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Appointment with Headteacher

(43 Posts)
geeandfeesmum Mon 04-Jul-11 12:26:24


We have had a rather busy and quite emotional week. We had a difficult trip to Centerparcs with DD (ASD). The day after we got back we had a tour around the school her and DS (NT) will be starting at in September. They are both in the same year (birthdays 11 months apart!!). This was a complete disaster. We went into the room where they were doing the talk and DD flipped. DH had to take her out of the room because she was so loud. When he took her out, she attracted quite a crowd of teachers etc. She bit a learning advisor, ran into the office and grabbed the scissors and eventually had to be taken outside to the play area where she continued to run off. The headmaster saw most of this as well.

2 days later we had a multi agency meeting, during which she was diagnosed with Autism. This wasn’t any great surprise but I think with everything else this week, things have really come to a head and try as I might denial is not an option anymore.

So on Friday, I received a letter from the head of the school saying that in light of our recent visit and a visit from the Early Years Support Teacher, we need to arrange a meeting with him to discuss DD’s special needs (which were at that point undiagnosed).

I called him today. He was quite abrupt. He said that we need to arrange a meeting. I explained when I was free and he said “Good because we have a lot to talk about.” He asked if DH would be there. I explained that DH would be at work. He seemed unhappy about this but said “Well, we will have this initial meeting and take it from there.”

I was wondering of anyone could give me some advice as to how to prepare for this meeting. Are there any things I should be asking in particular? I keep thinking he will just say that they can’t cope with her there. The Statutory Assessment process was put underway on the same day as she was diagnosed. So, her Statement will not be sorted until January at the earliest.

She will need full 1 to 1 support, including at lunchtimes. It has been suggested that she start part time to begin with, which I think might be best for her.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

IndigoBell Mon 04-Jul-11 13:24:09

Firstly, they have to cope with her. They can't refuse her entry.

So the purpose of the meeting needs to be about what school are going to do to support her.

If they have to fund a 1:1 TA until the statement comes through - that's not your problem. The HT needs to work out how to do that.

Nor can they send her home at lunchtime, unless you agree.

Agree to a part time start if it's what you want. But don't feel like you have to.

Is she the elder child or the younger one? Is she almost 5 or just 4?

geeandfeesmum Mon 04-Jul-11 13:43:03


Thank you for the reply. She is the younger one at almost 4. I don’t think I would consider starting her part time if it wasn’t for the fact that she is young anyway plus with her SN.

I think that part time to start with is her best option. Plus, this means that she won’t have to deal with lunchtimes etc. Having said that, I do wonder if it is best to let them see what they are dealing with in terms of the level of support she needs from the beginning. Maybe going part time allows them to shurk their responsibilities a little.

This whole situation is so new to me. I think the fact that he was so abrupt got to me a little after everything that has happened this week.

Are there any particular questions I should be asking? Is there anything I should whole heartedly disagree to?

EllenJaneisnotmyname Mon 04-Jul-11 14:25:26

What do you want? Do you want her to go to a MS school with her brother? Is that going to be appropriate, or if someone suggests a special school, how will you feel? If you think she should at least try MS then don't let them put you off, she has that right. With the correct support, MS may suit her perfectly well. It's up to the school to support her until her statement comes through.

She is still 3? Is there any possibility of putting her back a year? ie start reception next year and have another year in a pre-school with 1:1 support? Some schools can offer this if they are undersubscribed or if it is put on to her statement. That might be a possibility.

Worst case scenario, if the school says they cannot cope with her, they are putting the pressure on, because they have to at least try. If you are happy for her to attend part-time to begin with, they should be arranging 1:1 to cover the whole time she is there, at least until her Statement (hopefully) comes through. As she is so young, that may be a good option.

Sorry, it sounds very blunt, but it's a good idea to be prepared for what might come up, get upset now so you can be calmer during the meeting. Hope it goes well.

