Looking for your child’s first school can be an exciting but also a daunting time if your child has additional needs/disabilities. There are many things to consider when choosing the right placement.
Then once your child is at school how do you make sure that their needs are being met? If the school is struggling to meet your child’s needs, what can you as parents do about this? What help can you get when moving from one year group to the next or one school to the next (infant to junior). What happens when your child is due to move from primary school into secondary school?
This section looks at the support you can expect from your child’s school. Most children of school age who have Special Educational Needs (SEN) or disabilities will attend a mainstream school. Mainstream schools include all state-funded schools, including academies and free schools.
If your child has a disability, whether or not they have SEN, their school must make reasonable adjustments, including the provision of auxiliary aids (such as tactile signage or induction loops) and services to prevent them being put at a substantial disadvantage. Schools also have wider duties to prevent discrimination, to promote equality of opportunity and to foster good relations.
If you think your child has SEN or a disability, you should talk to your school – starting with the class teacher. Every school has to have a teacher who co-ordinates the SEN provision in the school called a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo) and you might also need to talk to them.
If your child’s school thinks your child has SEN, they should talk to you to see what you think and gather evidence such as reports about your child’s progress. If they decide to provide your child with support for their SEN, they must tell you. If your child has SEN, your school needs to use its best endeavours – that means to do its very best – to give your child the support they need. That could include getting advice and support from specialists outside the school (such as an educational psychologist, a speech and language therapist or a specialist teaching and advisory service).
Children with SEN will be provided with SEN support. The support provided is to help children achieve the outcomes or learning objectives that have been set for them. SEN support can take many forms. This could include:
- A special learning programme for your child
- Extra help from a teacher or a learning support assistant
- Making or changing materials and equipment
- Working with your child in a small group
- Observing your child in class or at break and keeping records
- Helping your child to take part in the class activities
- Making sure that your child has understood things by encouraging them to ask questions and to try something they find difficult
- Helping other children to work with your child, or play with them at break time
- Supporting your child with physical or personal care difficulties, such as eating, getting around school safely, toileting or dressing
Your child’s school must provide you with an annual report on your child’s progress. They should talk to you regularly about your child’s progress, (at least three times a year), set clear outcomes and produce a report of these as well as the action taken and support agreed, and you may want to ask for this to be outside of the regular parents’ evening. It’s important that the views of your child are included in these discussions.
If the school, despite its best endeavours, can’t meet your child’s needs then you should consider whether your child might need an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment which might lead to an EHC plan. You should discuss this with your child’s school (your child’s class teacher or the school’s SENCO).
Your child’s school must publish an SEN Information Report on their website, and keep the report up to date. The report needs to include things like:
- The kinds of SEN support the school provides
- Their approach to teaching children and young people with SEN
- What arrangements they have for consulting parents and involving them in their child’s education (and also for engaging young people directly)
Your child’s school also needs to set out what arrangements they have for admitting children with disabilities, what steps they are taking to make sure children with disabilities are treated fairly and not discriminated against, what facilities are provided for disabled children and what plans they have for improving access in the future.
Many children with an EHC plan will be taught in mainstream schools, but some may be taught in special schools. Special schools only provide education for children and young people with special educational needs. In the same way that mainstream schools do, special schools should regularly discuss with you your child’s education and the support they offer, and keep you up to date with their progress.
If your child has an EHC plan, you can make a request for a non-maintained special school, or for an independent school or independent specialist college (where approved for this purpose by the Secretary of State and published in a list available to all parents and young people). The local authority must comply with your preference and name the school or college in the EHC plan unless provision there is considered to not meet their needs, not represent good value for money or would impact negatively on the education of others. You may also request a place at an independent school or independent specialist college that is not on the published list and the local authority must consider your request. The local authority is not under the same duty to name the provider and should be satisfied that the institution would admit the child or young person before naming it in a plan since these providers are not subject to the duty to admit a child or young person even if named in their plan.
Where an independent school is named on the EHC plan the local authority is obliged to provide the funding to meet the provision set out in the plan.
For more information about SEN or disabilities for school aged children, please look at Chapter 6 of the 0-25 SEND Code of Practice. The West Berkshire Local Offer sets out what support is available to all children and young people with SEN or disabilities. You can also speak to us by clicking here.
If your child has quite complex needs, this might be the option for you. Your child will need an EHC Plan in order to attend a special school. If your child does not have an EHC Plan and you would like more information on this then please see our Educational Terms Explained and Independent Advice sections under this topic.
There is no substitute to visiting a school and asking questions about anything that you think is important. Visit as many schools as you can so that you get a good view of what provision is available for your child.West Berkshire has two special schools, Brookfields School in Tilehurst and The Castle School in Newbury. Both cater for children with learning difficulties aged 2 to 19 who may also have other associated difficulties such as autism, sensory impairment or physical disability.
In a small number of cases children may attend a special school maintained by another Local Authority or a non maintained or independent special school if their needs can’t be met in West Berkshire’s own SEN provision.
School trips are meant to be a lot of fun and play their part in growing a child’s independence, however they can be a source of a lot of anxiety for both child and parents. To some parents it can seem that the school are under-estimating the support needs of their child or in other cases that the school are over-estimating what is required to enable their child to attend. School and parents need to work closely together to work out what is needed for the child to full participate in the trip along with their peers. Schools will do risk assessments for trips so ask to see any risk assessment that relates to your child and work together on reasonable adjustments to lower possible risks.
