What secondary school (ASD)

(24 Posts)
TinTinBanana Mon 21-Jan-19 17:36:08

I am trying to decide which secondary school will be best for my ds. But I really don't know how to decide. Ds requires support with his class work. He always tries his best but finds it hard. Noise can make him very anxious but he does have coping strategies. He will need help with what to do at break times and encouraged to join lunch clubs which might help him make friends. He has Asd, dyslexia and dysgraphia. He enjoys art, drama and gym.

How do I decided which of the following two school would be best for him?

1. A local school that is performing very well according to league tables. Everyone says it is a very good school. It appears to be very focused on exam results. There are lots of revision groups to help pupils pass. I have not visited the school yet.

2. A local school that is not performing well in league table. It had a bad reputation for pupils behaviour in the past. The school has an autism unit attached to it so there will be pupils from the unit attending mainstream classes. The head teacher says the school are very used to supporting pupils who have autism and dyslexia. I went to an open evening at the school and was surprised that I really liked it.

School 1 is in a wealthy area. The school will have better facilities and tech than school 2. School 2 has mostly low income catchment. We live in catchment area for school 2 but ds attends a primary school in catchment area for school 1. He has a good chance of getting into school 1. He definitely has a place at school 2.

How do I decide?

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TinTinBanana Mon 21-Jan-19 17:51:13

I should have said ds would be attending the mainstream part of school 2. Not the autism unit.

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grasspigeons Mon 21-Jan-19 19:52:35

I think speaking to the senco at each school will help you get the best feel for which will work with your child as an individual. My child needs very calm classrooms so would prefer one where general classroom behaviour was good so i would look at that but your child might need something else.

TinTinBanana Mon 21-Jan-19 21:38:59

Thanks, hopefully when I visit them both I will know which is the right one. I am worried one will be too noisy and the other too strict and put too much pressure on him.

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DobbinsVeil Tue 22-Jan-19 14:15:18

Agree with talking to the SENCos about your DS's needs and how the school would accommodate them.

it's purely anecdotal, but our local mainstream (now) performs very well in league tables. When I went to see the SENCo, the support they offered was basically on the academics for Maths/English/Science, which DS1 didn't need and not much else. Even DS1 only wearing tracksuit bottoms (won't wear shorts) for PE drew a gasp! if he needed any extra help he "just had to ask". This really wouldn't have worked for DS1.

He attends a mainstream with an ASD base. It's a fair distance away and we got in as has an EHCP. It's actually my husband's old school! In the immediate local area it's the one parents will put last, but it's been brilliant for DS1. He's been able to ease into mainstream lessons at his pace, and they are really supportive of him and his ways. He gets social skills lessons timetabled in. He has his lunch and breaks in the base so escapes the frantic parts of school, it also has a nice toilet!

TinTinBanana Tue 22-Jan-19 14:46:59

Thank you Dobbins for sharing your experience with schools. Everything you have said has helped me feel a bit more confident about my thoughts on what school may be right for my ds. I worry he will be seen as different at the school that performs well and about how accomodating they will be. But it feels wrong choosing a school that most people I know look down on sad

I am glad your ds is getting on well at school. It is good to hear positive stories.

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DobbinsVeil Tue 22-Jan-19 14:58:07

It is such a hard decision. DS1 was the only one of his classmates not to go on to our local secondary school. But his differences were starting to show more - didn't go on the residential or the leaver's party. Bluntly, screw what anyone else thinks and just make the choice based on what you see working best for him.

TinTinBanana Tue 22-Jan-19 17:24:24

That is exactly what I need to hear! I really do have to stop worrying what other people think and do what is best for ds. Great advice, thank you.

There is no way ds will be going to the residential. When he started school I had hoped, when the time came, that he would be able to go. But now I know he just won't cope with it. He wouldn't be able to eat the food and the whole thing would be too stressful.

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DobbinsVeil Tue 22-Jan-19 17:39:32

We got a term-time holiday agreed by the school and went away when DS1's class went. He had awful Yr6 teacher and there was no way it would work. He's a real home-body tbh. The class did all go on an induction day to the local secondary, but DS1's school let him have the day off. They were really accommodating of his visits to his new school too. Probably cos the teacher preferred him not to be there(!)

