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Are you allowed into your child's special school?

(9 Posts)
BakeliteBelle Tue 04-Oct-11 17:12:01

Am I being unreasonable?

DS's special school (SLD) always used to be relaxed about parents coming in. We used to drive DS in every so often and sometimes sit in on the circle time (no more than 10 mins). It gave us a good idea of how DS is responding to the teachers and classmates, his mood, the general vibe of the place etc. DS was non-verbal and now he is verbal, refuses to talk about school at all so we only know what the teachers tell us. Observing him once in a while is therefore very useful. The other kids just took it in their stride and loved seeing other pupil's parents.

For a couple of years now, apparently after a single incident involving a parent having a row with a teacher, (and with a different Head), the school seems to be going out of it's way to stop parents getting over the threshold. Not just me, but everyone. Different excuses are given all the time. Taxi drivers are still permitted to see the kids to the door of the classroom, but parents are not. Visiting professionals can observe the children in class (without permission from parents), but parents have to jump through hoops to get to sit in on classes. It isn't consistent - occasionally, no-one stops us and we just walk in unchallenged!

My friend took her son in on the first day of term and wanted to see him to the door of his classroom and say a quick 'hi' to the brand new teacher. She was stopped in the foyer by the brand new deputy head who did not introduce herself and who instead, tried to insist she hand her child over. My friend refused but felt upset she had to fight her way in to the school.

I am quite uneasy about this. These are children who cannot tell you anything about their day, their peers, their feelings about school. However, my friend who is a teacher says she would hate it if parents went in and 'disrupted' the school day.

silverfrog Tue 04-Oct-11 17:22:06

dd1's last school - absolutely. anytime. but it was tiny, and she was in a class of 1, so no one to disrupt, iyswim. we used to have parent observations every term, where I would spend half the day there, and watch lessons, any activity (swimming, riding - I would go to the leisure centre or stables and observe there) etc.

her new one, not so much. I see her into the playground and wait. I have a handover with her morning tutor, and a quick chat. and the same at the end of the day - time for a 2 minute chat if I want to. but I cannot go into the classroom as easily - we did last week, but it was after school as dd1 wanted the loo once she got into the car. it is too disruptive to the flow of the day, and would not be possible for everyone to fit into the space to hang up coats/bags/lunchboxes etc if we were allowed (bearing in mind every child has a 1:1, so in dd1's classroom space there would be 13 adults (6 parents/taxi drivers, 6 tutors, 1 class leader) and 6 children all jostling for space if we took them in ourselves...

that said, it is possible, by arrangement. info about the school day comes from the home/school book, and from dd1 when she decides to tell me anything (not that it is always accurate, mind grin)

bigbluebus Tue 04-Oct-11 19:11:01

At DD's school - not generally during the school day. Most children go to school by taxi/school bus and the escorts take them to their classrooms. Very few parents take their children in themselves, but those who do are allowed to take their child to the class and drop them off. However, at going home time, the system is different and the class staff take all children to the bus bay and hand them over to their transport.
If you have to collect your child for an appointment during the school day, then you have to wait at reception for them to be brought to you and likewise if you drop them off after an appointment,you wait for the class staff to come and collect your child from reception.
DD's school is quite big as SN schools go (300+ students) and the building itself is very large so it would be difficult to keep tabs on parents if they were allowed to wander around the school. Also I can see how it might be disruptive and also upsetting to some pupils if X's parent is in school, but theirs is not.
I understand how you feel though bakelite as DD's school used to be much more relaxed about this too but when it all changed (following major building works) it felt as if we had suddenly been shut out and weren't welcome any more. I guess I've just got used to the new system now.

growlybear Tue 04-Oct-11 19:44:43

my daughters last school changed all of a sudden and it became very difficult to make contact with our dd.Her new school is so differant i actually spent two whole days in at the beginning of term and have spent many hours since due to seizures.They do not have a problem with parents being in there at all.

unpa1dcar3r Tue 04-Oct-11 20:37:07

My boys school is like an extended family, we were told from the off that anytime we wanted to pop in we could. And this is the case although I've never 'popped in' for no reason as I don't feel the need. The school are good at communicating and will ring me if any issues or changes of plan...or put notes in their books.
parents are encouraged to be involved (I've recently set up a coffee morning for all parent/carers)..

I can see where they're coming form if the issue is that maybe some kids don't like their routine messed up with 'strangers' coming in although this cannot be the case if professionals go in unannounced...

I would challenge this policy (if indeed it is a written policy, which I doubt). After all them not allowing you access is going to worry any parent especially with our children who are so vulnerable.
Hmmm maybe arrange a meeting with the parent/governors and address this or become a parent/governor yourself so you have a foot in the door so to speak on issues of access.

