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Could you give me some advice about IEP please?

(61 Posts)
inthesark Mon 22-Apr-13 18:49:16

The conversation with school went something like this:

Me: You know you said you were looking at giving DD an IEP?

School: Oh, yes, she's got one.

Me: Ummmm, somewhat dumbstruck because I thought that parents were meant to be at least informed when their child got an IEP, if not actually involved in the process. Or have I got that completely wrong?

This is all in the context of a bit of a barney with school, who have a habit of agreeing to do something and then not doing it, so I think they may just have knocked up the IEP in a hurry when they realised it had been forgotten, so I'd quite like to have my facts right before I get back to them...

LightAFire Tue 23-Apr-13 20:29:19

Starlight As a mum and a teacher, and as someone who is friends with non-teachers and teachers, I do see both sides of the question. Sorry this is so long, but been thinking about it all a lot lately, and you raise some interesting points which I'd like to address.

Teachers also want a good relationship with parents, believe it or not! They worry about Parents' Evenings, and they fret about having to tell parents about their children as they never know how people are going to react. They may come across as aggressive/defensive as they are anxious and wondering if yet again this is a parent who is going to start swearing and shouting or throwing chairs about (both happened to friends of mine, and in both cases where a child had been fairly told off and yet the parent still objected violently.) Plus as you yourself pointed out they get a lot of criticism all round.

And although I think that yes there should be standard professionalism as far as possible, teachers are humans, not robots. There will be variations, just as you'd find across doctors, police, and any other profession. To expect otherwise may be the "ideal scene" but is somewhat unrealistic - in any area of life.

I agree teachers should listen, of course. But I don't think it's actually listening that is the problem. It's agreeing. The majority of teachers are also parents, but the majority of parents have never taught a class and so it's hard for them to really empathise with what it's like to be considering 30 children all at once, not just one or two. Sometimes what the parents feel/know their child needs, or even what an Ed Psych suggests, just can't be done, whether for time, money, or lack of staff. Or, not without neglecting the other 29 children and upsetting their parents.

To give you an analogy, imagine if you had an injury which you had researched and understood really well. Would you go to a surgeon and tell him precisely how to operate on it, step by step? You'd surely more expect him to listen to you and then work out what he could realistically do to help? Unless you had also been trained for years and had the same experience, you wouldn't know all the things he needed to consider no matter how well you understood your own injury. Teaching is a bit like that. No they don't know your child like you do (or probably the need they have either) BUT they have years of experience in a classroom and will have known hundreds of children - sometimes (not always!) they do know what they are doing and that some things sadly cannot be achieved in a school setting. You say they expect you to be "humble" - no, but just as you want them to acknowledge/respect your (undeniable) superior expertise over your particular child, they want acknowledgement/respect of where they have more expertise than you.

HOWEVER all that said, I am fully aware that, just as not all parents will throw chairs or refuse to accept their child is not top of the class, not all teachers do as they should. And not all of them will know what they are doing either, and it must be absolutely maddening to deal with them. I'm also sure some are arrogant, really just don't listen, or communicate really badly (they get no training in parent relationships by the way!), or maybe don't even care, and (as in any profession I guess) the bad experiences seem to give the rest of us a bad name. I've certainly spent a lot of my free time lately helping other parent friends to sort out issues with their children and schools, especially with regard to SEND. And FWIW I'm not thrilled with my own DD's teacher right now either!!

I have thought a lot about what the solution is too as I see all these news articles and read things on MN and worry - I don't honestly know. I guess better training, and also probably incentives to attract more and more top calibre people into the profession, so that there is a better chance they will deliver the service they should. I also think it would benefit parents to understand more of what schools are trying to achieve, since I think the communication (from the school's end) is all too often vague or misleading and thus leads to more problems. And yes, I think the schools should be addressing that one rather than the parents. State schools though have their hands well and truly tied by government policy, so maybe we should all campaign there! I've been told recently that most people in educational policy have no education experience, so maybe that needs to change too?