Agnesdipesto Mon 04-Jul-11 14:45:39

Is the early years teacher going to the meeting?
Try and get someone to go with you and take notes etc so you don't feel intimidated
Parent Partnership service will go with you if you contact them (and should know the law about school's duties etc)
Agree with above advice.
Do not be pressured to do part-time if you do not want to.
Start looking at other options eg special schools, schools with ASD units, out of area schools, private schools etc etc the Head's manner seems poor which does not bode well.
Most LAs delegate vast amounts of their SEN budget to schools to 'cope' so don't be told there is no money etc etc.
There is much to be said for throwing them in at the deep end esp if you want a statement eg if you have to reduce it from fulltime to parttime because they are not coping that is really good evidence for a statement / special school place etc.
Sadly the system is set up for children to have to fail before they get good provision so whilst it is horrible to put your child somewhere you know it won't work it can be the best tactic to get what you want.
Also health should have told the LA about your child when she came to their attention so if the school were not aware that is a breakdown between them and the LA, nothing to do with you.
They can only refuse you a school place if her presence in school is not compatible with the education of other children or cannot be made compatible by putting in extra support or if the cost of such extra support makes it an inefficient use of resources. If this were the case they would have to find a special school place.
Do you have an autism outreach service? They should be on board now you have a diagnosis. Push for the EY teacher or Autism outreach service to support your DD during her first days / weeks - turning up every day if necessary
You could of course keep her at nursery with support and delay school but only if that is what you want.
Don't feel you have to agree to anything on the spot.
Just say this is a lot to take in, I will discuss with DH etc and come back to you within 5 days etc.
They can always arrange a second meeting.
To be fair to the school if they were not aware they needed to employ a TA then it is going to be difficult for them to advertise and recruit one before the holidays. But thats not your problem

IndigoBell Mon 04-Jul-11 14:49:51

If you accept part time (which I think sounds like a good idea) I'd be concerned that they'll want her to stay part time longer than you would like.

So you may want to agree at the outset for how long she stays part time. Maybe something like 6 weeks mornings only, then 6 weeks till after lunch, then 6 weeks till 2:30, then full time.....

Otherwise I could easily see them keeping her mornings only for ever.

Now, what do you want them to do with her while she is in school? Are they just a babysitting service or do you expect them to teach her something? Social skills? Taking turns? Sharing? Being polite? Sitting still? Phonics? Numbers?

Ask the hard questions. Ask what they will teach her and how. The easy option for them is to get her a 1:1 - and then just babysit her.

While you are waiting for a statement she will still be on the SEN register, and will need an IEP (Individual Education Plan) - which normally has 3 - 5 targets that she is working on. And should be SMART (Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound)

It also needs to specify how DD will be helped to achieve her target. How, by who and when.

Be confident, strong and assertive. You have 'coped' with your DD all this time, and it is totally reasonable to expect school to do the same.

geeandfeesmum Mon 04-Jul-11 15:24:27

Wow, such wonderful advice. I appreciate it all so much.

EllenJaneisnotmyname, Thank you for your reply and thank you for being blunt. I would definitely rather be upset now than become emotional whilst in the meeting. Ok, with regards to MS vs SS, I really don’t know. I always thought we would give MS a go and see how she copes, she may surprise us, blah blah blah. But then when we went for the tour, I just sat in the room where they were talking, thinking “She just can’t do this.” When I left, I honestly was thinking that she may be best in Special School. In fact, if I’m honest, I left thinking she will have to go to Special School.

Now, I’ve had time to discuss it with DH and other family, I don’t really know what is best. DH thinks she will more than likely end up going to Special School. There is a Mainstream school close by that, apparently, is very adept at dealing with children with ASD according to their website. However, we didn’t know anything about them or even what Seren’s behaviour/ways was caused by until we had already applied for school places. DH called them but they said they are oversubscribed and they have no ASD unit or anything of the sort, although their website is full of info on it.

The rest of the extended family are currently in denial and completely uncomfortable with the idea of SS.

Agnesdipesto, Thank you for such great advice. The school have known about her SN (although not her diagnosis) since we were allocated a school place. I just don’t think they realised quite how she is until they met her. That is a good idea about not agreeing to anything. I suppose that was why they asked if DH was coming because if he was I wouldn’t have that as an excuse to think it over.

As for EY Teacher or others going to see her when she starts, this has already been agreed. Also, her preschool teacher has asked if she can go to see her to help her settle in.

I’m still torn about part time. On the one hand, it would be better if they learned early on what support she needs and when. On the other hand, I honestly think I would get a phone call asking me to pick her up before the day is out. I still think that will happen if she goes part time.

It took her months to get used to being at preschool. For 6 weeks plus, she literally screamed the entire time she was there. They coped by taking her to the sensory room and having someone hold her all the time. She is now settled but does not participate in group activities. In fact, I watched her on the CCTV at lunchtime and the whole of the class were sat at the tables eating their meals. DD was on the other side of the room throwing herself on the floor for fun. She popped back every now and then to have a nibble and then she went again.