For general advice about risk assessment click here
For guidance about avoiding discrimination in the planning of school trips click here
Moving from year to year or school to school can be very difficult for some children. Schools can often make the process easier by getting children to visit the new classroom, teacher and support workers a few times in the summer term. If you feel that your child may need more visits than their peers then just ask the school if these could be planned in. As the summer holidays can seem like a lifetime to a child it may be beneficial for the new teacher to organise a booklet of photographs of your child’s new classroom, work area, peg area, new teacher and Learning Support Assistant (LSA), playground also entrance (if a new school). This could also be complimented with a short story of ‘what to expect’ as you move to a new class.
It can be quite an anxious time for the parents too because you and your child are having to start all over again with new staff. To aid this transition arrange a meeting with the new staff and give them any information that will help them understand your child’s needs. It would be beneficial to write these points down and leave them with the new staff so they can re-read just before the new term.
Make your child’s teacher/LSA aware of any concerns as early as possible so that they have time to implement strategies and reduce your child’s anxieties.
Planning the move to secondary school.
If your child has an EHC Plan the planning for Secondary transfer is usually worked on at the Year 5 annual review. At this review you will be asked to name your chosen school therefore, it is important that you visit any schools you are considering for your child before this. Your chosen school will then be sent to the LEA with the other review documentation for consideration by the SEN Department.
The actual amendment to the EHC Plan will take place in Year 6. You will receive a form to fill in where you need to name the School you would like your child to attend, along with the reasons for your choice.
Moving from primary school Yr6 into Yr7 secondary school can be a struggle for any child but this can be even more so when a young person has Special Educational Needs (SEN) and/or disabilities. Whether they are staying in mainstream or moving from mainstream into special provision or vice versa there are many aspects to plan for.
Transition is a term used when school, parents and other professionals like Social Workers, CAMHS etc start planning for the young person leaving secondary school. This process start around the age of 13 (Yr9) and should continue up to 25 years when your young adult has settled into adult life.
Most schools will organise their own support for pupils as appropriate. Sometimes there will be specialist support, offering schools advice and guidance.
Sometimes pupils struggle to meet the demands of studying a whole range of subjects in the last couple of years in Secondary Schools. Sometimes pupils are allowed to drop some subjects to concentrate on others. This would be decided on an individual basis. Over time, the amount of regulation in Schools is changing. There is an expectation that all pupils will continue with English and Maths until they have gained a Grade C at GCSE.
Exam concessions are now referred to as ‘access arrangements’ and may vary from candidate to candidate- such as the requirement for scribes, readers, extra time, rest breaks or the use of technology.
The regulations change from year to year and it would be worth discussing the situation with the School’s Examination Officer. They may be able to advise on which evidence is required by the Exam Board and how far in advance the school would need to apply.
All young people from the age of 13 (Year 9) need to start thinking about their future and what will happen once they leave school. This can be a very stressful time for any young person and their family. However if your young person has a disability or additional needs this can be even harder.
The SEN Code of Practice recommends that from Year 9 all annual reviews should help your family and young person to prepare for adulthood. The code also suggests that a staged approach should be taken to transition planning so that each annual review builds upon the previous year’s.
It can be helpful before Year 9 to start discussing the future with your child and helping them to think about what they might like to do. The Code also recommends that their school make connections with local employment services, businesses and disability organisation so that your young person becomes aware of the support that may be available to them as they get older.
Maintained schools, pupil referral units, academies and free schools must provide independent careers advice to pupils from Year 8 until Year 13. Further Education colleges have a similar duty for all students up to and including age 18 and for those students aged 19-25 who have EHC Plans. In addition to this from Year 9 the Local Authority should also seek advice and information on the support available to help your child to prepare for adulthood and living independently. This should focus on employment, independent living, participating in society and becoming part of the community and moving from children’s services to adult care and health services (if this is relevant).
Your young person’s annual review in Year 9 should look at options and choices for the next stage in their education. Your young person’s EHC Plan should be “Person-Centred” and so this should seek and include their views, feelings and wishes for their future. This transition planning should be included in their EHC Plan, usually within Section E.
Your young person’s educational setting – whether this is a school or a college – should co-operate with the local authority with these reviews. If appropriate then representatives from post-16 institutions should be invited to these review meetings, particularly if your young person would like to go there in the future. This is so that the institution can understand your young person’s needs, help to inform the EHC Plan’s outcomes and begin to work out a study programme that may suit their needs.
Once your child is over compulsory school age, (from the end of the academic year in which they turn 16) it’s your young person rather than you who has the right to make requests and decisions under the SEN Framework. You can continue to support them in their decision making if they are happy for you to do so and it’s expected that you’ll be involved, particularly whilst your young person is under 18. Your child should have access to an Independent Supporter – if they require this – to help them to put forward their views. If your young person is unable to make these decisions then an assessment can be made in accordance with the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
There are some useful websites and publications which can help you and your young person understand the transition process:
- The Transition Information Network (TIN) is a website that has been set up for parents, carers and people who work with and for disabled young people in transition to adulthood. It is possible to become a member of TIN – and membership is free. As a member you will receive magazines and e-bulletins to help you to stay informed: click here to access. TIN also have a section on their website for Young People, click here to view. Again it is possible for a Young Person to become a member and they will receive a (different) magazine and can attend events to help prepare them for transition.
- Preparing for Adulthood’s website contains information and resources such as publications and videos to help you and young person to prepare for their future and the opportunities which might be available to them: click here.
- Mencap have a guide to transition which can be viewed on their website: click here.
In West Berkshire other agencies such as Adviza can offer careers advice and help on further education and training. Click here to visit their website.
There is a wealth of information for young adults over the age of 18 on West Berkshire’s Local Offer. To explore this site, click here