And finally, I didn't actually think there was a "them and us" mentality either until I joined Mumsnet (since I've always worked closely with the parents I've known). At which point, I've discovered a fairly constant stream of criticism regarding teachers even where I have been doing my best to help and support parents where I agree their particular school has not done as they should, as in this OP's case. Once again I am very sorry to hear that you have all faced so many problems. I hope that maybe I have given you a bit more insight into what might be going on in teachers' heads to help you get what you need from them, or if not then I hope you can at least see that some of us DO care, and some of us work very very hard to ensure children and parents are both happy. I personally love helping people - it was why I started to teach in the first place, partly why I joined MN, and why I commented on this thread at all.

Anyway I shall bow out now and leave you ladies to it. I wish you all a successful resolution with your respective schools, and better times and teacher experiences in the future!

AnotherAlias Wed 24-Apr-13 08:56:03

Think you raise some good points LightA. I had the wind taken out of my sails when I sent an indignant email to someone who works at the school about DS - and she replied "yes I have a son just like yours and I find blah blah blah" - I am ashamed to say my first instinct was to think I was being fobbed off with the "well all kids do x,y,z don't think you are anything special" line- but it turns out that she really does have a child with special needs.

StarlightMcKenzie Wed 24-Apr-13 11:01:16

'I agree teachers should listen, of course. But I don't think it's actually listening that is the problem. It's agreeing.'

So what happens when there is a 'disagreement'?

I understand how a parent cannot know what goes on at classroom level, but a teacher has no business disagreeing with a parent who wants implemented what is written in the child's statement, however difficult a teacher might think that is to do. Her 'disagreement' should be with the HT.

In my experience (and ds has been removed from 4 schools before the age of 6, so I have a reasonable amount from this perspective) I have never come across a teacher that can write a SMART target for an IEP. The most concrete one I have seen is:

Target: To improve ds' social skills. The TA to run a social skills group with no more than 4 children for 10 minutes, 3 times a week. Target met at 80%.

The teacher 'disagreed' with me that it wasn't SMART and this target was the best one by miles.

Teachers at ALL FOUR schools disagreed with me that his statement that said '20 hours 1:1 exclusively for ds' meant that the TA who was employed for 20 hours only, couldn't act as the classroom assistant, even though the respective HTs at ALL FOUR schools had not given her a classroom assistant BECAUSE she was getting ds' TA.

The teachers all 'disagreed' with me that ds' lack of progress was nothing at all to do with his capability.

The teachers all 'disagreed' with me that his statement was anything more than 'guidance' or that his 1:1 has any business reading it.

The teachers 'disagreed' with me that ds even needed the provision in his statement as it was fought for at tribunal. They disagreed that he should exclusively have that provision when there were other children in the classroom who they judged to have more needs but whose parents weren't as 'pushy'.

None of these 'disagreements' are anything to do with a parent claiming to know anything about teaching.

Have you ever met a teacher who has read the SENCOP? I haven't and my family is full of them. Even my Dad hasn't read it and he was a University lecturer in Teacher Training at a University.

StarlightMcKenzie Wed 24-Apr-13 11:03:39

Sorry. I just picked one point from your post and went for it.

I didn't mean to dismiss the rest. It was interesting to read and I appreciate your perspective.

StarlightMcKenzie Wed 24-Apr-13 11:07:33

Funily enough, the school with that IEP I just quoted, was the one in the four that did actually listen to my comments on it, and let me rewrite it (after a few circular meetings and the class teacher shouting my husband down at parents evening).

LightAFire Fri 26-Apr-13 20:24:14

hi starlight - I definitely think you seem to have encountered the type of teacher I described in the second half of my (loooong) post. No wonder you are fed up - I would be too.

"To improve social skills" - no, not SMART. The given breakdown only relates to the group, not to what he needed to do in order to meet the criteria.

The arguments over hours - madness. 1:1 means just that. And yes, the teachers in question should have been talking to the head if they disagreed with the statement, not arguing with you.

I should add, stories like these honestly really embarrass me. I have been lucky enough to teach in some really supportive schools, and the teachers have been fantastic - so it's quite gutting professionally to hear these stories, and also makes me both sad and angry knowing what children and parents sometimes have to go through.

