Firstly, we hope that you and your families are OK in the midst of recent COVID-19 related developments. These are unusual times of conflicting messages and conflicting emotions.
Expected school closures would put a lot of additional pressure on already strained families of children with special needs. We fear disrupted routines, increased anxiety of already anxious children and a necessity to self-isolate. We worry about running out of the only foods that our fussy eaters will touch, vulnerability of many SEN children who battle with additional health issues, as well as the interruption of care for those with more complex needs.
As the children across Italy are painting rainbows with messages of “andra’ tutto bene” (“everything will be OK”), we hope these rainbows stretch over and protect our SEN children and their families.
Today marks 5 weeks since we launched SEN Schools Guide which, by now, has had tens of thousands of visitors. We are delighted to see something that was born out of our passion and personal experience connecting and helping others find the right school for their children.
We would also like to thank you for all your generous comments and helpful suggestions. We want to keep developing our site to create something of real value for everyone. That’s why, following your feedback, we have now made some changes and additions:
Harnessing the wisdom of SEN crowds
In September 2019 OFSTED introduced SEN related questions into its Parent View survey. This survey, which parents are encouraged to fill in at any time, gives us a chance to tell OFSTED what we think about our child's school and its SEN support, and is used to plan and inform school inspections. The results published on 28th February 2020 represent the most comprehensive picture of how SEN services are helping children in state schools in England, giving SEN parents a much needed voice.
We know that a lot of schools may look the same on paper and it’s often next to impossible to know what kind of actual SEN support and environment these schools offer. This is true especially for mainstream schools and, with over 1 million children with SEN attending mainstream schools, we wanted to provide some more clarity on this front. We have therefore decided to present that information on our school pages where available, see the example below.
As you will discover, there are only 10% of state schools that have this data available at the moment and response numbers for each school can be quite low - this reflects different levels of engagement in school surveys and a general lack of awareness around the OFSTED Parent View initiative.
For this reason, for each OFSTED inspected state school, we have added a button which will take you directly to the Parent View website where you can submit your opinions about your current school and share it with other parents. This feedback can be submitted at any time and will then be visible next quarter, as OFSTED refreshes their public data. Over time, the amount of this data, in particular SEN related data, will continue to grow and offer precious guidance for parents considering new schools.
Your Local SEN Directory
We have added a Local SEN Directory section where you can now find links to your councils’ “Local Offer” which outline the provisions your local authorities have put in place for children with special needs. In addition to this, in this section you will also be able to find details of your local parents’ support groups, as well as other local services designed for children with SEN. Identifying these groups and services is a long and laborious process so please bear with us as we fill out these pages and let us know about any organisations you think we should add there. A lot of them have been added based on your direct recommendations for which we would like to thank everyone who has contributed.
Dedicated Condition section
We have also created a separate Conditions section where you can find links to more detailed information about the most common types of SEN, as well as the main organisations and useful resources focusing on individual conditions. Again - please let us know what else we could include and share with other parents here.
It's still very early for us and we welcome any feedback you can send us to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you and hope you stay safe in these uncertain times.
SEN Schools Guide