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DD1 has been offered a different secondary special school than expected...what to do.

(38 Posts)
lougle Fri 13-Jan-17 21:33:03

A bit shell-shocked earlier, but it's wearing off now. Virtually all of the children from DD1's primary special school (complex needs) go to a nearby secondary special school (complex needs) for year 7. The only exceptions being children who need residential placements, or parental choice for out of LA placement (because we have two unitary authorities neighbouring us, so a school can be 'out of county' but closer to a home address).

It was always assumed that DD1 would go to school 1. In fact, it was assumed that her whole class would move up together and would likely stay as a class group throughout secondary school. She is very close to her class members and they have been together for between 4 and 7 years (some transferred in for Y3 onwards).

I was given her 'My Story' form, completed it and stated School 1 as preference for continuity and peer group. Then, her draft EHCP arrived and I was at that stage asked my preference. I once again stated school 1 for continuity and peer group. Today, I received her offer letter, stating that a place is available for her in school 2.

School 2 is a MLD school rather than complex needs, although it does take a wide range of SN including ASD.

I don't know what to think. She finds her peer group hard, but she also loves them dearly. She's very vulnerable. But it is probably academically better for her and they have a strong focus on life skills for independent living. A trusted source told me that you usually can't get places there for love nor money, so I don't want to lose a good opportunity for her. It's so hard!

FrayedHem Fri 13-Jan-17 22:08:51

I can see why it would be a shock, have you had a chance to speak to her current school about it? Have you been able to look around either of the schools?

btw, I remember when you got DD1's statement naming the Special School, (was on a different name then).

lougle Fri 13-Jan-17 22:26:54

I know! I keep thinking back to that time. I remember then, that the retiring HT of a MS school said to me 'if you are offered <primary special school>, take it with both hands -places are like gold dust'. My reply was 'all the professionals have said MS with support, so she won't be offered SS'. (We hadn't even looked at any SS). Then she got given SS without a question from the LA.

Now, my lovely ex-HT of her school has said places at school 2 normally can't be got for love nor money. So I'm thinking 'how has DD2 got one?' There is only 1 mile difference in distance, so it's not that.

I've been a bit lazyblush because I was a governor for a year at school 1 (the LA drafted me in to help out), I knew a bit about it, so didn't need to visit. Because I 'knew' DD1 was going to school 1, I haven't visited anywhere else.

FrayedHem Fri 13-Jan-17 22:43:34

I seem to remember the shock face appeared a couple of times when you got to the SS part!

From what you say about school 2, it would seem to be a good fit on paper; but that obviously doesn't take account of the staying with peers and into a school you already feel comfortable with.

I guess it's a case of having a good look around and then weighing it up. Would you get a place at school 1 if you turned 2 down?

lougle Fri 13-Jan-17 23:26:42

No. It's like everything else. If I turn down school 2, they've met their obligation to offer a school. I could phone them to ask what the rationale is, but they wouldn't (from past experience) put both offers on the table. I could accept School 2 and ask for them to reconsider school 1...but is that right? Sometimes LA SEN case officers really do consider what's best for the child. They did when she was 4 - they gave her the £££ special school instead of some 1:1 at MS.

OneInEight Sat 14-Jan-17 05:50:24

I think you need to visit school 2 before making any hasty decisions. You may decide after seeing it that it is the best option after all OR it may help you find reasons why that placement is not suitable if you decide to appeal. If school 2 has the more similar peer group then I would probably say this is more important than previous history - do consider behaviour as well as academic ability. If you appeal against the named school then this option is kept open if the appeal fails so do this rather than outright rejecting the placement.

enterthedragon Sat 14-Jan-17 07:30:27

I agree with One, you really need to look at the school even if only to find out whether they can meet the needs of your dd or not, you can speak to the LA to find out why they named that school or alternatively you can go to mediation or to appeal, you need a mediation certificate before you can go to appeal anyway but you don't need actual mediation.

zzzzz Sat 14-Jan-17 08:59:50

My feeling is it doesn't matter how they describe themselves (complex/MLD/everything under the sun(ds's!)) what matters is what her experience of it would be and what outcomes are expected.

Youre in a good position to get either so don't freak out but DO go and look at both again. If possible go next week. If you phone they will probably let you have a quick chat and look round. Explain that this has come out of the blue and you need to think about it.

When you look round imagine her there and what her day would look like. Could she be happy there? Ask and listen very carefully to where their pupils go after school and what qualifications they get. Does that sound like an outcome you would celebrate for dd1?

Then go home and tell someone what it was like (or here if you don't have someone). The process of describing often draws out how you feel and what you liked/hated.

As far as changing peer groups goes, I honestly think it can be a good thing. The same class from 4 to 16/18 is not stretching IMO and our children need that sort of stretching more than most because it's harder to find in a safe way for them.

lougle Sat 14-Jan-17 09:24:31

Yes I will make some calls on Monday. I'm on nights today and Sunday, so that's not ideal.

I'd like to know if they've named school 2 because school 1 is 'full'? Our year 6 cohort is large, so it could be that, although the other mums I've spoken to are only at draft EHCP stage, but of course the LA will have clocked their needs. DD1 is probably placed 4th out of 10 in terms of her academic ability in her class, but probably 1st out of 10 in terms of behaviour/ socialisation.

I want to find out from her class teacher if they feel this is a good thing or a disaster. I'm leaning towards 'good thing' right now, having looked at the website in detail.

