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What schools should provide

With or without the guidance, many schools are getting much better at detecting and managing special needs but some are still slow to recognise and assess problems.

As a rule:

  • Good teachers will choose the best way to help a child learn from a range of activities.
  • The curriculum should be differentiated (teacher-speak for adapted lessons) to take account of individual learning need.

Teachers should: carefully organise the lessons, the classroom, social groupings, books, materials and the way they teach to ensure a child can make the most of any given learning opportunity.

If this isn't happening for your child ask why. (Where it is happening let The GSG know - we are keen to share with our readers all good ideas and practice.)

Every school should have a SEN policy that explains their provision. Do ask for a copy of the policy and for an explanation of how the policy is implemented. (If it's full of jargon ask for the information in plain-speak.)

Where a school believes a child's difficulties require extra measures they will follow the guidance given in the SEN Code of Practice on how to provide help for children with SEN. Basically this uses a graduated approach to help those children identified as having SEN.

If a child's needs are clearly greater than the norm, stages can be skipped and the process speeded up.

Remember, the current Code of Practice expects a lot from schools, and some may have genuine difficulties in successfully meeting those expectations, so do keep on top of issues and concerns.

The whole process is currently under review with some major changes afoot.

Additional help and support

If a school thinks your child requires it, they may recommend that your child is placed on School Action or School Action Plus. The school must tell parents when they first start giving extra or different help for a child because of their SEN; it's your right to be involved.

Some schools use Individual Education Plans (IEPs) to write down actions or help for a child (see help and support in the classroom for a detailed explanation). These contain targets for your child to work towards.

If you haven't yet decided on which school your child should attend, see choosing a school for children with SEN.

Hopefully working together with your child's teachers will help to sort out many worries and problems but be prepared to be the person keeping on top of matters - schools focus on all children but it's your child that matters to you. The closer you work with your child's teachers, the more successful any help for your child should be. If you disagree with something said or done, ask for an explanation but try not to be defensive or aggressive. Antagonising teachers won't help but don't let them railroad you either - they don't always know best.

Enlisting help

Parents are often the first ones to identify a difficulty so they can rightly request help for their child. Seek the help and support of professionals. Your GP (or health visitor for pre-school children) will be a useful starting point.

If you think your child should be seen by an educational psychologist (EP) and you decide to shell out for an EP's report yourself, seek recommendations from those you trust or who see a lot of EPs – the school perhaps, or local arms of support groups like the British Dyslexia Association or even the Local Authority. Finding a good EP is a bit of a black art and it’s hard to know just how good an individual practitioner is. If in doubt (and you can afford it) see two of them. Hopefully the school will cooperate with any information needed by a privately appointed EP but we know of cases where this hasn't happened. If a school is difficult or obstructive and it is a state school speak to the Governors or the LA (there should be a special needs advisor). If it's an independent school remind them who pays the fees. If you cannot afford to pay privately and there is agreement the child should be seen by an EP be prepared to go on what, in many areas, is a lengthy waiting list.

Use the Useful contacts section on this web to get in touch with people and organisations who can help. There's a lot of experience out there to be tapped into.

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