If your child has special educational needs (SEN), as a parent, your main concern will be choosing a school that caters to these specific needs. As well as finding a school that ticks all the regular boxes, such as high academic standards and pastoral care, parents will need to find a school where they feel their child will receive the right levels of support and the appropriate facilities for a child with SEN or learning disabilities.
So how can you go about choosing a SEN school for your child? We’ve put together a number of tips to help make the process easier.
Understand your options
First of all, it’s important to understand that there are a range of options for children with SEN, from attending mainstream schools with special units to dual placements where time is split between a mainstream school and a specialist unit. Children can attend residential schools which can help with elements like regular routine, or they can be schooled virtually, utilising new technology to help children who do not flourish in a regular school environment. There are a multitude of options for parents to choose from – so do not be disillusioned if your first choice does not come off.
Look at school reports and reviews
At School Reviewer, we provide comprehensive data for thousands of institutions all over the country – from nurseries all the way up to higher education. Our database is invaluable for parents who are looking at local schools and trying to decide which one would be the best choice for their child. Using our tool, parents can set a geographical boundary, they can choose whether they want a day school or a boarding school, and they can measure the differences between state and independent schools in order to arm themselves with the data they need to make an informed choice about their child’s education.
Speak to other parents
Reach out to parents in a similar situation – there are a multitude of forums online, or you could simply head to the school gates one day and strike up a conversation with other parents. Parents who have been through the process of choosing a school will have their own anecdotes and advice to offer, which is ideal for parents who are going through the process for the first time.
Arrange a visit
Once you’ve whittled down the options to a shortlist, try to arrange visits to the school for yourself and your child. Take a good look around, and use the opportunity to ask as many questions as you can. You’ll be able to find out more about things like transport to and from the school, how other children with SEN are supported, and how many extra-curricular activities are provided to stimulate pupils. Gauge your child’s reaction – do they appear comfortable in this environment? How do teachers and pupils react to them? You’ll also be able to meet the SENCO (SEN Co-Ordinator) of the school, and put more specific questions to them about your child’s individual needs.
Choosing a school for your children is an important decision for all parents – but especially so for parents of children with SEN, who have extra considerations to make before they decide. By arming yourself with as much information as possible, and by getting pro-active about visiting the school and talking to other parents about their experiences, all parents will be able to feel more confident about their choice.