children' when it comes to number on role.

I'll see what the SW suggests as I've sent an email requesting support with this.

It's all so conflicting - if all schools are full apart from 'failing' ones then LAC are no better off now than they were years ago if they can't get in.

tldr Fri 12-Feb-16 17:37:10

IIRC, the gov thing is 'non-statutory guidelines' rather than 'law', which is a shame.

But if all schools are full, and he has to go somewhere (and they do have to provide a place), it would surely make sense for that to be the school you actually want.

It really does seem arse-backward, doesn't it?

tethersend Fri 12-Feb-16 21:45:25

"Today they confirmed that all schools are full and he will need to go on a waiting list."

He should not be on a waiting list at all. You are correct in that he is an excepted child, and schools should therefore go over numbers and admit him.

You need to decide which school you want him in, and the virtual head of the authority he is in care to need to inform the school of their intention to direct them to admit him. If this does not produce an offer of a place (it usually does), then the virtual head will direct the school to admit him. Don't think twice about this, the law is in place to deal with exactly this situation, and there is no advantage in waiting.

Perversely, not having an EHCP is actually an advantage for LAC when it comes to (mainstream) school admissions; schools cannot then refuse to offer a place on the grounds that they cannot meet the child's needs.

Good luck smile

PootlewasthebestFlump Tue 16-Feb-16 19:00:31

Thank you Tethersend. I felt like I was shouting into the wind with my latest chat with the education admissions department.

I have referred the matter to the Virtual Head and we will be at Panel in a week or two and it will all be dealt with...

<breathes>

tethersend Tue 16-Feb-16 20:41:53

IME, admissions departments know very little about LAC. More annoyingly, some like to 'explain' incorrect information as if it were you who didn't know the law grin

Good luck smile

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