When school choices came up, I said something along the lines of "X is a great school but it's not suitable for DS1. Y has everything already in place to meet his needs" or something like that. It's not a lesser option to put your child in the right school. Square Pegs/Round Holes. Besides, school performance can change very fast. The local secondary used to have a dire reputation, and up to about 5 years ago, parents where vying for places elsewhere. Now, everyone is trying to get in to it!

lorisparkle Tue 22-Jan-19 17:54:20

My ds1 has dyslexia, dyspraxia and atypical autism. We had a choice of 2 schools. We chose the 1 because I really liked the SENCo, he seemed knowledgeable and accommodating. The area which ds1 excels in had better facilities. It is within walking distance so ds1 does not have to cope with the school bus. Unfortunately his best friends were going to the other school however I am so glad we made the decision based on what we felt ds1 needed not on anything else. He has done amazingly well and loves school. I definitely knew from my visits around the school and actually ds1 agreed on our choice after we discussed pros and cons. It was a very tricky decision and I reassured myself that pupils do move between the two schools so it would not be the end of the world if I made the wrong decision.

TinTinBanana Tue 22-Jan-19 22:53:11

Dobbins going on holiday is a great idea. My ds would love that. I will definitely ask if we would be allowed to do that. So far ds' primary school have indicated that they will be helpful with the transition to either school. It will be strange if he does go to a different school to all his classmates. But as you say I need to focus on what is best for ds. Thank you. I hope everything continues to go well for your ds.

Loris I hope I will know for sure once I have visited both schools. I feel nervous about asking to visit them. It sounds like everything is going really well for your ds. I have been thinking about getting to and from the school and I am not sure what is best for my ds. I can't imagine him coping with walking or the bus. He does not walk he runs and falls! He likes buses but not sitting next to people or having to chat to them. So many things to worry about! I think he will always need me to take him to school and collect him. I hope everything continues to go well for your ds.

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lorisparkle Tue 22-Jan-19 23:13:48

I specifically made time to speak to SENCo on general visits as it is so important. When I was closer to making a decision I booked an appointment with the SENCo to make sure they could offer what ds needed and to get him into their radar. I am afraid you have to be quite a ‘nag’ sometimes!

TinTinBanana Wed 23-Jan-19 13:00:59

Thank you Lori's I manage to speak to someone who works in the support department of school no 2 when I was at the open evening. She was great and said I can phone her any time. I feel I am starting to build a relationship with them. I phoned school number 1 today and they said they don't have time for parents to visit the school. There are only transition days for children who will be going to the school. She suggested I email any questions to the SENco. I will keep making contact with school 2 and hopefully will eventually feel I know what is best for ds.

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CinnamonToaster Wed 23-Jan-19 17:05:03

It's easy from what you've written so far to almost dismiss school 1 but I think it's a bit early to do so. We visited 2 schools that could match your description of School 1, but our impression after having looked round and met the senco couldn't have been more different. My eldest (NT) now attends one. She's had great pastoral support and at the moment we are expecting DC2 (ASD) to follow her there. In contrast, we're not even considering the other school for him.

CinnamonToaster Wed 23-Jan-19 17:12:12

Dobbin's point that " 'he just has to ask' wouldn't work for him" is absolutely on the money for us. DS doesn't need extra English, he needs help navigating and problem solving, and that's quite a hard thing to ask for.

TinTinBanana Wed 23-Jan-19 17:15:18

Thank you cinnamon. I think you are right. I need to keep an open mind at this stage. School 2 could be too noisy and too many disruptive children and school 1 much quieter with better support. I think I have learned from this thread that speaking to the SENco is what might help me decide.

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TinTinBanana Wed 23-Jan-19 17:19:13

That's the same with my ds. He will never ask for help with anything. He definitely will require help with the most simplest of things that most teachers won't realise. I spoke to him today about mistakes he had made copying from the whiteboard. He told me he is too far away from the white board and has difficulty reading the words. He has dyslexia and would never ever consider telling the teacher he is having difficult. I think secondary school will be very hard for him. Even what to do at lunch time and playtime and where to put his belongings. All the simple things will be difficult.

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lorisparkle Wed 23-Jan-19 19:49:02

I would definitely ask how they inform the teachers about any SEN. At ds1’s school they wrote an information sheet which I was able to edit which is then ‘attached’ to the child’s name on the school system. When we went to parents evening it was clear that all the teachers knew about the challenges he faces and looking at his reports he is making good progress and more importantly he is happy

DobbinsVeil Wed 23-Jan-19 19:52:26

I'd definitely see how your communications with the SENCos go. What really pushed my buttons was the local secondary SENCo giving me the head-tilt about "Maternal Anxiety". and DS1 "just needs to get over his sensory issues". DS1 also had an EHCP but the SENCo was still "well we take children out for targeted support by a TA in Maths, English and Science". Err not what my son needs though mate.

TinTinBanana Wed 23-Jan-19 20:54:18

I will write that on my list of questions loris , thank you. I know ds has something in his classroom at the moment that all teachers can read to see what support he needs but I don't know how much they really understand ds this year. He had a bad day today and I found out he had a different teacher for a French lesson today who really pushed them with writing french numbers. Ds has dysgraphia and writing is really tiring, he is supposed to use a laptop. I really need to get his support needs understood for secondary school. I really like the sound of the school your ds goes to. It sounds very good.

