What are my mainstream and specialist school options for my child with SEND?
There are a lot of variables to consider when choosing a school for your child with SEND. The most important thing is to ask lots of questions and visit both types of school so that you can get a feel for the environment and staff.
Mainstream with a SEND provision
Most mainstream schools will have a SEND provision and they will always have a Special Needs Coordinator. It would be good to find out which type of provision they have. Some are quite specific like a Dyslexia unit for example, whereas others may have an Inclusion Unit or Intervention class where all students can receive extra support. SEND provisions in mainstream schools have access to professionals who can help them experience the wider community as well as receive the 1:1 support that is required.
Depending on how much or the type of support your child needs, it would be prudent to ask the SENCo which specific intervention your child would be offered and who and where that intervention would be with and take place. Teaching Assistants are normally present in intervention classes, so I would ask questions about the number of TAs in the school and how they are deployed for instance. As you know your child better than anyone else, you will know if what they are offering is appropriate for his or her needs.
It is also worth asking other parents of SEN children and enquire about their experience, but remember that every child is different and will require a bespoke package, so do not be put off if it didn’t work out for someone else.
Every school has a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo). This is your main point of contact if your child has special educational or additional needs.
Mainstream schools have lots to offer a child with SEND as they have a diverse community with lots of different learning opportunities, some of which only bigger schools can offer. Work can be differentiated and there are many clubs to explore that typically SEN students wouldn’t normally venture into.
Have an open and communicative relationship with your mainstream school teachers. The more information that a school can have about your child, the more efficiently the school can be in tailoring the intervention and support for your child. If you have a good rapport with the SEND staff, you and they will feel more confident ensuring that your child is happy in school and that they are receiving the best education.
It's important to remember that although you may request a specialist placement for your child, you may not get it. So having good knowledge about other mainstream schools in your area is imperative, so that you can make a correct and informed choice for your child.
Special school placements can be requested via your local authority if your child has a special educational need and an EHCP. There may be very limited specialist placements in your area, so it is important to do your research. It is worth bearing in mind that there are different types of schools specialising in different types of SEND, so ensure that you know which would be most appropriate for your child. A panel of experts at the LA will decide if they offer your child a place in a special school. Placements are extremely expensive and due to the smaller class sizes, there are less available.
Special schools can alter their entire curriculum to suit their students needs. Often the school day timings are different and can be quickly adapted when required. Custom built classrooms and playgrounds ensure that the whole school is accessible and safe for their SEND students. Class sizes are smaller and they will have a much higher ratio of teachers to students due to the children’s needs. Educational and medical professionals (such as occupational therapists) visit specialist schools regularly, so you may find that your child has access to them during the school day. Children that attend special schools tend to have more complex needs and so therefore they require a more specialist approach to education.
It is important to ensure that the school can meet all of your child’s needs to not only support their difficulties but to also encourage their attributes and abilities. Which is why it is important to explore all of your options.
How can EdPlace help?
EdPlace has many features that can create a personalised learning space for a child who has additional educational needs. Using the accessibility toolbar, you can alter font type and size, the colour palette of the resource and reduce the amount of exposed text using the reading window feature, ensuring that all of the interactive and differentiated content is accessible to everyone.
Where can I find more information?
It's always a good idea to look up the Ofsted report of your shortlisted schools. They will give you an overview of the quality of teaching and learning.
If you require extra information or support you should contact your child’s SENCo at school or find your local SENDIASS (Special Educational Needs Information and Advice Support Service) and they can provide you with free and impartial advice about services in your area.