TheNinjaGooseIsOnAMission Tue 04-Oct-11 21:16:14

much like growly and unpaid, dd3's school is open invite, they also run coffee mornings where you can get time with the teacher.

squidworth Tue 04-Oct-11 21:39:17

My sons school parents are not really allowed into school in the mornings but the school do run coffee morning and play sessions. At his school it is the pure chaos of the taxi routine it is liked a well timed army manoeuvre and teachers do not have the time to deal with stray parents or the asking of questions.

Lougle Tue 04-Oct-11 21:41:15

DD1's school is mixed in this respect, I think.

I am a Governor there, so I can be in the school for a reason, other than DD1. Having said that, I will always make an effort to be discreet, because much as it is nice for me, it is disruptive for DD1 if she sees me. It is her school, not Mummy's. So, if I am in at particular times, I will walk the opposite route to the one I anticipate she would take. It has been known for a member of staff to pull me into a room because DD1's class is suddenly appearing at the top of the corridor!

The Head Teacher has an 'Open Door Policy'. That means that you can turn up at the school to discuss a concern at any time. If she is busy, you have to wait, but she will try and fit you in. Or you can phone. Any queries for teaching staff/SALT staff (there are 3 based at DD1's school, although they are NHS SALTs and serve other schools as well) can be made by phone or a note in the home/school book.

There are fortnightly coffee mornings, and we are encouraged to invite anyone who may benefit. So at present, we have 2 parents who have children with SN at Mainstream schools, but feel isolated, so they come to our coffee mornings for the SN support.

Parents are very much encouraged to be in partnership with the school.

HOWEVER, and this is where I think the answer to your AIBU? is Yes:

SN schools are increasingly shifting in their profiles. Survival of prem babies is going up, the number of children with severe and complex SN is going up (not just as a result of prematurity, I hasten to add) and the result is an increasing severity of the profile of children in Special Schools.

Even 'MLD' are tending to get more 'SLD' and 'PMLD' children, and the 'MLD' children of a few years ago are being pushed out into Mainstream education.

The school staff have to balance an incredibly complicated set of children, and their needs. They also have to house the teaching assistants, any equipment, professionals (SALTs, OTs, Physios, Ed Psychs, etc.) In DD1's class, a more able class, there are 10 children and 6 teaching staff in one classroom, before anyone comes in to see them. Other more profound classes will have standers, kaye walkers, achieva beds, supportive chairs, etc.

Imagine also, given DD1's class, if all 10 parents decided to 'pop in' for a few minutes. You could have an hour and 40 minutes of teaching time gone, with each parent just 'popping in' for 10 minutes. Add to that, the amount of time it takes to refocus the children, who often have limited attention spans anyway. Additionally, the staff, with the best will in the world, will be diverting some of their attention away from the children to the parents.

Then, you have the issue that the parents don't know the profile and the needs of the children in the class. They won't know if behaving in a particular way would upset 'Charlie'. An example, is that if I went in to DD1's Yr R class for any reason, they couldn't do anything with one of DD1's classmates, because he was so fixated on my mobile phone (that just happened to be in a holster clipped onto my belt loop) that he would completely zone out anything else.

It is hard to know that your child is away for 6 hours, and you don't hear anything from them at the end of the day, and desperately try and glean the tiniest scraps of information from them. But, school is their 'work' time and it is for them, not us.

MedusaIsHavingABadHairDay Tue 04-Oct-11 23:11:46

I teach in a SLD special school and my son is a pupil there.
Like many others we hold frequent coffee mornings etc and no one EVER mind parents popping in for a quick chat..but preferably at the end of the day as we have time to talk whereas mornings are very very busy. Any parent is welcome to come and see a member of staff to discuss concerns or chat.

But in the class..sitting in at random times? No. I would consider that utterly disruptive to the atmosphere of the class. My class all have SLD and most are also autistic and our class NEEDS calm routine, with everything predictable, and as much as can be, everything the same as per the daily timetable. A parent sitting in at random would create huge anxieties for other pupils and confusion. It has nothing to do with 'hiding' what we do, far from it, we are very proud of how our class runs, but we run it for the children..and their needs are always paramount.

For example, we have one child who is fixated by tights on women.. he's a large teen, with limited understanding, and can display very challenging behaviour. A mum popping in wearing a skirt would simply put him in a situation where he could have extreme difficulty controlling his behaviour.. and the whole class would be affected.

"Disruption' isn't a dirty word.. it's a fact that to help the children, classes don't benefit from people popping in willy nilly. It's difficult enough with the necessary extras (OTs Physios, SALTS etc) but they are seen by all regularly enough to become familiar faces and the good ones do everything possible to minimise their impact on the class.

Good home>school communication is essential.. home school diaries should be used effectively, but I think you need to trust the staff to be doing their job..or reconsider where your child is schooled!

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