Then I want to visit the school and see what they are like. I'm in two minds whether I should visit with or without DD1.

zzzzz Sat 14-Jan-17 09:34:45

I'd go without. Ds works better without ambiguity so I would decide yourself what is happening and then guide her through it. Otherwise you lay yourself open to endless wanting the other option. If you DO choose school 2 then I would present it as she is one of the very lucky ones and has done so well they are going to let her go to XXXX.
Personally I wouldn't want to know if the other school is full etc as it would cloud my thinking.

lougle Sat 14-Jan-17 09:57:25

I've actually already told her that the offer is Baycroft. After initial tears about friends, we looked at the website together and she saw the photos of children reading, gardening, cooking, doing clay work, etc. Reassured that they have a breakfast club, she decided that it sounds like a good school. This morning she is chanting "<School 2> dot com" as she walks around the house hmm

Blueemeraldagain Sat 14-Jan-17 10:04:02

"DD1 is probably placed 4th out of 10 in terms of her academic ability in her class, but probably 1st out of 10 in terms of behaviour/ socialisation."

I think this is key ( I teach in an SEN school). It may well be that the LA consider your DD too able for the complex needs schools (esp if her behaviour/social skills are good and she has no medical needs) so have offered a MLD school instead.

lougle Sat 14-Jan-17 10:20:22

Blueemerald to be fair, that's 4th out of 10 in a quite able class - her class has been like a little 'bubble' all through the school with children with more SLD ahead and behind them. She can read some simple sentences now. Still guessing words from the first two letters for the most part, but some good reading of simple words. She can add and take away simple numbers. So (very slowly) can work out 12-6, for example.

She's very angry at home, and has very limited danger awareness, but is very good at school.

Blueemeraldagain Sat 14-Jan-17 10:30:24

That's interesting. I've only worked in one complex needs school but her level of ability would have put her at the top of the pile in terms of ability and she would only be in year 7. The vast majority of the students couldn't read and around 30% were non verbal and another 10% had language of catch phrases/echolalia. In an MLD school (I have worked in 2) she would be near the bottom but she would only be in year 7.

lougle Sat 14-Jan-17 10:42:51

It is interesting. The kids who are ahead of her in her class can write full sentences and paragraphs but have complex SN (ASD, etc) so they are all a mixed bag. DD1 is verbally quite sophisticated in terms of vocabulary, but word production is difficult (she still can't say some letter sounds), fine motor skills are a problem, so she can't form letters well (I'm hoping she'll become a typist - they tried to encourage her in year 2 but she was stubborn and insisted she would write even though it exhausts her and hurts her hands!). There a funny bunch!

Blueemeraldagain Sat 14-Jan-17 11:10:21

I think it's fascinating, that's why I chose my career!
Sone students may be more academically able but need much more intensive or basic level social skills input so the complex needs school is the right match.
You're right about their needs being a mixed bag and finding the right secondary school is just about he right fit in terms of personality traits etc as well as academic need.

zzzzz Sat 14-Jan-17 11:16:34

have you tried solid alphabets?

Beautiful wood ones from Absobentminds, or home made ones (buy a sheet of mosaic tiles and a marker pen wink). You can photograph and then print to "hand in work".

UnderClaws Sat 14-Jan-17 11:19:51

I used to read on an Sen panel, in mine this would be needs driven plus looking at cohort. Secondary sld can look so different to guessing the life skills aspect is a huge factor if your dd is doing well socially and verbally compared to peers.

Can you visit? Even informally? Ring them?

lougle Sat 14-Jan-17 13:29:08

I haven't tried that, zzzzzz. Good idea!

Yes, I'll definitely call them to arrange a visit.

enterthedragon Sat 14-Jan-17 14:14:12

Lougle what county are you in? You can pm me

lougle Sat 14-Jan-17 14:25:01

I'm in Hampshire. I don't know why I'm using 'school 1' and 'school 2' - it's stupid. She's always been expected to go to Osborne School (Winchester), which is a complex needs school, so MLD through PMLD. She's been allocated Baycroft (Stubbington), which is a MLD school, but tends to take MLD and ASD.

youarenotkiddingme Mon 16-Jan-17 07:16:59

I was going to ask if it was B and O?! I know someone in your DD class who is going thought transfer and they've requested/assume O!

I know people that have fought for B when they've been offered other MLD schools locally.

Id definitely say visit. It's the MS on that site that Ds attends now! I totally agree that it's going to be about what suits your DD best. The names of the schools is pretty useless nowadays because they aren't actually using them as described iyswim? So you find peer groups and academic suitability in places that you wouldn't expect!!!!

youarenotkiddingme Mon 16-Jan-17 07:38:42

Actually I have no idea if they are in your did class! I just know it's same school and same year group!!!!!

lougle Mon 16-Jan-17 11:02:41

You might have to pm me!

DD1's teacher was a bit concerned when I told her. She says DD1 is on the more severe side of MLD and has no coping mechanisms for social upset. She's concerned that the kids at Baycroft would be much more savvy than she's used to.

The LA was predictably bland. The woman sounded bored from the outset. Baycroft said they can meet need and are closer (0.5 mile according to Google maps hmm)

I phoned Baycroft, who were lovely. When I've had some sleep I'll arrange a visit.

enterthedragon Tue 17-Jan-17 08:47:37

I wonder if the LA were as predictably bland when describing your dd1's needs to the school.

When you visit find out how they intend to meet the more severe needs, DS' school meet his more complex needs because of the size of the school (number of pupils) therefore the number of people that DS has contact with at any one time is minimal, twice a day he has contact with the whole school but copes with that because staff to pupil ratio is high (it has to be) and he doesn't have to interact if he doesn't need to iyswim. They also have an on site therapy team which DS can access at any time as well as his timetabled sessions.

I remember when we were looking for a new school there was one school that I thought may be able to meet his needs but when I visited and spoke to the deputy head she was quite shocked that the LA had suggested the school, she was even more shocked by the amount of exclusions legal as well as illegal that DS had had in a relatively short space of time. They backed out PDQ and even the local BESD school said no.

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