Your child has the right to a good education, and there are ways to make sure that a mainstream school can meet your child's Special Educational Needs (SEN).
Sometimes you might feel that your child is not encouraged enough academically. They may tell you that they’ve been excluded from a task or given different goals from their classmates. Treating children differently can make them feel:
left out, disappointed and low in confidence
discouraged from doing schoolwork and attending school
Approaching the school can be difficult. You may not know when to raise your concerns or worry that you’re being too protective. But remember that it’s in the school’s best interest to make sure your child reaches their full potential.
Speak to your child first
Before contacting the school, get a better understanding of the situation by asking your child about what happened. If they're upset or emotional, they might find it difficult to talk about what's wrong.
Perhaps ask them to draw what’s bothering them or ask their friends or other parents.
Consider the social elements of school as well as the academic side. Sometimes children are unhappy because of friendship problems or bullying. Or there can be rules that can leave out children with special needs from social activities. This can affect their learning and taking part in class.
Your child’s needs will change during their time at school, but teachers might not realise. Raising your concerns as soon as possible will make sure that they can support your child.
Try not to overestimate what the school knows about your child’s capabilities and tell teachers about their behaviours, both good and bad. Sometimes teachers make assumptions and can be too cautious with children with special needs.
If your child is moving schools, it’s better not to assume that the old school will pass on information. It’s better to tell new teachers, even if you feel you’re repeating things.
Check the school’s website or contact reception to find out how the school likes to hear from parents. You may want to phone or email the school when your child’s upset, so check when would be a good time to talk. Make sure you’re in the right frame of mind too. Take notes to follow up your chat in writing and make sure you keep copies.
Raising a concern at parents’ evening can seem like a good idea, but the teacher may not have time then to give it their full attention. You may need to explain the problem and make an appointment to discuss it further.
Speaking with the teacher
It’s a good idea to speak with your child’s teacher first. You may be able to resolve the issue. Tell them that you would like to explain your child’s needs and capabilities in more detail.
Before speaking with the teacher, write down your worries and concerns in bullet points. This makes sure that you do not miss out anything you want to say.
The teacher might have made assumptions about what your child can and cannot do. Perhaps they believed they were being kind by allowing them to sit out activities. Remember, you are the expert on your child. Let teachers know what your child is like as a whole person, not just a child with SEN.
You could ask about school inclusion policies too. For example, is it the teacher or students that decide pairs and groups for group work? Does your child have to leave class early to get to the next lesson? Do they miss out on homework as a result?
Setting goals and following up
Look at your child’s goals with the teacher and discuss what’s stopping your child from achieving them. Can your child do these at home?
Ask what tasks are different for your child and agree if they can do them.
After the meeting, follow up with the teacher in writing to confirm what you agreed.
Ask your child regularly about their day and what they’ve done. This will help you keep track of their progress.
You can also ask the school for a diary of what your child is doing if they do not communicate well.
Understanding school reports
Get to know how the school reports on your child’s performance. This can vary widely. Sometimes reports can make it seem that there’s a problem when everything is fine or make it sound worse than it is.
If you disagree with the school
If you do not agree with the school or feel ignored, there are other people you can approach for support. Ask to meet the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) who may have a better understanding of your child’s needs. Or speak to the Head of Year or Deputy Head Teacher.
Asking for a copy of the school’s complaints process might focus people’s attention on the issue. This may help if you feel ignored or nervous to take your concerns higher.
If this does not resolve the matter, contact the Board of Governors. You can get support with this by:
contacting your local authority to find out about their Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS). They can provide information and resources about educational needs.