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Tips for school meeting(20 Posts)
I have a meeting with school next week following a complaint I have made to school govs. My complaint is the SENCO's reaction to my concerns about my DD's maths (Dyslexic dd with slow processing and poor working memory). When I told SENCO I was concerned about very slow progress and massive lack of confidence (tears and tantrums around homework, sobbing in bed) the SENCO told me I am causing my daughter's anxiety by being anxious myself. I did try to get her to reflect on this in a very tactful way, but she merely re-iterated it.
Now, following the letter of complaint to govenors a meeting has been set up. class teacher, HT and 2 x govs will be there but not SENCO.
TBH I am bricking it about this meeting, I feel like it will be more ganging up type dynamic, that the HT will try and dominate the agenda and blow the usual hot air.
I am taking dh with me, although I might have to sedate him so he does not get angry(!) In terms of my concerns am not asking for much from the school (just things like NOT putting up homework on the computer that's too difficult, closer monitoring of her progress, providing me with detailed targets for her development would be a mahoosive step in the right direction)
Ultimately I just want the school to realize that it is out of order to tell a parent with genuine concerns (which incidentally are corroborated by dd's specialist tutor who believes my dd has a very shakey grasp of numeracy concepts - assessed my dd who is 9 and in the summer did not know what an 'odd' and 'even' number was) that the parent is the problem. I feel like I cannot go forward unless the school (well SENCO) acknowledge the inappropriateness. What the hell do I do if they don't acknowledge it?
Any other hints and tips about how to approach this meeting?
The less talking you do, the more powerful you appear.
Agree to nothing at the time but politely respond with something along the lines of "I will consider your suggestion and get back to you". Take notes, lots, and then put down in writing back to them anything they have agreed to do to help and any further questions/queries you have after the meeting, plus any answers to any points you have been considering. Make a paper trail of what has been said. If you get anything wrong in the letter they will soon come back to you on it, but if not then you have the facts of the meeting documented properly.
For me meetings start well, but the minute they start to say something back I feel got at and things go downhill from there.
Try and preempt their stance. Practice your responses. Tell them Your anxiety will cease when they start listening to you. Oh, and you do not project your anxiety on your child. If you can get someone else on your side then take them too.
Produce an agenda and take the meeting by te horns if you've requested it.
I am trying to think what their stance might be. But I truly have absolutely no idea if they are going to: 1) deny it was ever said, or 2) try and say it was not meant that way. Or 3) accuse me of taking things the wrong way. Or 4) maybe they might admit they haven't handled my concerns in the optimal way? (hahahaha I can dream, right?). Maybe they are actually just gonna say, 'yes you ARE a neurotic, anxious Mum'.
I really have no idea! Which is stressing me out a lot. I think that if this meeting doesn't go well then my relationship with school is going right down the pan. And I also have a dd being assessed for ASD. So I am already feeling a bit disempowered by it, that there is a lot to lose, but not a lot I can really say until I hear where they are coming from. Which will allow them to dominate the agenda.
Aaaargggh, going round in circles........
Listen - get your DH to take the minutes. If they repeat what they said orginally re you being anxious - say we are here to discuss my child's special educational needs not your unqualified opinion of my mental health, you are a teacher not a doctor, or have I come to have a meeting at the wrong place?
If they deny it was ever said, or it was not meant that way, or accuse you of taking things the wrong way - stick to your guns, that you did say it and that was the way it came across meant that way or not. If they go for d) then no they needed to handle your concerns correctly and stick to the those instead of personally attacking you. Stay strong and in control. Tell them you wan't an apology in writing for what was said and "once this is agreed then you can carry on and tell me what strategies you are going to come up with to meet my childs special educational needs."
Be firm and be equal to them - what they said was not acceptable and it had better not happen again!
What would be the best outcome for you?
Write down what you would like walking away from the meeting.
Star is quite right regarding saying less. Shake each persons hand at the beginning if possible (if they turn your hand palm up, turn it back, look them in the eye and greet them by name).
Put names on paper like a table plan. Make notes of what people say under there name (numbered for chronology)
Always ask people to repeat there point if you disagree with it. This gives you time to compose your answer and them to think clearly about what they are stating.
Make eye contact firmly at beginning and end.
<bump> got my meeting today. am thinking of all the above tips. please honk for me today!
Honking for you Handywoman!
I'll be in the same position as you next week. <wibble>
Good idea to take DH along and get him to take the minutes of the meeting; I have previously asked for the school to do this, school secretary or somebody, but they never have anyone available.
Also, if he is likely to lose his temper (understandable!) giving him something practical to concentrate on will help.
I have found one of the most useful tactics, when in a meeting and put under pressure to agree/make a decision on something, when I don't want to/need more time/don't have all the information, is to smile sweetly (usually through gritted teeth!) and say something along the lines of "That's very interesting, but I will need to get back to you on that" then change the subject rapidly!
It gives you a bit of thinking time.
Do let us know how it went.
Focus on the one main thing you want to achieve from the meeting. If you don't do this everything will become diluted.
From this one main thing you want to achieve have a list of about three (max) action points on how to achieve the outcome you want.
Ask for a review time and contact person at the end of the meeting.
Do not see the other party you're talking to as the enemy. It will make you more angry and anxious at the meeting. See them as an ally - we are all here to help your dd. It stops you feeling you have to fight everything and in turn it makes it easier to think on the spot and remain firm but reasonable.
