Here some suggested organisations that offer expert advice on SN.
Looking for encouragement/advice
re picking schools
Hello, hoping to find some reassurance and maybe some good advice. Have just moved within LA and trying to pick a new mainstream school for DD, who has global developmental delay. Her EHCP specifies full-time 1:1 support, she needs support with self-care and lots of work on language and communication. We are requesting for her to repeat Reception at the new school as she's one of the youngest and we've been told she wouldn't be able to access the year 1 curriculum if she started it this September.
Finding it really hard to know how to choose a suitable school, let alone a good one. Our experience is that schools that don't really want us just have to be a bit unfriendly (oh, our playground is so big and some classrooms are upstairs, we're not really equipped for your daughter)(well, we really value community here and you probably wouldn't like that)(we think you're wrong about the new SEND rules and we would never go over 30 per class anyway). As soon as they send that unfriendly signal, we feel like they've proved themselves unsuitable for DD. How can we trust them to work their hardest for DD if they don't want her in the first place? How can we believe them when they say it's time to move away from mainstream? Which leaves us feeling that nowhere is suitable. How do I get out of this catch-22? How is it fair that they can evade the law on discrimination by simply failing to promote themselves adequately?
It may be that staying where she is will be the best option, but it makes for an awfully long commute and have effect on DS to consider…
Thanks for your thoughts.
I would go and look at all the SS, units and schools that might fit and then decide. For us a tiny school has been life enhancing. We tried a larger Ms primary that had "lots of experience" of SN and it really was a disaster.
Thank you. There is one very tiny school (60 total) that we hadn't seen yet - might give it a look. We've been to see eight MS schools, including one with a specialist speech and language unit. DD doesn't qualify for the unit because her needs aren't 'speech specific' and we've been told special school would be unhelpful at this stage, though perhaps necessary in two or three years.
Folk more or less uniformly unwelcoming. Really don't like the thought of sending her to any of them. Want to be able to trust SENCo, TAs and teachers when they say it's time to leave MS, or whatever else, and can't imagine trusting any of those I've met.
Anyone else any thoughts or encouragement? Ta
Who advised you that Special schools would not be appropriate? From what you have said about your DD and from my own experience of an ASD son in mainstream and now In a specialist unit, I would say that you should be looking more at special schools, MS can probably see that in the long term your DD will move to a SS so are probably trying to encourage you to consider this option. What are the SS options in your area? Are you going through EHCP? What does Ed Psych recommend? MLD SS or are your DD's needs sufficient to meet the profile of children at an SLD SS? Have you been to look at these options? Transport would be provided
Hi diet, thanks for your message. Professionals that we trust have advised that SS is not yet appropriate and may be actively harmful to her progress - tendency on DD's part to adapt to the level of the weakest communicator in the room, when with younger children for instance. Waiting for new Ed. Psych review following from initial evaluation last year as part of EHC assessment and then writing of her EHCP, but not expecting them to say much different.
I take your point about potential new MS schools looking ahead - so are we, as much as we can - but the proper way to do that if a school was concerned would be to say 'We would encourage you to consider SS in the long term', not some weasily words about how 'community is so important at our school and you probably wouldn't want to be part of that'! That's just offensive. Who doesn't want community and friendship for their child?!
You are completely right of course, it is offensive I say that. In our experience in mainstream, our son had full 1-2-1 and he had a lovely relationship with her, but in reality the class teachers were happy to let the TA do everything and act as 'teacher'. As long as the TA was keeping him quiet and not disruptive they felt he was doing ok, but the reality was very different. Despite 32.5 hrs support he did not get the precise support he needed for his autism and delays. They did not have enough expertise to offer the specific help he needed, and we felt they only offered lip service to the 'reasonable adjustment' side of things. In reality my son was isolated in ms, he struggled to interact with other kids, and having a TA glued to him did not help this. He was not part of a wider community. He didn't have friends and I felt isolated in the playground. I am sure others will say that ms worked for them but for us, ds was not part of the 'community' although the school would have said so. They felt he was included and on paper he was in class, went on trips, did an assembly etc but he was very much a square peg in a round hole. Special education is working much better as he now has friends and play dates with them, and he is encouraged much more to be independent. I am probably negative but I don't think many ms schools would promise the earth and how they would go over and above to support your daughter, sadly. Worth a second ex psych opinion definately.
I would also look at the special schools now too. My daughter had a similar experience to diets above.
My daughter has SLD and attends a MLD school, there is a mixture of abilities within each school and although my daughter is one of the less able pupils it does work well for her. Wouldn't it be easier for your daughter to move now to a SS rather than another move in 2/3 years?
DC1 also had a similar experience as told by vjg and diet.
Sorry, just wanted to make sure I can post on phone. Similar experience, stayed in ms til end of yr 6 and now in ss. With hindsight, ks1 was fine and should have moved into ss for Juniors, but various reasons (mainly delaying tactics of LA) we didn't.
Move to ss has been mainly positive. Much less anxiety, staff are fully committed to teachingwith pupils with additional needs, and dc (and me) feel part of 'school community'. Up until year 3 there was no way I would have considered ss.
Picking up on what you said about your dd, one of the things I noticed about the different ss I visited was most of them mixed the age groups into ability. So if your dd tends to model behaviour in way you describe, I would think it would be beneficial for her to be with
Sorry, phone again! Not sure what I was going to say really, but it's about a school that provides an appropriate peer group. And imo that's different for each child. So as pp's have said, look at special schools, there may be one that stands out.
