Extra Help In School

A good education is undoubtedly the greatest gift that we can give our children to help get them off to a good start in life. But what happens when things aren't quite going according to the script at school? What can we, as parents, do to ensure that our children are getting the education that they need?

Whilst aimed mainly at the UK education system, the article below addresses these very questions. Even the non-UK readers of The Healthy Newsletter should benefit from Noel Swanson's article, Extra Help In School.

    The British government promised "that a child with special educational needs should have their needs met" (sec. 1.3, SEN Code of Practice, 2001). Even though it's printed for all to see, they won't be able to keep their promise, as they no longer have the resources. However, there it is, in black and white! So, how do you make sure that your child with special needs gets the help they need in school? First, understand how your school is set up. Second, even with governmental promises, there is still a limit to any resources. You need to develop a good working partnership with your school so you can state your concerns and be confident that they will be noted and resolved. Most children's educational needs can be met in the normal classrooms of the normal mainstream schools. Once it becomes clear that a child is not making the progress that should be expected, it is the responsibility of the school to take some action. Lack of progress may be because of problems with:

    a. communication and social interactions (e.g. autism, speech problems)
    b. thinking abilities and learning skills (e.g. poor memory, poor concentration, low IQ, dyslexia)
    c. behaviour, emotional and social development
    d. sensory and/or physical disabilities (e.g. deafness, paralysis)

    If you are worried about your child, you should speak with his/her teacher and/or the school's SEN Co-ordinator (SENCO). If they agree that your child has special needs, they will place him/her name on their Special Educational Needs Register. It may be that they have already done, but you must establish contact.

    Once the school has identified that there are special needs present, they then have the responsibility to meet those needs. There are many ways by which this may be done, but the important point is that everyone (which includes you as the parent) should agree on what goals you are trying to achieve for your child.

    Typically, this is done by drawing up an individual education plan (IEP). Parents take part in drawing up the IEP target goals. They also participate in the reviews. The more you are involved, the more your child will benefit. You will learn to help reinforce what the teachers are doing in school by doing anything helpful at home.

    It may turn out that the school can't meet enough of your child's needs. In that case, they will need to bring in experts from outside the school. Generally this is an educational psychologist, although there are a number of other professionals that can be included. These people might work with your child directly, or they may advise the school how best to proceed. This level of support is known as "School Action Plus".

    If these measures still aren't enough, the school or the parent may apply for a Statutory Assessment of SEN. The Local Education Authority (LEA), usually the county council, generally takes care of this.

    Finally, if they agree that the needs of your child are severe, they may issue a Statement of SEN, which spells out just what the needs are and what the school (and others) are legally required to do to meet those needs. If the LEA refuses to do a statutory assessment or issue a statement, then as a parent, you have a right to appeal.

    Note that in most cases, even if the LEA grants a statement, the school does not necessarily get any extra money to do what the statement mandates! This means that they are still stuck with the very difficult problem of how to divide up their limited cash amongst all the SEN children in their school.

    This is why close co-operation between home and school is essential The school is not your enemy, so fighting with them is unlikely to get your child the help he/she needs. Do try to be polite and friendly, and listen to what they say about your child. At the same time, don't be afraid to speak up if you are worried that something is being missed or not dealt with. After all, if you don't speak up for your child, who will?

    Hopefully, if the educational needs can be appropriately identified and targeted, then your child should find school to be a less stressful environment and, therefore, be more settled, not just in school, but also at home.

    The SEN Code of Practice can be ordered, free, from 0845 602 2260.

If you could do with some tips about your child's behavior, contact Dr. Noel Swanson or research his parenting book The GOOD-CHILD-Guide.com. He also has a free Parenting Newsletter.


Posted January 2009 | Permanent Link

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