When your child has special needs, your school’s SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) becomes one of the most important people in your life.
Whether you are looking for a new school, your child has just been diagnosed, or you have concerns about your child’s needs being met, we’ve put together a list of questions you may want to think about as you go to meet them.
The role of the SENCO is to take day-to-day responsibility for ensuring that children’s special needs are met and all SENCOs have to follow the SEND Code of Practice. Remember that, by and large, they are your friends! However, they are also very busy as most SENCOs have teaching responsibilities on top of their SENCO roles, so their time may be limited and they may respond to your concerns with some delay.
While, by definition, special schools have deep knowledge and experience with special needs, this knowledge and the level of commitment to SEN will vary greatly for mainstream schools. The below questions should help to qualify them and identify the best school for your child:
- Ask for a copy of the school’s official SEN policy. Each school should have one and it’s a good document to have once you go home and have time to digest things in more detail. This policy should also cover anti-bullying, as well as behavior and discipline strategies.
- Ask to see examples of IEPs (Individual Education Plans) they’ve produced before - this will give you a good idea of what you may expect for your child.
- Ask what training the staff receives and whether this training involves all staff or just dedicated support staff. While you may rely mainly on the teaching assistant dedicated to your child to support them in class, being surrounded by other teachers and staff members who understand special needs is not to be underestimated.
- Ask about the school’s previous experience with special needs - do they have specific experience caring for children with the same condition as your child’s? What is the percentage of children with SEN at the school? A school that has a higher proportion of children with special needs is likely to better understand the systems and procedures compared to a school that has very few children with SEN.
- Did other children with special needs stay at the school for the duration of their education or did they transfer at any point and, if yes, why? What was the next step in their education - which schools did they move on to?
- How is children’s progress measured? How frequent is the communication between SENCO and parents? Do they produce termly reports, arrange meetings and how do they communicate with class teachers on a regular basis?
- How do they ensure that children have access to the appropriate differentiation in the National Curriculum? How flexible are the teaching and learning arrangements? What alternative arrangements are available during unstructured times?
- What kind of induction process does the school offer to help children with the transition? This could be additional sessions, opportunity to attend initial sessions with a familiar adult, visual support materials etc.
- Ask if you can speak to other parents of SEN children who are currently at school. Is there a SEN parent support network at school and a chance to engage with other parents informally?
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