I've read the SENCOP! But admittedly, I read it because I was interested, not because anyone ever advised me to. In my last school (an independent) we had a great SENCO who not only oversaw SEND and supported/advised all of us very ably but also taught groups herself. We also welcomed Ed Psych reports and in fact often suggested them as we found them so useful in terms of how best to support children. In the state schools I have also been in, not the same set-up - typically the SENCO is only even there a couple of days a week, and pretty much just "oversees". Oh and everyone seems to be terrified of Ed Psychs?! When I first started teaching, I had a quadriplegic girl in my class who sadly also had brain damage. I went to the SENCO and asked how best to support her and she basically shrugged at me. So I'd had minimal experience, minimal training (maybe one day of my PGCE??), and no clue at the time over what to do or where to get help. (Luckily she had a fab 1:1 TA so it did work out ok.)

So yep, I know all too well that SEND provision varies massively. It shouldn't, but training and support within schools similarly varies, so getting a teacher who knows what it's all about is a bit hit and miss depending on their own experience. I personally feel more (and standardised) training would help - both in this area, and more generally also in communication with parents. I learned it on the job, but then again before I was a teacher I also worked in commerce, so I was far more experienced in adult communication. Most teachers go from uni straight into teaching, so all they know is academia and working with children, NOT adults. Very very different.

There are various other issues which I think also make it all worse, but then I'd be banging on forever on my little soapbox, so I will shut up now! Fingers crossed for all of you that you will hit upon the lovely teachers who are out there, and that they will be able to help you and your children!

inthesark Sat 27-Apr-13 19:52:02

LightAFire - glad you're back, your comments have been really useful.

For what it's worth, I think that the situation that you describe - good teachers not being supported by the school - is really common, in fact I think that's what we have. Lovely people, but a school organisation that couldn't organise a piss up in the proverbial. I do project management for a living and their ability to follow through on anything drives me insane.

Anyway, I haven't seen the IEP yet; latest communication from school:

I would have copied the present IEP - but I am having trouble with attachments. As soon as this is resolved I will forward it to you.

This on an email with another attachment on it, so pure BS. I'm saving any thoughts on whether an IEP should exist if we haven't seen it until we meet. Which will apparently be next week, although I await an appointment...

LightAFire Sat 27-Apr-13 22:55:19

inthesark thank you very much! smile

I read your post and almost groaned aloud. Yes, school organisation can be shocking - my best mate is an HR/Office manager and she can't get over it either! I think it's because management are often very good teachers but not necessarily good at admin - and it's a different skill set.

The IEP/attachment thing - !!!! According to my SENCO friend Ofsted are actually "going off" IEPs as a way of recording help for SEND children - although she said the woman who ran her most recent update course said, "What I am telling you now is changed from last year, and next year it will have changed again". So it sounds as though with the proposed curriculum changes things are a bit up in the air in general. (Even more so than usual, I mean!) But for now the old SENCOP is still in practice - so IEPs it is.

I'd be interested to know how long this IEP has been in place, since you mentioned earlier they haven't appeared to make any changes. If it's very recent - hmm, not impressed they didn't discuss with you, but they may have taken their discussion re "looking into it" as informing you... hmm If it's been there a while very not good! Even more so because why aren't changes happening?

Hope you get an appointment soon. If you want to check anything on the IEP please do just ask - feel free to PM if you'd rather not post generally, but I think there seem to be lots of mums on this thread who could also help! Good luck!

StarlightMcKenzie Sun 28-Apr-13 08:51:53

I'll come back and respond to the rest in a bit, but Light, would you consider that some of the bad relationships between parents and schools is encouraged perpetuated by the Local Authority, certainly in terms of dictating expectations.

LightAFire Sun 28-Apr-13 18:49:48

Starlight that's a really interesting question. I'm actually honestly not sure - I haven't worked in a state school since 2007 and I'm trying to remember what (if any) impact the LEA had on us. Mainly I seem to remember them setting (impossible) targets! I wasn't involved in any statementing scenarios myself apart from well-established ones with support in place, but I have read some absolute horror stories on MN about what goes on in getting them, and that I think does seem to be about the LEA. Also heard about a friend of a friend whose child had Down's and yet she still had to go to appeal to get a statement at all.

