Gather information, ask questions – why your involvement is so important

Posted on 12th Jun 2019 in Choosing a school

SEND consultant and author David Bartram, Director of Prescient Education, writes the foreword to the 2019/2020 guidebook, which you can read online here...

All children and young people should expect to receive an education that enables them to achieve the best possible educational and wider outcomes, and become confident, able to communicate their own views and ready to make a successful transition into adulthood. The choice of school for your child is central to these aims and will be one of the most important decisions you make as a parent.

Identifying the school that will best meet the needs of your child will mean gathering as much information about the school as possible. This might include finding out about the school’s curriculum and how it is taught, how the school prepares its learners for the next stage in their education, employment and independent life, and importantly how the school ensures there is a culture of high aspiration for all of its learners.

This Guide offers the opportunity for you to make an informed choice. It will provide you with information on the wider national context and the current legislation as it applies to SEND, and act as a resource to support your decision-making, allowing you to see the range of schools and provision available. It will give you an insight into the school, including its vision and approach, so that you can then use your knowledge of your own child to make the decision on whether this is the right school for your family.

The Guide should also give you the confidence to ask questions of the school before you make your decision. For example:

  • How has the school created a culture and ethos that welcomes and engages parents and carers of learners with SEND?
  • How do systems at your school allow parents and carers to meaningfully contribute to shaping the quality of support and provision?
  • How do you work with families to support effective transition for children and young people?

This focus on family, and the school’s approach to working with families, is important. The Lamb Inquiry (2009) concluded that there was a lack of aspiration and focus on securing good outcomes in the school system for children with special educational needs and disabilities. It found that parents, children and young people’s views were not properly listened to and acted on and highlighted the need for schools to communicate openly, honestly and frequently with families.

To address these issues, the Children and Families Act 2014 sought to put parental and learners’ involvement at the heart of achieving better outcomes. This is then linked to ensuring better outcomes in the Department for Education’s 2015 Code of Practice which recognises that effective engagement with parents and carers has a clear impact on children reaching their potential.

Embedding parental involvement is based on extensive but often ignored evidence that greater parental involvement has a dramatic impact on progression, attainment and wider outcomes as well as improved attendance and behaviour. This is especially relevant for children and young people with SEND who are already vulnerable learners. High quality parental involvement needs planning and focus. Parental engagement needs to be part of a whole-school approach and there should be clear leadership of parental engagement within the school.

Five years on since the introduction of the Children and Families Act, there remains considerable variation between schools in how they ensure greater parental confidence and better partnership with families. In schools where this is working well, the child is at the centre, with the school and the family working together to secure improved outcomes.

There are great examples of independent and non-maintained special schools working in partnership with families, many of which are contained within this Guide. All of the schools listed are fully registered and regularly inspected by the Office for Standards in Education (OfSTED) and by the Care Quality Commission. Many are centres of excellence with high levels of expertise that specialise in addressing specific learning needs, and in curricular areas which are innovative and distinctive. This Guide will help you navigate the range and choice of school available, supporting you to identify best practice and allowing you to select the most appropriate provision so that you make the right choice for your child and your family.

For more information about Prescient Education, see www.prescienteducation.co.uk

To order a print copy of the new edition, please visit our online bookshop. For any other enquiries, please email us as enquiries@johncatt.com.

The online version can be viewed on the Issuu platform here: