Choosing a setting for your child or young person can sometimes be one of the hardest things you will have to do. The term after your child turns five years old you are legally obliged to ensure your child gets an appropriate education. This section provides information to support you.
Choosing a Setting for a Child or young person with Additional Learning Needs (ALN)
Choosing a setting for your child or young person can sometimes be one of the hardest things you will have to do. The term after your child turns five years old you are legally obliged to ensure your child gets an appropriate education.
The majority of children will receive their education in their local catchment setting. All settings must make adjustments to help children with Additional Learning Needs to be able to access the curriculum.
Sometimes, children might need to go to a specialist setting. This will be decided at a Placement Panel informed by people working with the child. Your wishes and feelings will be really important as part of ensuring your child’s placement is the most appropriate.
One of the questions we are most frequently asked is:
“How do I know that I’m choosing the right setting for my child?”
The answer is that you probably won’t know until you have found out more and have a look. Below are a number of things you might want to think about (or ask about) when you are looking at schools, to help you make your decision.
This question is usually closely followed by: “Can you recommend a setting?”
Parents must make their own decisions in choosing a school, though there is lots of information and advice professionals and parent partnership services can offer.
Finding a setting that will suit your child:
- You can start by looking for schools near you online. Your Local Authority website will be able to provide you with lists of local settings, provision offered, and their admissions information (although this guidance refers to maintained schools, many Local Authority websites also have information and links to the independent settings in their area)
- Visit at least two settings so that you have something to compare
- Does the setting already have all the things your child needs or could they be developed?
- Try to keep an open mind until you have looked at all the possibilities and spoken to the professionals involved with your child
- Speak to the Specialist Teachers for Additional Learning Needs or the Educational Psychologist or the health professionals who may be involved with your child.
- Make a checklist of all the things that are important to you and your child. This will help you to ask the right questions. See the checklist (below) as an example.
- Ask for a school prospectus or brochure (or find a copy online)
- Look up the school’s most recent Estyn report on the internet.
- Take any relevant information about your child or young person’s additional needs with you.
- Think carefully about whether you want to take your child with you on the first visit (you could discuss this with the setting or another professional).
- Decide if you want to take someone along with you such as a friend or relative. They can help in discussing your impressions afterwards
- Ask to have a guided tour of the setting. You will get a better feel for the setting if you do this when the children are there.
- Think about speaking to other parents. However, it is important to keep an open mind. All settings change and information can be out of date. Also, different things are important to different parents. You know your child best, and what is likely to suit him or her.
Here are some questions you might want to ask. You will think of other things that are important to you and your family. If you are going to visit more than oneschool you might want to jot down some notes to help you remember:
- How many pupils would be in my child’s class?
- What will the school do to make sure that all the staff know about my child’s individual needs?
- How does the school arrange extra support for children who need it?
- How will I be involved in planning for my child’s needs and reviewing his or her progress?
- How will the other children be helped to understand my child’sneeds?
- How will my child be helped to settle into school and to make friends?
- How will I be kept up-to-date about what is happening in school?
- How does the school help children to learn how to behave?
- How does the school deal with bullying?
- How will the school make sure my child has the chance to take part in all areas of the curriculum and extracurricular activities (such as lunchtime and after school clubs and outings)?
Remember, your own experiences of school may affect the way you see the school. Try to put these feelings aside and look at the school from your child’s perspective.
Once you have narrowed down your list of preferred schools, it’s time to apply for a place. If you do not have an application form, contact your Local Authority to request one. They will also be able to discuss local policies, guidance and offer information and support to those recently moved to the area.
Before submitting your application, it’s very important to read the school’s admission criteria; different schools have different criteria. If the school you’re interested in is popular, the admissions criteria will give you a realistic idea of your child’s chances of getting a place there. (This criteria should be found in the school’s prospectus or by contacting the Local Authority).
The Additional Learning Needs of children will normally be met in mainstream schools or settings. For some children and young people, it may be necessary to provide more support that can be provided by a mainstream school. To support those with complex needs there are a number of specialist centres attached to the Foundation Phase, junior, primary and secondary mainstream schools. In addition, there are special schools providing to those who need intensive specialist support.
Parent Partnership Services provide support and advice to parents whose children have Additional Learning Needs. Information and advice is provided by a dedicated team who provide accurate and neutral information.