IndigoBell, Thank you for the very useful insight and questions. That is a great idea about agreeing times for part time from the outset. I think the school would be happy to just keep her part time because it is less effort on their part.

As for what I want them to do with her at school that is a difficult one. She will need to settle in before she can even begin to learn anything. Eventually, I would like them to at least teach her some things. She is capable of learning when she wants to. The school has a reputation for “babysitter style” TA’s, which is a concern for me, although to be honest until she settles they won’t be able to do anything but that.

Your post has really given me some confidence and I feel better about the meeting just from reading all of the advice so far.

Sorry didn’t mean for this to be so long!!

zzzzz Mon 04-Jul-11 15:26:49

I think the main thing to keep in mind is that she is allowed to be in school. She has exactly the same right to an education as any other child there. There are not so many special schools, and if you feel with help she can cope in MS there is no reason that she shouldn't be given the opportunity. Inclusion is the word to keep at the forefront of your mind. Read up on a definition so you understand what it means, the school must accommodate her not the other way around [integration]. It helps if you can use it in conversation eg "I'm sure there is a way that we can work out how she can be included as much as possible in school". If she needs help in the loo, you can say something like "but I know toileting isn't going to be a stumbling block in her accessing education". Don't worry about the head sounding strict, if he intimidates you say so eg "I find it a bit scary talking to you, I don't know why but I suppose it is because I am anxious about all this", few people will keep going in the face of that.
Be very clear that the school is given a budget based on the number of sn kids there are likely to be in there area and there are top up funds if they get more than the average, so they have already received funding for her.

Don't go looking for a fight, because there isn't always one to have, but do go thinking that you need a good working relationship with the head and senco etc.

She is highly unlikely to be the most difficult child they have dealt with. It is there job to educate the whole population not cherry pick and frankly you may be very pleasantly surprised at how much she can do in a few years.

I chose to put my ds [language mainly] in the year below, he is a twin and it works better for us than having both boys in the same year. I don't regret it at all though dh still quibbles now and again.

starfishmummy Mon 04-Jul-11 16:03:06

I would go with an open mind, and see what the head has to say. See this as the first of several meetings between now and the start of next term rather than having to settle everything in one go.
If your DH can't go with you, is there someone else who can? They don't need to be involved in the discussion but would be useful to take notes for you. Maybe someone from preschool might be able to talk to the head as well.

geeandfeesmum Tue 05-Jul-11 07:52:14


Thank you again for the replies. Yes, I think starting off on the right foot with the head is a good idea. I think what bothered me is that everyone I have dealt with so far has been really nice and accomodating about DD. He is the first person that made me think he views it as a problem. Maybe he just comes across that way on the phone.

As for thinking she will cope in MS, I still don't know. I feel it is best to give it a try and she may surprise us all. At the same time, I keep thinking it will just be a total nightmare for everyone involved.

I did consider taking someone with me for the meeting but the EY Teacher has appointments back to back usually and as for family, well, that's another story. Even though, they were saying a long time ago that she's not right and to get her checked out, now that we have and it's been proven, they've turned the other cheek.

The relatives that have her and DS regularly say things like "She will be fine once she can talk." "She just needs more discipline." "She will grow out of it." They think there is nothing wrong with her even though none of them are willing to go out anywhere with her because of how she is. They drive to their homes 5 minutes away and need an extra person in the back with her because she climbs out of her seat. But anyway, that's a rant for another day.

Thank you again. Please keep the advice and questions coming. The meeting is tomorrow.

geeandfeesmum Wed 06-Jul-11 07:29:09

Getting really nervous about this now. Any more advice or suggestions or just a virtual hug would be great right now.

Triggles Wed 06-Jul-11 10:52:42

A couple things to remember:

- if you're not 100% comfortable that the school will play fair, bring someone else along with you to the meeting, if nothing just as a witness. You can say "oh they're along to take notes, so I can focus on what is being said" if need be.

- MS schools can provide support and 1:1 prior to a statement, so don't allow them to tell you they can't. As far as funding is concerned, that's their problem, not yours. If she needs support, they need to provide it. And there are places they can apply for funding to cover support costs as well - D2's school did it, so they could give him full time support prior to his statement which basically meant they had him on full time 1:1 support throughout the entire school year and he's only just gotten his statement yesterday (received final in post).

