Tuesday 22 November 2016

Progress and prosperity

"Progress".... sounds like something out of an election campaign. In fact Al Gore used it in 2000 "Prosperity & Progress".  As good as prosperity is, it's not usually the term I'm listening for when I walk into a meeting at my kids school.  If my kids aren't making progress or progress at the right pace then their education can go back to square one.

When your child doesn't develop according to 'the norms', their development and well being can very quickly seem to be take over your life. Your parenting adapts, your home adapts, you have enough paperwork to build extra walls in your house.   And their education adapts... at least that what we all hope for.

For many children with special educational needs (SEN), this last part can be very challenging. In addition to the difficulty of asking for, agreeing on and getting the appropriate support for your child, this all has to be constantly monitored.  Initially this feels like a way of you as a parent ensuring that the school and borough are meeting their legal obligations as set out in the Statement of Special Educational Needs or the newer Education Health and Care Plan.  This in itself can be cause for anguish.  But even if all this goes according to plan it can still go ... wrong.

Because of progress. When needs are so specialised, its easy for them to be too specialised and not fit. Creating a situation where progress is being prevented or progress is too slow for the rest of the class.

In the first few months back at school this year, I've had no less than eight school and medical meetings that have all impacted on my boys education.  This has included reviews of their progress via something called an Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting for David who is five and a Statement Annual Review for Anthony who is eight.

David is in a special class that's attached to a mainstream school.  It is extremely sought after and always full.  At his IEP meeting our Applied Behaviour Analyst told us David had made the best progress of anyone in his class. What a relief?  True, I was very pleased, but don't be fooled. David is pre-verbal (he doesn't yet talk) and still fairly self directed.  He has a long way to go.

In fact, he's repeating his reception year in the hope that he continues to make as much progress and can "access appropriate levels of mainstream education come Year 1".  For despite making the best progress in his class, if he doesn't continue at the same rate he may find himself unable to cope and will no longer be suitable for the school.  I'm right to be concerned about my son... who's making excellent progress.

Anthony by comparison is the bottom of his mainstream school class for almost everything. The work is differentiated for him and he has full time learning support assistance.  The difference is that Anthony's progress has been steady.. and I'm relieved to hear he hasn't fallen any further behind.  He's keeping up and no one has any worries that his school isn't the right place for him.  Thank goodness.

I know several children on their second second before getting to Year 3.  I know of another child who is nearly eight and has shockingly been in as many schools! It is strange that as a parent I'm more worried about the child who has made the best progress in the year than the other one who is only just keeping up.  At least I'm in the position where my children have been granted support and are in schools that are keeping good records of their progress.

Late blooming rose

Yes, in some ways after talking through what's either happened or going to happen with my boys in these school meetings, this simple word can turn the whole point of the conversation.  But I'm also aware that it's not the end of the world.   For while one of my kids may have difficulty moving towards the specified standards to stay in his school, 'progress' means more than this.  And the schools and I are really more focussed on doing all we can to simply help my kids thrive and flourish in their own unique and wonderful ways... even when it's at their own pace and in their own time too. It turns out I'm probably more interested in prosperity of a slightly different kind than talked about my Al Gore, than I thought.

This post was written as part of my keynote speech at the Optimus Education Conference "Efficient Partnership Working to Improve SEND Outcomes.  


  1. It is good that both boys are making progress, and as you say, progress can look so different for each child. I hope David can stay there as it sounds like he's getting a good level of support and you're very involved, which can only be a good thing x Thanks for sharing with #WotW

  2. I constantly worry how long Joseph will be able to remain at mainstream and then where do we go from there. I reprimand myself for worrying about a problem that isn't yet there and then worry that I'm not planning ahead enough :-/ #SpectrumSunday

  3. I'm glad to hear that the school is more focused on making it possible for your boys to thrive and flourish. I hope they both have good years at school this year. Thanks for hosting #SpectrumSunday

  4. It's true that often one word can change a conversation and many of us wouldn't think that it would be progress without a negative that could do that. I'm not a parent and would never have considered this before reading this post. Really interesting read and I hope both of your boys get the support they need from the school and as the previous commenter said, flourish. #wotw

  5. Great to hear the support is working and progress is being made X #spectrumsunday

  6. As a liberal Democrat in the US, I've often thought about how progress can be an uncomfortable situation for some people . . . but only in regards to change and how scary that can be. I've never considered it from this perspective, despite the fact that I'm a former teacher. Thanks for sharing and helping me grow! #WotW

    Stephanie @ SV CAMBRIA

  7. Really interesting comment from SV Cambria - progress is good but if you're the one on that progress journey it can be tough & challenging as you're constantly moving into new territory. It sounds like your boys are doing well, settled and your involvement is clearly helping. I hope the rest of this year goes well for all of you
    Popping across from #SSAC

  8. I can understand why you'd be more worried about David when his school set-up sounds more precarious. I hope both boys continue to make progress and - most importantly - that you can all be happy whatever the set-up.


  9. Progress certainly does look different for each child. I remember when we made the hard decision to move our son out of special education into mainstream. His SEN setting wasn't right for him as he had made huge progess but we were not sure whether the mainstream setting would be a good fit either. Turns out, it has been, and he has adapted beautifully. Now, we're making the transition to high school and wondering the same things all over again. Progress always marches on but the education setting doesn't always match the changing needs of the progressing student. We can only hope that changes sooner rather than later.

  10. We've learnt that progress is very much on an individual basis with our two ASD children, one in mainstream and one in SN. It's always a challenge to find the most appropriate setting for your child, I hope David can stay within his. Thanks for linking up with #SSAmazingAchievements

  11. I'm happy with any progress no matter how long it takes. I have learnt to just go with the flow and have no expectations. Also our school setting really helps, it's so important that that is right. I'm glad you are happy with your boys progress and they are in the right place for them xx


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