Expectations more generally I guess are dictated at government level? Education gets treated as a political football and each new lot coming in are determined to "put their mark on it". The current proposed changes are a perfect example of where it looks like the policy makers have decided on an ideology and ignored any evidence which doesn't fit their views. So schools are forever galloping about trying to change everything (even if it worked ok!) as told by the policy makers. And parents see endless changes coming in and hear all these stories about the state of education and understandably their confidence gets shaken even before they walk into a school.

So for me I think overall policy is the root of the problem for both parents and teachers as both are always trying to understand what the hell is going on! When I switched to an independent I preferred it enormously because they were free to choose what did and not make sense for their children - it was a much happier environment all round. (Plus the culture there was about working with parents and going the extra mile.)

If you think about it, you wouldn't run all businesses as dictated by a central policy maker - you'd understand that people will adapt as suits their area, their staff, their customers, etc etc. I think state schools should be the same and be allowed more flexibility. (And that also the culture of working closely with parents should be made the norm, since it benefits everybody.) But sadly I am just a classteacher so it's just a theory!!

StarlightMcKenzie Sun 28-Apr-13 19:35:00

What do you feel are the roles of LSAs or TAs?

TBH, the teachers that I have enountered have been excellent teachers but imo completely out of their depth with SN and too frightened to admit it. I arrived at nursery after a lost tribunal that the HT attended to stand against me. It was never really going to work as the power was all in one camp.

The school was an outstanding one in a deprived area, with a really impressive early years teacher and the way she ran her classroom was actually very helpful to my ds, or would have been had the support been appropriate. This was the school that let me write the IEPs.

The tribunal was lost because on the day of the hearing the LA threw a whole bunch of unnecessary but impressive provision at ds. Subsequently the CT found it a bit ridiculous to implement and felt that ds was getting provision he really shouldn't be getting. In honesty, I agreed, but neither of us had any power to change that and neither of us had any platform to even share agreement over it.

LightAFire Sun 28-Apr-13 20:26:14

I've never had a job where I had a permanent TA with me. I've had classroom assistants who pop in and out to do admin, and I've had some TAs who work 1:1 with statemented children. This is just because of the schools I've been in - I have always taught KS2 and my schools haven't had TAs at that age. Shame as it would be great - you could split up groups and do more adult input for all abilities.

And yes teachers often don't like admitting they don't know things, I've noticed that too. Never been sure why - I think some of them worry they will lose authority with the children, so it's a habit they continue with adults?? And yes, I think they are (due to lack of training/experience) all too often out of their depth with SN too. I know when I started out I was for sure. I think it's such a shame that the SENCO role got cut to administrative in state schools - in the independent school I mentioned, our SENCO was full time and actively taught and she was a wonderful resource. In state schools what usually happens is SN children end up with an adult helper doing worksheets, rather than someone actively teaching them.

From what you're saying, maybe it would make more sense if provision could be agreed within schools, perhaps with an LA rep to check it's all fair. How old is your DS now? The whole situation sounds really really hard.

StarlightMcKenzie Sun 28-Apr-13 20:42:20

I suppose what I meant was what did you think the role of the 1:1 TA iyswim.

StarlightMcKenzie Sun 28-Apr-13 20:46:56

DS is 6. It's okay for him now as at first opportunity (Annual Review) we appealed again. (This was easy because all of the pointless but expensive provision was suddenly removed from the statement leaving him again with nothing) and ended up with provision that cost twice what we were originally asking for because not only did ds actually need what we said he did, but we'd collected evidence for a whole years worth of failure and regression hmm.

In fact we actually only wanted what we originally did, but state schools found it completely unacceptable which meant independent special school was the only viable option.

LightAFire Sun 28-Apr-13 21:05:29

I would take a 1:1 TA to be like that child's personal tutor/educational support. So I'd expect as a teacher to liaise with them while planning, making clear what the class was doing, and work together on sorting tasks for that child as appropriate depending on their need. One of my statemented children had a TA who had been with her throughout school, so she was more or less designing the tasks herself as she knew more than I did and then reporting back to me on how she was getting on. Other children, it's been more me suggesting the tasks - I would vary as necessary, partly depending on the experience and skills of the TA.