- you need to put aside the comments from well-meaning family and friends. It is YOUR decision (you and your DH, I mean), and you cannot let them talk you around into denial of a problem. It is SO tough, because family can sometimes mean well, but they just don't see how stressful it is and don't understand how comments like that can make you doubt yourself. Be honest with yourself - it's difficult, but you know all the little things that are "off" don't add up to nothing - you know if there's something there - and everything isn't going to magically change when they start talking or eating "better" or getting more discipline or when they get a bit older. I have had to sit down with a couple family members that were quite persistent about this and say "Look, I understand you mean well, but this is the way it is. And when you go on and on about how they don't have ASD/ADHD, all you're doing is creating more stress and upset for me. This behaviour is not supportive, so stop it." Two were a bit upset initially, one still is... but at least it cleared the air. Acceptance is tough, but denial can really cause frustration, IMO.

geeandfeesmum Wed 06-Jul-11 11:24:21

Ok, little update. Good news, the Early Years Support teacher is coming along to the meeting with me. Bad news, she has had an email from the headteacher stating that they've done a risk assessment and they are not willing to take DD. I'm not supposed to know this but she told me so that I'm prepared. So now what?!?!?

Triggles Wed 06-Jul-11 11:30:14

I didn't think that was an option, that they could just say "we're not willing to take her." hmm Hopefully someone will be along soon with more info on that. I know I've seen this crop up with others on the board, just don't remember details, sorry.

IndigoBell Wed 06-Jul-11 11:32:10

They can't refuse to have your DD. All they can do is help you get a statement which specifies a different (special) school.

Ring your local parent partnership now and discuss all of this with them.

wasuup3000 Wed 06-Jul-11 11:34:25

How badly do you want your daughter to go to a school that doesn't want her, or your son for that matter?

I think give the statementing officer a call at the LEA and let them know what the Head has said.

What Month does your daughter turn 5 - if she is a August baby for example then in England a school will have no obligation to take her on until after the Easter term?

IndigoBell Wed 06-Jul-11 11:37:16

There are several admissions experts on the primary ed board, post a thread there and they will probably be able to answer your questions.....

geeandfeesmum Wed 06-Jul-11 11:57:37

Thank you for the replies. To be honest, I never did want either of them to go there. She will be 4 in August so I suppose he's thinking that they can keep her out until her statement comes through and that should say another school. But then I don't want DS to start school there and then find out that DD will be going to the school nearby that is mainstream with a unit which I would rather they were both at anyway. Having said that if she ends up at SS then it won't really matter to DS.

It's just one worry after another isn't it?

wasuup3000 Wed 06-Jul-11 12:17:40

Is there a pre school that would agree to take her until Easter or a statement comes through - maybe worth discussing with your early years person?

See if you can talk to someone on your parent partnership team (google will help get you the numner).

mariamagdalena Wed 06-Jul-11 23:45:44

Don't just agree to not send her there, as was said above, if it;s the school named for her, they have to either take her or back you up in finding somewhere else. Let them formally refuse to have her there, in writing. And various wise people on this board have pointed out before that it's relatively easy to leave an expensive special school and return to cheaper mainstream. If you liked the look of the SS, maybe a couple of years there might give her the skills she would need to cope well in supported mainstream later.

In the meanwhile, your DS should keep his 15h/week preschool funding till the New Year, and your daughter's would be valid till September 2012, so if you're having second thoughts about this school, you could get on some waiting lists and keep them both in pre-school for the time being.

cory Thu 07-Jul-11 08:21:16

What Maria says is crucial: never act on hints, always get everything in writing! If you act on something they say, they will deny it afterwards and you will be in the shit.

geeandfeesmum Thu 07-Jul-11 11:11:11

Well, we had the meeting with the head. Firstly, he does not like the EY support teacher at all. They clearly have some bad blood between them. However, he was polite with me if a little abrupt.

He did not openly say that they won’t take her. He did sort of try to make me decide that she would be better elsewhere. He said I should consider special schools and that his school is a 50% school dinners school and most parents don’t work and that he wouldn’t send his children there!!

He also said he didn’t think he could guarantee DD’s safety within the school without a lot of adaptations to fencing and the pond and the classroom etc as she is a runner, a climber and will put anything in her mouth at any given moment. He said if she were to behave how she did at the tour he would call us to pick her up. He said then we would be looking at exclusion. He said they had already medically excluded one autistic child as he was being restrained for most of the day. The EY support teacher did point out that it was her first visit to a new place but he really just shot her down every time she tried to talk. In fact, he was very rude to her.