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TinTinBanana Wed 23-Jan-19 21:06:12

Dobbins maternal anxiety and getting over sensory issues were things that were said to me at the first primary school ds went to. I had to move him before the end of his first year there because it was impossible to discuss my concerns with the school. I think I will cry if he ends up at a secondary school like that.

Targeted support is interesting. I think that is what they do at the school ds is at now. And I definitely think it will be a thing they do at school 1. I always felt that I was supposed to feel grateful about the extra targeted support ds was receiving but I didn't. I felt he was being taken out of class for support in things he really did not need and was missing out on being in the classroom having a normal sort of experience. Eventually I had to speak to the school about it and all the extra things he was being taken out of class for stopped and he is so much calmer and less anxious.

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TinTinBanana Wed 23-Jan-19 21:43:34

I think the problem with the extra support ds was getting was - that all kids who required extra support were taken out of the classroom and grouped together to make life easier for the teacher. So ds ended up in a group that just was not suitable for him. I would prefer a school that wants to support ds in the mainstream classroom if possible.

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cakesandtea Sun 27-Jan-19 13:21:11

I struggled with this question hugely for my Dd. This school seem good at this and that school seem better at that, they are all no good at the other thing and how do you know how it will actually work out in reality, all you hear now are promises and advertising talk, league tables show they are both no good for DC with low prior attainment.

I visited a couple of dozen of schools, including Special Schools and settled on my choice very late in the year actually.. Ultimately it is important to focus on factors and criteria that are really important for your DS, his specific needs and circumstances. It will also reflect your values and priorities because you can't be sure, it is a leap of faith..

I wouldn't discount school number 1 yet, OP.
You need to make your list of key factors and criteria that are key for you, for your DS circumstances, and visit, visit, visit (several times, open day, group tour, 1:1 arranged visit by appointment, with DS and without), observe (the classes, the children, the teachers, everything), talk to the teachers and to the Senco (and deputies as Senco will be rarely involved with your DS), to managers. Senco can promise a lot, but teachers actually teach and managers decide how to organise and spend money IYSWIM, and the deputy is the one who does it. You need to observe and talk to all of them to figure out how the SEN actually works at the school.

Of course you don't want DC to go to a school that does not understand / provide for their needs properly and fobbs you off with teflon statements. However cosy departments can also be a trap of low expectations and abandonment where they don't do enough educationally, their could also be sink sets... A few factors to consider:

Long term: you don't seem keen on academic extra support, but does it mean you don't want/expect your DS to achieve GCSE? What do you hope for him for his future after school? Is the school geared to prepare him for that future?

Competence: the school with better results, more advantaged catchment area might have more resources, fewer problems, better teachers/Sencos/managers, have better ability to manage and organise and deliver what your DS needs, provided they care, want to, have the right culture. Look in league tables at Progress8 measure and their results for _prior low attainers_ and disadvantaged pupils. It will show whether they do well for all students or only advantaged top sets (that would do well anyway), talk to them about _targets_, do they stretch all pupils, do they abandon difficult pupils (like in the TV program they decided to help low hanging fruit kids and left behind many others). My expectation, this leaving behind will be more likely in a weaker school actually, the stronger school is geared up for higher Progress8. Beware of sink sets for all SEN and underachievers combined that don't help anyone.

Dynamic: the school with poor results/ difficult catchment is likely to have more problems, which are likely to increase and escalate as they would struggle to improve, keep up, parents would vote with their feet, there could be difficulty attracting and retaining teachers, budget... Ultimately with best intentions they might struggle to deliver and leave DC with SEN with very little to show for... Beware of sink sets as well.

Ultimately, after properly visiting the schools, your instinct will tell you.

TinTinBanana Fri 01-Feb-19 18:51:54

cakes thank you for giving me some things to think about. I will have to read your post again to take it all in.

I probably didn't explain things very well. My ds does need academic support. That is exactly what he needs. In his primary school he got put in the group of kids who needs behavioural support. It was not the best place for him to be. He has been a lot less anxious since he moved class and remains in the class and is not always taken away to be in a small group. Though he does have a pass that allows him to leave the classroom for a five minute break whenever he needs to. This is alot better for him. My ideal school would have him in a mainstream class with some extra support things in place.

Unfortunately visiting schools and talking to the teachers is not the done thing here. School 1 have said no to a visit. School 2 have been quite good to talk to probably because ds has a place there. We are in Scotland so we are guaranteed a place in catchment school.

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