Does the person that advised you to keep your Dd in mainstream have recent experience of having a young child with SEND in a mainstream school?
I would at least go and look and the special schools.
Thanks for your responses, diet, vjg, elsa and Ineed. I can see how SS has been helpful to most of you, and it is certainly something we will keep in mind. However, DD is happy in MS at present, she doesn't have behavioural issues, has made friends and has made enormous progress since September. If we hadn't moved house we would be perfectly happy for her to continue in her current school. If the commute was shorter we'd probably keep her there next year. I think if we moved to SS now I'd feel like the disruption was my fault for being so selfish as to move house after a child started school rather than because it was what she definitely most needed at this point. That's certainly the vibe we've got visiting schools - 'how dare you make our lives difficult by buying your first home at the point you could afford to, when you already have a SEN child, instead of prioritising our needs and the regular admissions schedule. Don't you realise that you're doing this all wrong? etc.'
Tbh I feel like this thread has become another exercise in how I'm doing it wrong, by not being keen to put her in SS straight away. I'd rather hoped I might find other SEN parents to commiserate about the injustices of the school placement fandango, and the fact that school heads and secretaries get away with saying things that would (rightly) lose me my job if I said them to a potential student/job applicant.
Hi jot, please don't feel you're doing the wrong thing. You know your dd better than anyone. I think the thing we can all agree on, is that we are all trying to find the best way to help our dc. And sometimes it's not us or our dc at 'fault' it the LA, or sencos or the school.
It sounds like your dd is well settled in current school, is there anyway you could commute for a trial period and see if it is workable? If not do any of the professionals working with you able to give you some feedback on schools you maybe haven't considered. Do any of the local ss offer outreach services to ms schools and they could offer advice as to suitable ms schools? Does your la run any asd support across several schools who may actually be able to properly support your dd.
I also thought, and completely understand if you don't want to, start a thread saying need advicen on schools in xx area.
We have stuck with mainstream for my son with mod-severe autism and delays in language, learning etc but have ABA provider who goes into school (provides programmes of work on autism stuff like social, language and behaviour + some of 1:1 support time). He's currently year 4 but doesn't go full time - he has 1:1 sessions out of school too.
There is no right school for my DS he falls between SS and mainstream (there are no units here). So what we have is a compromise and in many ways the least worst option. I've come to terms with the fact that the right school doesn't exist locally. Luckily for us the ABA programme compensates for many of the negatives.
In essence we have a dual placement of sorts with specialist teaching and mainstream setting. The benefits of mainstream are the other children, higher expectations academically and DS gets pushed out of his comfort zone more which helps him tolerate busy, noisy, unpredictable situations outside school. The downside is he spends lots of time doing bits of the national curriculum which aren't really a priority for him and sometimes are not functional. The local SS are for children with very severe needs so he doesn't fit there either. if he went there he would have a lot of downtime esp as staff ratio would be 4:10 not 1:1.
We moved schools at year 2 due to a poor attitude of head and teachers who just wanted ABA team and 1:1 to do everything and teachers to have zero involvement. New school has a HT with a child with Sen herself. That's made biggest difference and HT attitude trickles down to staff and children who are all very positive about DS being at school (even though it means more work, extra planning etc).
Local parent groups and forums can be a good way of finding out about schools and HT. I think you need to meet the head when you visit and get a feel for how they run things. Outside professionals sometimes give you a heads up about which schools are receptive to advice and which are not. you could consider dual placement or if in mainstream consider trying get extra 1:1 time eg for LSA to make resources, training etc on top of contact hours. For us ABA is ideal as the costs of outside provider are paid directly by LA so school gets a lot of extra support / specialist input but it doesn't affect their budget.
As our HT has a good reputation locally among Sen parents the school gets more than its share of children with extra needs. HT is also very good at getting funds out of LA so instead turning children away she makes LA agree to fund full time 1:1, breaks, resources time etc
I know what you mean about schools saying things to discourage you. We found this too. even old school was enthusiastic at first and then the emperors new clothes fell off and it was obvious that by year 2 they were interested in the other children's sats results and not bothered if DS achieved anything. I felt I had to prove DS was a child with potential who could learn. For a while I was effectively home ed and just sending him to school for social side. New school is much better on that front.
Jot- If your DD is happy can you continue and you manage the commute? I don't think there is any benefit in children repeating years, that's just my honest opinion. If school are saying your DD may not manage the transition to Yr1 then you can only try it with all the support and look into alternative options if you need to. My son is year 4 and in a unit within a mainstream school but in the 2 years he has been there he has not moved into the main school for lessons. Again the provision is not perfect for him, it is the best of a crap bunch! I think the biggest problem for all of us is that there is not enough provision, and many of our children fall between ms and SS. We all want the best for our kids, but often that best does not exist and we have to compromise. Not a fair system, not what any one wants but it is often the case, sadly. And from my experience and that of other parents and friends many ms schools won't bend over backwards to offer full support and help, those who have found this in a ms school are very fortunate.
I would agree with last two posts. My dd has been in mainstream for last five years. She has done well and I dont believe she would have made as much progress in ss. She also falls between ss and ms and like agnes I have had to constantly push them to recognise this. We are now moving her to an indie ssd ss but it has been a struggle. I would keep pushing for ms with support. Agree though that negative off putting attitude of schools is a bloody outrage.
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