The Council for Disabled Children have published a guide which you may find useful to read alongside the information on this website.
This leaflet, funded by the Department for Education and developed by families, is intended to help build a mutually respectful partnership between families and the school, college or other education settings. On occasion, relationships between families and schools are not as successful as they need to be. By building trust this can change and a new way of working together can be developed.
Finding out what help and support is available in schools
To help you decide which school would be best for your child or young person, all schools and further education colleges have detailed information on their websites about the help available to support children with SEND. This should be clearly sign posted from their homepages and may be called the SEND Information Report or School SEND Local Offer. You can ask schools and colleges for a printed version of this information if you need it.
Making SEND Information Reports more useful for families
Working with the parent forum, SEND Family Voices, we carried out a "secret shopping " exercise on School SEND Information Reports on various websites. As a follow up, SEND Family Voices gave presentations at SENCo Forums on a positive parent's eye view of what works.
Download the presentation (opens a pdf)
All schools are required to have a named Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) who is responsible for coordinating the school’s support programme for SEN and disabilities. When difficulties are first identified, they put in place extra help, known as SEN Support.
How do know I know whether a school will be suitable for my child?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions. The answer is that you probably won’t know until you have tried it. A school might seem the right place for your child from the description but when you visit you might feel differently. There is no substitute for visiting schools with your child to get a personal sense.
Remember, your own experiences of school may affect the way you see the school. Try to put these feelings aside and look at the school from your child’s perspective.
Who can recommend a school?
If your child has an Education, Care and Health Plan and you are unsure if a particular school is suitable for them, you can talk to the SEN Case Officer in the SEN team. However no one can recommend a school for your child and wouldn't be in a position to because they don’t know your child as well as you do. Others may not have detailed knowledge or experience of the particular schools, or know what you are looking for in a school. However, we can suggest a number of things you might want to think about or ask about when you are looking at schools, to help you make your decision.
Speaking to other families
You may find it useful to contact local groups of parents to try and find out where other children with similar needs to your child are attending school. Groups may be willing to ask their member families if they would be willing to talk to you or share experiences, An example of this might be contacting 21&Co if you have a child with Down's Syndrome.
- plan to visit at least two so you have comparisons
- look at local schools first
- find out when the school open evenings for prospective parents are being held
- do they offer individual visits from families
- take into account the journey to school - will your child be eligible for SEND transport?
- could your child benefit from independent travel training to prepare them to make the journey independently?
Before visiting schools:
- make a checklist of all the things that are important to you and your child. This will help you to ask the right questions. (see the questions below as examples)
- if you are visiting a mainstream school, arrange to meet with the Special Needs Coordinator (SENCO). If your child is transferring to secondary school you may like to meet the Head of Year or Head of Key Stage 3. Ask them to bring the school SEN policy, governors’ annual report on SEN, school prospectus, anti-bullying policy and behaviour policy to the meeting or research these on the school website before the visit.
- look up the school’s most recent OFSTED report on the Ofsted website
- visit Ofsted Parent View to see how other parents have rated the school.
- decide if you want to take someone with you – perhaps a friend or your independent supporter
SENDIAS Service have prepared this video
Questions to think about when you visit schools
How is SEN provision organised in the school? (ask to see the school’s SEN policy and the governor’s annual report of SEN)
Has the school experience of children with the same/similar needs as your son or daughter and how did they work with them?
What kind of help would your child receive?
Depending on your child’s needs ask about:
- additional adult support (eg learning support assistant, what the class teacher and SENCO do)
- does the school mention reasonable adjustments?
- the way teaching would be organised, e.g. whole class, small groups, 1:1
- SEN support services available to the school – e.g. therapists, educational psychologist, literacy support, support from other schools.
- medical/personal hygiene support
What is the school’s behaviour policy? How does it apply it to children with SEN? If your child has behaviour difficulties, how would the school respond to this?
How does the school deal with bullying?
How does the school involve parents in school life? How will the school communicate with you about your child and his/her progress?
How does the SENCO communicate information about individual pupils to teachers? This is especially important at secondary school where a pupil might be taught by 13-14 different teachers in a week
Are there any after school activities/trips/holidays and how would your child with SEN access these?
If your child will need transport to school, ask for information on this.
Other things to look at:
- Do you feel welcome?
- Do the children look comfortable?
- If your child has any particular religious needs, would they be met?
- Do the classrooms look like places where children can learn?
- Does the school look under control?
- Does the school celebrate different cultures/religions?
- Are the displays current and interesting and do they seem to include pupils of all abilities?
- Do the staff seem interested in you and you child?
Choosing a school with special provision
Some mainstream schools across the borough have special provision (sometimes know as special units or gathered provision) to deal with particular needs – such as severe/complex learning difficulties, hearing impairments, social and communication difficulties, and speech and language difficulties.
To attend a special provision your child will need to have been identified as having special educational needs or disabilities. You can find out more about how special educational needs are assessed in Chapter 4 of the Golden Binder resource:
Choosing a special school
Special schools admit children with statements or Education, Health and Care Plans whose needs are very severe and complex. Find out more about the special educational needs assessment process on our Assessing for SEN page.
Special schools take children who have a particular type of educational need such as complex learning difficulties or social and communication difficulties (including Autistic Spectrum Disorder).
When you know what school your child will be going to you should speak to the headteacher or the school Senco about your child’s needs. This will help the school to decide how to best support your child to give them the best possible start to their education.
If your child is transferring to secondary school Achieving for Children arrange an annual meeting for SENCos of primary and secondary schools to meet to discuss the needs of pupils who will be vulnerable on transfer to another school. Secondary schools will also offer additional transition arrangements to support pupils who may have trouble settling in after the move.