When looking at educational settings for your child, it is important to know what options are available so that you can make the right decision.
Speak with the professionals that have worked with you and your child to date – nursery providers, teachers, educational psychologists or inclusion teams. You know your child best, use their advice to help inform your decision not make it for you.
A mainstream school is maintained by the Local Authority, is non-selective and there are no fees to attend. Mainstream schools are subject to the SEN Code of Practice 2015 and this means that they are required to ensure pupils are not disadvantaged by their disability or Special Educational Needs.
When visiting all schools, particularly mainstream schools, have the questions below in mind:
- What does the atmosphere feel like? Is it welcoming?
- What is their policy on inclusion, bullying and behaviour? How well does it meet your child’s needs?
- Do staff have the necessary skills and understanding to meet your child’s needs and enable learning?
- How will your child cope with the layout, surroundings and sensory aspects?
- Does the school have the resources to support your child (including staff/equipment/interventions/diet)?
- Will your child have a peer group they can learn from and socialise with?
- Is it easy to travel to?
You can also check to see if the school has Autism Accreditation. This is a quality assurance programme that shows the school has a good understanding of autism. Not all schools have signed up to this, so if a school does not have the accreditation, it doesn’t necessarily mean they cannot meet your child’s needs.
A specialist setting could include a Maintained Special School, a Non-Maintained Special School, an Independent Special School or Residential Special School. Specialist settings provide placements for pupils whose needs cannot be met in mainstream settings. Parents and carers will usually have to request a place at a specialist setting – see Education, Health and Care Plans and tribunals.
When thinking about specialist settings, keep in mind the same questions as above. You may also wish to consider:
- Class size and the ratio of adult to child support?
- The curriculum and what are the outcomes for pupils?
- What qualifications can they study for?
- What learning opportunities are there outside the curriculum?
This may be an option if you feel that you are unable to find a suitable provision for your child. You may wish to withdraw your child from a setting if they are finding the environment stressful or if you feel the education offered isn’t appropriate.
It is important to note that there are legal obligations for parents to ensure their child is in school or education. They must be accessing education, whether at school or at home.