They have one autistic girl in the school but she was sat talking to the other children when I saw her and he also said she is not statemented.

He made it very clear that the TA would basically just be a CRB checked parent off the street and although he would ensure it was someone fit (that could keep up with her), they would not necessarily have any understanding of autism or her needs at all.

Now, I know that legally he has no right to say these things and that I should really push for him to put up and shut up but…..

I never did want either of my children to go to that school. The fact that he is seemingly unwilling to provide a place for my DD makes want her to go there even less. If I did win the argument in that he has not right to not accept her, anything he does for her will be grudgingly anyway. He already said that these things would have to come out of the budget and then the other children at the school would suffer.

He argued emphatically that it was expected to come out of the budget already assigned to him and stated that he may be able to apply for funding with “extenuating circumstances”.

He said when she is statemented she would have her choice of schools.

We told him that DD is settling into preschool now and has shown that she is capable of coping but he said that is not what they told him.

We asked what they had said because this surprised us and he said that they told him that she could still present a challenge now and then and sometimes she can be quite difficult.

Now, I would have thought that was expected of a child with Autism.

Anyway, he told me to start visiting Special Schools. I’m not sure how I feel about that yet. I mean, I don’t even know if she is “bad” enough to warrant such a thing. I know she will not cope with THAT school. I know for the first few months at any school it will be very hard. She does not sit at the table at preschool. We have managed 2-3 minutes at a table at a time with her EY support teacher but only for something she really likes and only on a good day. She does not sit at a table for mealtimes either. He also found this to be a major problem.

I have no experience or knowledge about the Education System. I have only my own limited experience of autistic children and their needs, which is just my DD’s experience. Yet, I am expected to be able to make an informed decision about this without any real support or advice from anyone that has any understanding of either of these things. It’s just not fair!!

IndigoBell Thu 07-Jul-11 11:14:57

Run a mile!

At least you found all of this before you started.

Ring parent partnership - you are really going to need expert advice on this.

You can't even get into a special school without a statement - and even then not necessarily.

wasuup3000 Thu 07-Jul-11 11:29:36

Sounds like a charming, helpful, caring Man! Thank your lucky stars for that escape!!

flyingmum Thu 07-Jul-11 12:29:19

He Sounds awful and I am talking as an educationalist as well as a SEN parent. He is right on a couple of things though: He can advise his govenors not to accept your child on the grounds that having her in the school would pose a substantial risk to her welfare and the welfare of others. If the school is quite an open one and she is a runner then that could be classed as a substantial risk to her and to other very young children whom a teacher might have to leave undersupervised whilst haring after her.
Secondly, with a child who is as affected as yours is (she sounds a bit like my son who is now 16 and the nicest son in the world and is operating perfectly 'normally' now so it does all get better) they do spend a lot of their time being taken out, taught seperately and not really included unless the school are really really proactive about it.
Thirdly, he is right on the mums army approach of a TA. They should send them on training courses, etc, but bear in mind that schools have had budgets slashed and they are saving money whenever and whereever they can so might be scrimpting on a training budget for a TA who do tend to leave. My son had a real selection of TAs for quite a while - some made his situation worse in fact one of them was so bad that had she not left the head was going to sack her but my son still got the receiving end of her for quite some months and it affected him subtly for years later. Some were good, some were ineffective, some were lovely but had very weak literacy some just couldn't cope with a challenging child. Also these women gossip. The best ones don't but the ones who try out the job for a bit and then leave just as quickly yack to their friends. Then you get more 'looks' outside the school gates - oh joy. Having said that I work with some of the most fabulous TAs in the world and I know many teaching assistants are brilliant but it is pot luck and I think that, to an extent, is what the head was trying to tell you.
Finally, I would really recommend going and seeing the local special school provision. You might be suprised because it might be nothing like your expectations. It may be that some specialist provision early on might be what your child needs and then can move into mainstream later once some of the basic skills are established.
In my experience as a mum and as a teacher Reception children have a lot expected of them. They should know how to sit still, how to line up, how to get on with a task for a short time, how to share, how to cooperate, how to listen. Actually the reading and writing malarky can all be learnt later. If your child is having problems with the basics that most NT kids have the rudiments of before they even start then school is going to be a stressful place. A special school environment understands this. Your daughter is already an August birthday what about keeping her at pre school for a bit longer and finding a more proactive and better mainstream school where transition could be more gradual.
All the best.

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