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What to ask when looking at MS High schools?

10 replies

OhDear2200 · 22/09/2019 15:23

Has anyone got advice on what to ask when looking at MS high schools? Starting to look now though DC is only in year 5. Gita dx of ASD and starting process of applying for EHC plan. Went to look at first school and found it really hard to know what to ask, what to look for.

Have people met with the SENCO? Do you go with a list of things that you know your DC needs and basically go 'can you do this?' Have people found schools are honest?

I'm so nervous about it, I really worry this is a pivotal decision and know it could go horribly wrong.

Any advice would be very much appreciated!

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norfolkskies · 23/09/2019 14:53

when we were looking at secondary schools for ds (yes we started looking yr5!), we saw the sendco. Some are better than others. You need to stress the problems/ potential problems etc really obviously we found! like heres my ds and what school does for him for dummies. <br /> find out HOW the child will be supported? what happens if the child cant cope/ meltdown/ distress in a class? what will teachers do? Is there a quiet/ sen room/ safe room for them to go to when it all goes tits up?
question everything we found. and don`t be fobbed off! be "that" parent......

OhDear2200 · 23/09/2019 17:40

Thank you norfolkskies - I fear I’m already well on the way to being ‘that parent’. I’m not sure how you’re not and get what your child needs!

Good advice thanks!

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norfolkskies · 23/09/2019 21:08

in the end we deregistered and he`s in an online school now.....and thriving.

OhDear2200 · 23/09/2019 21:14

Norfolkskies - having just looked around the local school tonight I’m very fearful that this is our future. The SENCOS reaction to us was to ask “does she have a proper diagnosis” Ummm no we bought it off the internet Hmm and she kept on going on about “reasonable adjustments” when we asked about how they would meet her support needs. It all felt very reactive rather than proactive in preventing anxiety and meltdowns - so intervention when it occurs Angry

I’m feeling really desperate!!!

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norfolkskies · 24/09/2019 08:02

thats exactly how it was for ds.

its all reaction, even after telling what sparks off the problems!! and such simple little things to avoid the problems.

we gave up!

KisstheTeapot14 · 27/09/2019 10:15

We just looked round a small secondary this week. The SENCO was quite defensive, rather than suggesting positive solutions. I think DS has so much going on he's going to sink at secondary. Just doesn't feel realistic (he has variety of diagnoses dyspraxia, dyslexia and others) as he has fallen so many years behind at primary.

He's Y5 so we have time to plan but unless we can find something that is a good fit, we may be joining the online/home ed. contingent. I have a year or so to figure out how we can both work and home school. EHCP in process, as useful for the long term aspect. He may well go back into formal at some point for qualifications.

OhDear2200 · 27/09/2019 13:46

@KisstheTeapot14 - Exactly same situation - yr 5, starting EHCP.

It’s be a long journey with primary and only just settling. I’m petrified of how she will manage in secondary - all the things that keep her afloat at school now will be effectively gone, or not available or not physically possible (apparently Hmm ).

Also I find people very overly optimistic with statements like ‘well 2 years is a long time’ - suggesting that she will “get better”. I want to scream - well that’s not what the statistics show for autistic kids it gets harder at secondary!

It’s as if I’m being the one overly anxious wanting to get the right support in place.

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jackparlabane · 27/09/2019 14:21

I've got a kid in Y6 with a EHCP for autism. The council agreed that the key thing for him will be the ethos of a secondary and him feeling happy, so currently while he has one (so we can practically pick a school), it's got no funding attached (but I'm told we have much more chance of getting funding this year - 'to ensure a successful transition to secondary' is the key phrase, confirmed by a couple Sencos). Fight to get one if at all possible!

I went round a couple schools last year and met the Sencos (who both seemed pretty good), and now have taken ds round 4 schools. He really liked two of them and hated the other two, and I pretty much agreed with his assessment - the two promising schools, I'd unleash him into a classroom on the open evening and he'd get engaged with stuff, teachers would chat to him, and not be unnerved by his obvious quirkiness.
One of the other schools, hardly any teachers even bothered talking to him, a couple visibly tutted, and most of the teachers ignored me too. The other is new and not full - I wondered if he might like it being more empty and spacious but he found it very uninspiring - having y10-13 role models and their work on the walls really caught his interest.

While ds was playing with the activities set up, I quizzed each teacher on 'what do you do with a kid who is highly motivated in some areas, has gaps in his knowledge, gets frustrated easily and is incredibly squeamish and anxious?' The two promising schools, teachers had answers about things they do with students already like letting them leave early from a class to avoid crowds, no detentions unless agreed with pastoral care, alternatives to dissection/cooking, setting for PE by 'both ability and motivation' and various activities, a kid allowed to go curl up on bean bags in the library when required, etc. A language teacher confirmed that if ds will refuse to learn language x but wants to learn language y, that would be sufficient reason to ensure that is met when the 'random' groups are allocated and I should write it into his EHCP.

The tutting school, I'd get 'ooh, well.... well, we have a very good inclusion team...', in that special 'caring' tone of voice.

I'm now coming up with a spreadsheet of features of the two promising schools and questions for the sencos/other staff. I'm wondering whether the deciding factor should be that one school is handy to pop in on on my way to/from worn?

OhDear2200 · 27/09/2019 16:12

Thank you @jackparlabane you’ve given some really good suggestions!

Can I ask what is probably a stupid question, once you’ve chosen your school if outside of the catchment area do you have the EHCP to use to get to the ‘top’ of the admission criteria?

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jackparlabane · 27/09/2019 19:36

It's a separate admissions process if you have a EHCP - basically name a school, they agree they can meet kids' listed needs, that's it. Distance is irrelevant (I suppose a school could argue that being miles away would mean they couldn't educate a tired kid, but I'm in London so while normally too far for the schools we're looking at, they're still under 2 miles away).

The school who said 'I know kids with autism are all different, but we've got 8 at least in Y7, and similar numbers in other years, and I think they're happy' is a contender. Both schools offer homework club so if a kid refuses to mix school and home they can get homework done at school. Both permit long hair on boys (tied back for practical classes), have prominent LGBT groups, places to hang out quietly at break, chess and board game clubs, chairs that ds says are comfortable, spacious corridors (one has separate up/down stairs to reduce crowds) ....

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