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What a headache - trying to choose a school

(7 Posts)
hanbee Thu 25-Oct-12 21:43:06

I'm having a dilemma. I just don't know which school to choose for DS1. We are incredibly lucky to have 2 small rural primaries to choose from. I've done a pros and cons comparison and they come out fairly even. Just wondered what sort of things you guys would prioritise?

DS1 has no diagnosis (just GDD): has around 7 words and over 50 signs, he is social but easily frustrated, he needs a lot of support ad is currently at a special needs nursery 3 mornings and a mainstream 1 morning. He will be statemented this year and is likely to get full time 1:1.

School 1 - small ish (110 pupils), class 1 covers reception and year 1, "outstanding" ofsted and has a v v good reputation locally, experienced SENCO who wants to be involved early on but came across a bit bossy and "I'm the expert", engaged less with DS1 when we visited, school very nearby, they have iPads, already use makaton and visual timetables in school, as our local school would probably be where I would send DS2.

School 2 - very small (43 pupils), class 1 covers reception, year 1 and 2, newish young SENCO, relatively inexperienced but keen, school around 10 mins drive away, better outdoor play area, less good reputation but improving, school has a very strong feel for looking after their children, caring and including and this was evident when we looked around and how they interacted with DS1.

Its so hard to know what to do for the best. Any advice welcomed, even if its to get a grip and just pick one! I do know I'm lucky to have this choice dilemma.


AgnesDiPesto Thu 25-Oct-12 22:06:01

I would keep my child at the specialist placement until he needed less support or continue a dual placement, but thats just me. IME mainstream school teachers however willing and well intentioned do not have any time to get to know your child, go on detailed training, or plan, design and deliver specialist interventions. They might be small schools but presumably only have a few classes of mixed age children, not particularly small class sizes. Rural schools often struggle to fund the 1:1 needed because the SEN budget they are given is very small which means some schools downplaying the amount of help a child needs so they don't have to fund it.

I would be very wary about losing the specialist support you are getting three times a week and risk that reducing to termly visits from a specialist. I might also be delaying start date to school until term after 5 and doing a very gradual transition from special to mainstream supported by the staff from the specialist placement. My DS (ASD) still only goes to mainstream 5 half days and specialist provision the rest of the week.

Makaton and visual timetables are supports to help a child access learning but they are not an actual learning programme in themselves, although often schools are made to think they are. I would want to see examples of the actual programmes the school will be putting in place and how these will be supported and how much 1:1 teacher time your child will have.

Often larger urban schools have more resources and more experience of children with varied needs so I would not rule out a larger school.

hanbee Thu 25-Oct-12 22:22:21

Thanks Agnes,

Unfortunately DS1 only has a place at his special needs nursery until the end of this academic year. He will be statemented this year and it is pretty much guaranteed he will have full time 1:1 supported specified, so I don't think they would be able to downplay or reduce the support need. He's 5 in October 13 so would only be delaying a term if I waited.

As I live in Cornwall, access to urban schools is pretty limited. Our nearest ARB unit for SN is 20 minutes away and nearest SS is over half an hour away.

When you say about wanting to see the actual programmes, what do you mean? Currently he has IEPs drawn up regularly but these are specific to knowing his needs so how could they show me plans in advance? Aware that I'm probably being thick!

mummytime Thu 25-Oct-12 23:00:53

20 minutes and 1/2 hour is not a long time for transport for SEN pupils. I'm in Surrey and know several students who have daily journeys of up to 1 hour each way. Transport is provided in these circumstances, and at least here is specially adapted vehicles (minibuses if possible, or Taxis if too few pupils).

SallyBear Fri 26-Oct-12 06:54:25

Hanbee if you dc has gdd, I would seriously go for a Special School. Don't bother with MS no matter how little the school. Once year 1 work starts, there is no way that your little one would keep up, and the gap would widen between him and the other children's academic abilities. We put DS4 non verbal ASD and deaf in MS, (lovely school DS3 is there) by half term it was very obvious that he was very stressed by it all. It took another five months to get him moved to a Special School. Since being at his SS he is flourishing. There is school transport, but I drive him in as I have 4dc and two other schools to drive to first! The whole thing takes me about 50 minutes twice a day with a school run of three schools and I live in a new city so lots of traffic.
He is very happy. His class has seven children with two teachers and two specialist TAs. He couldn't be better supported. smile

TheNinjaGooseIsOnAMission Fri 26-Oct-12 08:05:53

I would have to agree with the other ladies, do go and see the unit and special school. From what you have said I think having a peer group in ms would be very hard, the teachers may all use makaton but you also want to consider his communication with his peers as well. My dd3 who has very little communication did reception in ms (while we tried to get a ss place) and even with good 1:1 support it wasn't enough, not saying it will be the same for you, just my experience.

hanbee Fri 26-Oct-12 12:40:56

Thanks so much for advice. Its really helped me think it through. Here we have to choose a MS school and apply for ARB or SS separately so i think ill put down local school which has v experienced senco who has a track record of helping other parents get a SS place and that way i will at least have back up if its impossible to get a place at 5.

I already have appointments to view the unit and SS but has current had of his SN nursery has advised that she thinks he needs verbal role models as he is very social and speech is slowly coming. He's also more adaptable and laid back than my NT 2 year old!

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