Your thoughts on our secondary school options please.... what do I need to consider?

(11 Posts)
tartanterror Tue 10-Jul-18 22:42:37

Hi. DS is currently Y4 in mainstream in England with ASC and an EHCP in place. Non dedicated TA support in class. He is working at above average academic levels in everything apart from writing and requires support with non academic issues which affect his access to learning. He is not 100% mind blind and could probably cope with a commute to school.

We're going to see the long list of secondary schools this autumn at the start of Y5 and then just see our favourite 2-3 at the start of Y6 to avoid a scramble. So we have lots of time to ponder/panic!

What thoughts do you have on our options?

#1 - Our local comp is fairly well regarded and we live close enough to qualify for a place under the standard system. If it weren't for the ASC it would be our obvious local option as it's just a 5 minute walk! Facilities good/new and direct/controlled access to playing fields. Results slightly below national average but lots of bright children we know have gone there and done well. No 6th form. Co-ed. A friend's DC is very similar to DS and they haven't got on particularly well - she's had to get to know all of her child's teachers and get their contact details to advocate for her son lesson by lesson. That information for me is a red flag - I've had too much of this at primary with only 1 class teacher per year..... Staff turnover also seems high. Am I being too negative on the basis of one friend's experience? Others with non SEN kids are happy. What should I ask/find out to get to the bottom of this?

#2 - Comp further from home - probably 20-25 minutes by bus. Co-ed but higher % of boys on roll than girls. Specialist ASC unit supporting kids to attend mainstream lessons, although DS would probably not want to be different/in the unit. So all teachers have good experience of ASC and get good outcomes via high expectations. Friends kids have been very well supported with a good combination of routine and flexibility (eg opting out of PE etc). Good/new building but the playground is very urban and not at all green. No 6th form. Playing field access off site. General school results are below national average and there can be disruption in class from children not so engaged with their learning.

#3 - Another local comp - a bus ride 25-30 mins away. Co-ed. Above average results and lovely looking/green site. No 6th form or specialist ASC provision and very few SEN kids according to DfE figures. I know very little about the school, but a local mum has chosen it for her child, so I'm interested to find out more.

#4 - Academy - single sex boys school. About 25 mins easy ride by train. Our next door neighbour's sons go there and they love it - particularly the behaviour policy - the policy worries me as DS is unlikely to be able to comply and problems might spiral. I don't know much about the school so would be interested to look, but a friend told me she met the person who previously worked there as SENCO, who wasn't totally glowing about the levels of SEN Support there.... but has a 6th form so would avoid a transition for post 16.

#5 - Grammar school - 45 mins by train & bus, which is a lot.... Very selective but the entrance exam would play to DS' strengths. Co-ed. Those with an EHCP are given extra time in the exam and possibly a quiet room. I've heard the SENCO has an aspie child and I talked to another mum (ASC son was out of primary for 2 years and had 1-2-1 for remaining time) whose son is there and thriving - excellent individualised pastoral care. Facilities and maths/science focus of school good. Free access to playing field makes playground feel nice/green/open. has a 6th form. Results unbelievably good due to selection. High expected standards for behaviour but I don't think they run a formal "behaviour plan". But can live with the expectations/compeition and would he be bothered to sit the exam?

#6 & #7 - Another couple of options with ASC specialisms but the transport routes aren't great and I don't know a lot about them yet. Only 1 has a 6th form. We will try to visit to find out more.....

If you are still reading - well done!
I probably would prefer co-ed and a school with a 6th form to avoid another transition at 16, but what do you think? what should we ask/investigate to help narrow this down?

Thanks!

OP’s posts: |
Ellie56 Tue 10-Jul-18 23:51:59

Yes good plan to go with a school with a sixth form to avoid another transition at 16.

The Grammar sounds good with the individualised pastoral care. The transition from primary to secondary is huge so I think good pastoral support is a must.

With any school I would want to know how much knowledge/experience /training the staff have of autism, what links they have with specialists, how they routinely liaise with parents, what provision is made at lunchtime if DS is struggling with the lack of routine outside, and if there is any opportunity provided to support with homework in school, if this becomes an issue at home.

OneInEight Wed 11-Jul-18 06:38:19

Go and talk to the SENCO at any school you are interested in. Ask lots of "What if" scenario's to see how they would cope with any behaviours or problems your ds might have. The key thing we wanted was flexibility and pastoral support.

We ran a mile away from the local grammar because of their dreadful attitude. Likewise the secondary with a specialist ASC unit was equally the wrong place for ds1 (apparently they deal with meltdowns by tell the child they are in big school now).

I would also totally ignore any OFSTED reports. What you are looking for is a school that is right for your ds and not a school that is good for Mr average.

We have an unerring ability to choose schools where the HT promptly departs so another thing I would be looking for is long-term stability. Not easy to guess but high staff turnover might indicate potential problems to me.

tartanterror Wed 11-Jul-18 08:13:35

Thanks - great points so far!
Good idea to ask about parent liaison and communications and oh yes the homework!!! The grammar used to have a no homework policy which made it my dream school - but the head has changed and homework is big apparently sad But our local school is still said to have yet more.... but yes this is such an important thing for quality of home life isn’t it?!

OP’s posts: |
Ellie56 Wed 11-Jul-18 09:13:01

Homework was a complete nightmare for us. Fortunately our son went to a fantastic secondary school where they had a homework club at lunchtime with support available to help and he did all his homework there.

They had what they called an "Enhanced Learning Base", a quiet, calm environment where students who needed extra help were withdrawn from their normal classes, and worked in small groups or 1:1 on basic skills, or whatever else they needed to do. The students were also allowed to go in there at lunchtime to do quiet activities if it was too overwhelming for them to go outside.

Communication was excellent right from the off. If the person I needed to speak to wasn't available, they always rang back the same day. Bear this in mind when you ring up to make appointments to visit. If they don't return calls or take ages to get back to you, I wouldn't touch them with a barge pole. If they show this lack of interest in prospective students, what are they like with the students they already have? hmm

In my experience, you know when you have found the right place, usually within minutes of walking into the building. Good luck OP.

tartanterror Wed 11-Jul-18 11:17:52

A homework club sounds good.... I wonder if DS would relinquish his lunch hour tho....? Interesting and great examples - thanks!!

OP’s posts: |
tartanterror Fri 13-Jul-18 12:49:12

I’ve been downloading the SEN policies from all the local schools and they are soooo different. Some are literally cut and paste from the SEN code of practice and are clearly a box ticking exercise. Some sound almost too good to be true! Surprisingly it is the grammar document that just hit the nail on the head for me - plain English, written by someone who seems to know how to look after Sen kids and what parents want to know (exactly what/when meetings/reports during the year etc)... shame it is so far away....

OP’s posts: |
Ellie56 Sun 15-Jul-18 19:12:45

How far away tartan? I wouldn't let that put me off.

We have sent our son to a specialist college 160 miles away. It's the best thing that ever happened to him.

tartanterror Sun 15-Jul-18 22:51:12

Wow Ellie that’s some commute wink

It’s 45-50 mins by train and bus each way. I did a single bus journey of that length for my school commute. It was ok ..... but you make a good point .... for the right school it could be worth it .....

OP’s posts: |
Ellie56 Sun 15-Jul-18 23:06:43

It wasn't a decision we took lightly and we've had to fight for it, but there just is no suitable post 16 provision round here.

He does come home every other weekend.

tartanterror Mon 16-Jul-18 13:36:17

I'm glad you managed to get a spot for him Ellie - well done for fighting for it.

What did you find was useful in your schools/settings up to age 16?

OP’s posts: |

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