As a parent or guardian, you may be asked to choose a school at an early stage of your child’s development, perhaps before the full extent or impact of your child’s needs are apparent. Finding the right school is an important decision that can feel even more crucial when your child has specific needs.
One term that you might hear if your child has persisting needs with talking and understanding is ‘SEN’. This stands for Special Educational Needs. If you hear this term, don’t worry! It is used to describe the specific extra support that a child may need to learn effectively in nursery or school.
“All schools must use their best endeavours to make sure that a child with special educational needs get the support they need –this means doing everything they can to meet children and young people’s special educational needs”. Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014
It is important to ask questions when you visit a prospective school. Be prepared by writing a list of the questions that you want to ask.
General questions that you can ask a school include:
- Who is the school’s Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO)?
- What provision does the school make for children with speech, language and communication needs and /or special educational needs?
- How does the school develop its teaching and adapt the curriculum for children with special educational needs?
- How will school staff know if my child is making progress towards his/her targets?
- How does the school ensure a successful transition between stages and schools?
Here are some areas to consider in detail:
Knowledge and skills
It is important to find out what additional training and expertise, teachers and teaching assistants have in relation to speech, language and communication needs. Children who are directly supported by adults, who have had training in speech and language, do better.
In a mainstream school, there may be staff who have received some training from the visiting speech and language therapist, or during school training sessions (sometimes referred to as INSET).
However you need to ask if the staff who are working with your child have attended training or if not, whether the school would be willing to arrange more training for them.
Working together for the benefit of my child
It is important to find out how school staff approach working with the other professionals who may be supporting your child, for example: speech and language therapist (SLT), educational psychologist.
Visiting professionals usually spend time working with your child but it is also important that time is allowed for talking to key people like the class teacher and teaching assistant. This allows the class teacher and teaching assistant to share information that can inform and support the observations made during the visit. Visiting professionals can also share information that can support the way that your child is supported in the classroom.
It is important to find out how targets are set, supported and reviewed to help your child progress.
Find out if parents are invited to discuss ideas for targets and fully included in target setting and reviews of progress. It is important to know how parents are informed of progress with current targets and ways they can support at home.
Your child’s speech and language therapist should also have the opportunity to contribute targets. Where targets are contributed, there should also be the opportunity for school staff to contact professionals for support if needed.
Communicating with parents
It is important to find out how teachers communicate with parents. Many parents find a home/school communication book helpful. This means that teachers and teaching assistants and parents can share information informally about daily/weekly progress and activities.
It is important that SLTs and teachers work together to give parents ideas either through suggested homework activities or by giving strategies that children or parents find useful for supporting communication.
Support in class
Its important to find out about what happens in class to help children understand and work with others to communicate their messages. There are things that can be put in place for children of all ages that help a classroom to be more supportive of communication or ‘communication-friendly’.
Afasic has produced an information sheet with a range of suggested questions to ask when visiting schools that you are considering for your child. Not all the questions will be relevant to your child but they may help you to gather the information you need to make an informed decision.
School Visits - Questions To Ask (360.7 KiB, 6,920 hits)
Following the changes to the way that children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are supported in England, the Local Authority should be publishing information about the speech and language support that is available in schools in your local area.