And with your DS - good grief! That just sounds insane! What reason did the state schools give for contradicting a statement and saying provision was unacceptable? (Where I've been, a statement was a statement and we'd just get on with implementing it). And how is he getting on at his independent - better I hope?

StarlightMcKenzie Sun 28-Apr-13 21:09:48

The school (and the LA for that matter) denied any need. That was it basically. Therefore they used the 1:1 as a class TA and avoided having to meet child-ratio numbers with additional staff.

This isn't uncommon. It happens all the time according to my teacher family and friends, particularly in cases where the child is not disruptive.

Any lack of progress was put down to ds' disability rather than the fact that the TA was never with him.

StarlightMcKenzie Sun 28-Apr-13 21:13:41

The CT's judgement was that there were other children who WERE disruptive that needed the TA more than my ds (who only got it because he had pushy parents).

(I don't know this btw, but again, my teacher contacts tell me this is what will probably have happened in the same way that schools use delegated SEN money for vegetable gardens to attract the MCs and benefit ALL the children rather than on resources to support just one). SEN money isn't ringfenced and even when provision is written into a statement there is no policing of it by anyone independent of the school budget.

inthesark Mon 29-Apr-13 13:31:12

Thank you for all the help - we are now waiting for both an appointment and a copy of the IEP. I have suggested that they could always send us a hard copy if attachments are so tricky grin. We await further developments...

Handywoman Mon 29-Apr-13 14:42:05

I also sent an email to our SENCO with a polite nudge reminding them that I am waiting to see an IEP wink

Let's see who get's theirs first! Ready.... steady... go!

LightAFire Mon 29-Apr-13 14:47:00

starlight how awful. It doesn't surprise me to hear it happens, but I'm happy to say I've never seen it personally. And IMHO no child gets a statement due to pushy parents. They get statements due to dire need and parents who have had an almighty battle to get there at all. There are even more who should have them but don't.

inthesark and handy - good luck!

inthesark Mon 29-Apr-13 18:33:28

Unfortunately, I win. I say unfortunately because it is the biggest pile of woolly wool that I have had the misfortune to read in a long time. It also has "targets" about social issues that aren't issues (but are there because school are worried that too much time out of the class will make DD unhappy and not fit in).

I would like to write a snarky email back, but am sitting on my hands until I am calmer tomorrow. Sigh. I don't know why I thought an IEP would make anything better, they're still flailing about, now just with a piece of paper in their hands.

handywoman - hope yours is a bit better when it arrives.

moondog Mon 29-Apr-13 18:39:23

'even when provision is written into a statement there is no policing of it by anyone independent of the school budget'

This is so true which always leads me to become somewhat dismissive of MNers fighting for statements as I want to shriek 'Just because it is written down, there is no guarantee any of it will be adhered to or even read.'

Then as Star once told me, I remember it's all you've got.

Someone I know tried to circumvent this by insisting (in the statement) that a copy of the statement was stuck to the classroom wall. It was a significant development on rotting in the back of the head's filing cabinet.

MareeyaDolores Mon 29-Apr-13 20:45:39

I don't know why I thought an IEP would make anything better, they're still flailing about, now just with a piece of paper in their hands Rofl. But so true

MareeyaDolores Mon 29-Apr-13 20:54:35

I hope that maybe I have given you a bit more insight into what might be going on in teachers' heads
OP, you have, thank you. Trouble is, SEN dc and their families take up contact-time, planning-time, and thinking-time. And teachers have so many other demands on their time, I would imagine the one over-riding thought on a loop, ''Enough already, leave me alone, please". Fixing that usually means spending more money on salaries, which is not very likely.

even when provision is written into a statement there is no policing of it by anyone independent of the school budget sad

Just because it is written down, there is no guarantee any of it will be adhered to or even read grin True. But we still want one!

supermum98 Tue 30-Apr-13 22:02:00

I've even invented my own model 'the 5 D model' try it and see if the defensiveness falls into one of these categories. deny/diminish/dismiss/deflect/disinterest. That is usually what I get, not hey welcome as a resource and one of the team around the child etc. As for IEP's my ds hasn't got one and told all schools do provision mapping now. I have not been involved with any target setting. IEP's seem to be a big white elephant that most schools either don't do or do badly.

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