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Anyone with experience of secondary schools in Berks or surrounding counties?

(13 Posts)
clangermum Thu 26-May-11 18:19:15

I'm looking for a special school that offers GCSEs, not just entry level GCSEs. Does such a school exist? Or is this only usually possible in independent special schools? (We can only really consider maintained schools). There's only one special school locally to us and that doesn't, but we could go out of county without having to travel too far.

(DD is already at a primary special school out of county, but [long story] can't continue at this school beyond primary)

greenpilot Fri 27-May-11 13:41:34

Why can't you consider independent special schools? If it's considered that your child's needs can only be met in an independent ss then the LA must name that school on your DD's statement and pay the fees - you wouldn't have to pay any fees. It may take time and effort to build a case to show that it's the only school to meet her needs (including possible tribunal) but it's possible.

If your dd is bright and is academically capable of full GCSEs, that will be viewed as part of her needs and you can argue that the local maintained special schools aren't suitable for her if they only do entry level GCSEs. It's very rare for maintained special schools to offer full GCSEs - I approached many in my county as my child is bright but has SEN, and none of them could offer any. Are her current NC levels at the right level for her age?

Another option could be to go to the local special school but to access GCSEs via a mainstream secondary - this was an option offered to us, but unsuitable for DS due to his issues with transitions and change. If there is a secondary with a special needs base attached, that might suit your dd?

clangermum Sun 29-May-11 16:02:49

Thanks greenpilot - that's a very good point about independents. dd is working at a level two years below her chronological age (although she has a summer birthday, so that doesn't help). However, she practically missed a year of schooling while various diagnoses were being made and she was being mishandled in mainstream, resulting in a lot of informal exclusions. Following that she repeated a year. She is catching up though.

So the thinking long term is that she probably could achieve full GCSEs, even if she doesn't do them as early as other children. By the time she gets there, the school leaving age will have been raised so at the very least if she left school with a clutch of GCSEs, this seems better to me than doing alternative qualifications at the right age for GCSEs and then whatever they spend the next two years doing (life skills? not that I'm against an element of that), and would perhaps allow her to take things at her own pace.

Going to a local special school but accessing a mainstream for GCSEs is a possibility. I wonder if the cost of an LSA to accompany her would be an issue for the LEA - as she lost her 1:1 helper when she transferred to a special school. I'll look into this though.

The issue of mainstream schools with special units attached is a bit cloudy for me. There aren't any with official units but I'm becoming aware of several mainstream schools with provision for special or additional needs pupils, sometimes in a separate class, but they don't seem to advertise this fact (possibly because the school funds these themselves as opposed to them being 'units' funded by the LEA). And as she is considered a special school pupil, also with issues around change that cause difficult behaviours sometimes, we'd probably have a job to change her status from special to mainstream. She was moved from mainstream to special because these behaviours were said to be to the detriment of other pupils, taking up too much attention etc. At the moment we'd be reluctant for her to be reclassified as a mainstream pupil because she gets better pastoral care at her special school than she ever did in mainstream. To the extent that her episodes are few and far between now. The only disadvantage is the issue of what she'll eventually leave school with, in terms of qualifications.

It's a tricky one - I need a crystal ball!

greenpilot Mon 30-May-11 15:00:53

Manor Green School prospectus says some pupils access GCSEs through mainstream schools.

What is her dx? Furze Platt, Wexham and Hugh Farindon have asd resource/units. Usually pupils can only access the lessons by going into mainstream classes though, which may not suit your dd.

High Close school is an independent special school which does GCSEs - run by Barnardo's.

Penn School might be worth considering if it's close enough.

clangermum Tue 31-May-11 17:37:40

Manor Green and Penn School are possible. I looked at High Close but her dx is a whole mix of things (speech, dyspraxia, sensory issues - none severe on their own) that give her some behavioural issues when frustrated. From what I've read about High Close it's for quite severe BESD pupils. tbh she sits somewhere between special and mainstream, which means she'd probably sink without a trace or act out really badly in mainstream secondary unless it was a really nurturing one.

I'd never heard of Penn School, so thanks for that. I was aware Manor Green had moved and been revamped, and now shares a site with a mainstream school (I think), so it would be interesting to hear if anyone has experience of this and whether the access to GCSEs through mainstream schools is something already in place or that they hope to build up now they are next door to a mainstream school.

greenpilot Tue 31-May-11 22:50:05

Give the schools a ring anyway and see if you can have a chat to the SENCO. Ofsted reports etc can get dated quite quickly and the type of intake can change quite drastically with just a few pupils in special schools, as the student numbers are so small. If nothing else, they might be able to suggest somewhere more suitable.

clangermum Wed 01-Jun-11 09:33:14

Yes, that's a good point. I've noticed at her current school the ability range between one class and the next is huge, so whereas integration at the local school is commonplace one year it virtually disappears the next.

Thanks for all your ideas.

oneaminute Thu 02-Jun-11 21:49:55

What about Alfriston in Beaconsfield

oneaminute Thu 02-Jun-11 21:50:44

Try again lol

clangermum Fri 03-Jun-11 09:42:53

ooh interesting oneaminute - it's within range and I've never come across a school for girls in this sector.

it's weird - I've done internet searches by county, looked at the gabbitas directory and tried searching via ofsted reports, but there are obviously schools out there like this one I hadn't yet heard of

thanks very much!

clangermum Fri 03-Jun-11 09:48:35

oneaminute - can I ask if you have direct experience, or just happen to know of this school? (but no problem if you don't want to say any more)

it looks fab!

oneaminute Thu 09-Jun-11 06:59:44

Hi, sorry - didn't check back here. Don't have any experience I'm afraid. I live in that town and the school became very high profile as the LA wanted to change the entry criteria. The parents fought the battle and won. Here
My DD has ASD and is starting primary in September so I'm thinking ahead too. Are you nearby or does she go nearby?

clangermum Thu 09-Jun-11 11:57:55

Thanks oneaminute - we're in Berks and I reckon it would be about 40 mins away, so do-able when she's senior age probably. She travels for about 25 mins at the moment and if anything it seems to be a nice buffer between school and home.

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