Having started the fight to get Joanna into a specialist school in the last couple of weeks, we’re keen to keep up the momentum and arm ourselves with plenty of first-hand knowledge from Actual Visits so we can make the best possible case to the SEN panel. And here is where it begins: my 30 questions to ask SEBD schools.
They want paperwork, they’re going to get paperwork. I’m going to write a masterpiece comparing and contrasting the various options. Bring it on.
To recap: we’re looking for a specialist SEBD (social, emotional and behavioural difficulties) school for our eight-year-old daughter, Joanna. Her current mainstream primary school can’t meet her needs or cope with her dysregulation and violence. We are struggling at home with both girls’ CPV and fighting each other. (Read more about our CPV experience here.) There have also been a couple of running away incidents lately – one from school and one from home. Arrrgh.
We’ve just had an EHCP review (brought forward after a rash of exclusions for violence last term) and although we had a good argument for a particular school based on a lot of Googling and scouring of websites, we agreed that we also need to visit the three schools under discussion in order to make an even more informed choice.
30 questions to ask SEBD schools
We’re going to see the first school (our current first choice) this week. I’ve been thinking up questions. Here’s my list so far.
The home–school relationship
1) How do you keep in touch with parents?
2) How frequent are communications – not just about academic progress, but behavioural and general comments in what’s going on for her?
3) What does the partnership with parents look like in terms of consistent strategies around behaviour to make sure Joanna receives the same messages at home and school?
4) How does the transition from mainstream work? What would that look like for Joanna?
5) What would the year 4 timetable look like for Joanna?
6) How do you measure academic progress?
Therapy and behavioural issues
7) What therapies are available on site?
8) Are class teachers/TAs trained in issues relating to early trauma?
9) What proportion of the pupils come from a similar background?
10) Would she miss lessons for therapy? How does that work?
11) Is therapy delivered 1:1 or in groups?
12) Joanna has been working happily in class for 90 minutes and is then given a maths question that she can’t immediately work out. Her self-esteem is threatened and she suddenly becomes angry, shouting, throwing a chair at someone and running out of the room. In your school, what happens next?
13) Do you have much sensory OT work incorporated into the classroom?
14) What are your expectations of her? What happens if she fails to met your expectations?
15) What measures do you have in place to stop her running away?
16) What is in place for keeping in touch with Joanna during the week? Can she call us?
17) What routines are in place in the mornings and evenings?
18) Who would be looking after Joanna in the mornings and evenings? Can we meet them?
19) What happens if she’s ill?
20) Can we see what the rooms are like?
21) What help is available to Joanna for developing social skills, building friendships, etc?
22) What are the male/female ratios in her year group? In the school overall?
23) Are there any extra-curricular activities available (eg football, chess, drama)?
24) Joanna really struggles with transitions. What do you have in place to help with different types of transitions (on a daily basis, between school years, and from primary to secondary)?
25) What behavioural issues is she likely to learn from other pupils? What are the main issues they face?
Securing a place
26) If we really want Joanna to come here, what are the arguments you’d recommend us putting to the LA in the EHCP review paperwork?
27) What’s your relationship like with the LA’s SEND team?
28) Do you have any other advice for navigating the system?
29) How competitive is your admissions process?
30) What do you think is the school’s best selling point?
These 30 questions are just a starting point. I’d love to hear other people’s, especially if you’ve navigated this process already or are doing it at the moment. Is there anything you think I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments or on social media (see below).
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