Ask prior to the meeting why the senco person won't be at the meeting. Ask to see the senco's views on your dd prior to the meeting. Somebody will need to speak to them prior to the meeting so they must have this information. This is important because it means you will have less to information to suddenly process at the meeting, and can enable you to rethink how you're going to position the meeting.
Do not slag off the senco person. It won't get you what you want because time will be wasted with the other party defending them. Be constructive. My dd responds better if x happens. To do this the senco person needs to do y. We would like this to happen going forward. If they say 'no' then ask them to expand on why they can't or alternatively ask them put it place on a trial basis.
Wishing you loads of good luck. Hope you get what you want.
Just wanted to say that whether they deny or believe you that senco told you you were causing your DD's anxiety shouldn't be the key focus of the meeting. They reason being is when you attend the meeting you TELL them senco said it and that going forward you do not want to be put in that position ever again. Inform them that you want your statement on this documented in the minutes. It helps to formalise things by doing this.
If they continue to dispute it you tell them that it is very unfortunate that you haven't been believed and an apology would have been nice but what is truly evident is that there is an issue between your dd and senco and you would like to spend the rest of the meeting addressing that. You then move the meeting on to how to make things better for your dd. If you don't do this then even if they agree that senco said it (which is of course what you want) you still need to put things in place to help your dd.
Wish I had seen this earlier. CTs and SENCOs make crap comments all the time - the reason that they get way with them is often because it comes down to your word against theirs - particularly when the issue is inadequate progress and the stress this causes - and their word always trumps that of parents. Sidestep the barbs and focus on what is most important - progress - and measure it. The BOG often takes a crude view of whether or not a school is effective using SATs as this is the measure more widely used - year 6 attainment and progress between ks1 and ks2. They are also very interested (because they have to be) on communication between the school and parents. They are unable to resolve personal issues but can be useful if you complain that the communication is too poor to allow you to understand DDs progress rate and what you really need is better communication - maybe by measuring reading and spelling age at 3 monthly intervals so that you have a better understanding.
You said that DD is dyslexic - have you read the Rose Review? Used by LEAs and schools but can be extremely useful to parents. If RA and SA are measured they can be used to calculate rate of progress - no argument, no subjective opinion, end of. The best way to address the issue of whether or not you are 'neurotic' is to measure progress. (I'm sure you're not btw - I was told there was progress because nobody had either collected the data or carried out the anaylsis - which showed a rate of 3 months per calandar year - ie 'inadequate' and a criteria for carrying out SA.)
Eg, according to the Rose Review (2003, pp 178-9),
'Many UK studies report results not in standard scores but in reading and spelling ages, from which ratio gains can be calculated in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention. A ratio gain of 1.0 means that the childs skills are developing at a normal pace, but they will not be catching up with their peers. Brooks (2007) suggests that ratio gains of less than 1.4 are of doubtful educational significance, between 1.4 and 2.0 of modest impact, between 2.0 and 3.0 of useful impact, between 3.0 and 4.0 of substantial impact and above 4.0 of remarkable impact (Brooks. 2007, p. 289).
However, Brooks (2007) points out that ordinary teaching (i.e. no intervention) does not enable children with literacy difficulties to catch up, and hence it is fair to presume that, in the absence of control or comparison groups, and where effect sizes cannot be calculated, findings of ratio gains in excess of 2.0 may be taken as good evidence in support of the method employed. Indeed, several studies have shown that, without help, dyslexic pupils progress at around only 5 months per calendar year in reading (ratio gain 0.42) and 3 months in spelling (ratio gain 0.25) (Thomson, 1990, 2001; see also Rack and Walker, 1994).
Hope things went well.
okay, so big relief........ prior to this meeting I have been taking advice from a SENCO friend working in a London borough. I knew what sort of intervention to expect for my dd's academic level therefore I went in and stated calmly that I was not expecting hours of individual tuition or anything unreasonable. Only to discuss my concerns, have them listened to, and make some simple adjustments and accommodations. This seemed to soften things and therefore I went for what was most important to me and stated that communication had been closed down by the SENCO and did they think that this was an appropriate way to deal with a parent? At this point the HT actually apologised! It was a blimming surprising and satisfying moment! In 6 yrs of having kids in that school I have never heard of this HT ever apologizing about anything, EVER! The HT also took back her previous written assertion that my dd has 'no SEN in maths' (which I was prepared to take to the LEA and Ofsted because it is against the code and not was was written by the Ed Psych two years ago). This was my other main beef. All this opened the way to having a full and frank discussion with the HT and the class teacher about my concerns and the accommodations I wanted. And this was brilliant as it was a very in-depth consultation the likes of which I would NEVER get at ANY parents' evening. Which it is brilliant as my obv dd still has 2.5 terms to go in Y5. I came out of the meeting feeling that I was totally listened to, for once, and that the working relationship was back on.
I am still to have a meeting with the SENCO who said all this (to try and rebuild things since I have 2 kids with different SEN) and this could be tricky because I don't have much faith in this woman's ability to accept she was wrong (as apparently she is upset at what has happened but I have heard zippo about whether there is to be any frank admission of error). But I will cross that bridge when it comes to it and for now bask in the glory of a surprisingly productive and successful meeting.!
You guys are amazing (as always) and thank you for all the honking and support and wise words......... I have bricking it ever since writing to the govs but so pleased I did it!
What's more important, a proper apology or having the upper hand? To me, an internally redfaced SENCO forced to say, "I didnt mean it like that" is enough to prevent a repetition.
Well done, btw. Got your action points scrolled and senco won't mess with you again in a hurry
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