Thursday 1 October 2020

Looking for a new school for a child with SEND during the pandemic

David is coming up to his secondary transfer.  In our area, we have to think about secondary school decisions for our children with special educational needs or disabilities up to two years before they'd start there.  Finding the right school is often very challenging but it's even more so like this.
Kids can change soo much in two years.  OK it's not like when they were much younger but two years in the life of child who is just nine, it still a long time.  Although it's not definite we can have a rough guide with what our eldest son or daughter might be able to do and be capable of in two years time.  

We can do this by comparing them to their peers, not something that I'd often advocate.  But if Jane is say for example operating around the middle of her year group in most areas of the mainstream curriculum, then there is a chance she will be doing the same in two years time.  Of course this is just based on work and we can only guess about other things like whether she will continue to be very shy around anything new,  will she still find ball skills challenging, will she struggle with friendships or not. These things are constantly changing and make the future unpredictable too.

But with David, there's so much more that we have to just... well.. guess.  Like many SEND kids, he has what's called a 'spikey profile'.  Although he isn't working at the average level for any area covered by the national curriculum, he can show achievement much greater in some areas.  

So for example, he has an excellent memory and can remember large sequences, but his communication is so low he only has a few keys words that he can actually use constructively.  This poorer area can then really limit his growth in another.  So, he could potentially remember everything you read to him in a book but not be able to communicate any of it back to you.  How then do we know what he does and doesn't understand? It's really challenging.

Even after we've tried to reasonably guess what David will be able to do and what his challenges may be, we have to find a provision that will enable him to reach his potential by meeting these challenges. Usually one of the key things we do is visit the schools that may be suitable for him.  This is currently one of the biggest issues. 

Several of the special schools near by simply aren't having any visits at all for safety.  Of course we understand that the safety of students and staff are priority but it makes learning about a school very difficult. One of the biggest helps is to see the other students in the school.  You are able to ask yourself if you think your child would fit in with the other pupils.  You can see how the pupils use the space around them, engage with the staff, their peers and the setting.  

Although schools take students based on whether they feel they would be able to meet their needs as laid out in an EHCP,  a visit can give parents a good idea of how their child might be able to operate in a certain setting or school.  But this just isn't possible right now.

Some schools have offered tours out of hours, so the pupils are not in school. But we aren't supposed to take our children with us to reduce bubble crossing.  It's not easy to find childcare for additional needs kids just for 4an hour to have a school tour.  

We have had one school do a presentation and Q&A visit via Zoom.  This was probably the best option so far as I was able to ask about the cohort, that's the kids the school usually accepts. But it was limited in what could be seen.

Main concern at the moment though.  All the provisions I spoke to were simply over subscribed.. making me wonder what kind of choice we may be faced with... or what kind of options my son may even have. 

I'm not really sure what to do next.  Fortunately we have some time and things may change but if they don't we'll really struggle to figure out what's best to do for our son, never might figure out how to help him get it when it comes to his education. 

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