A School With a Helpful Approach

A School With a Helpful Approach

By Rosie and Jo’s mum

This is a description of a meeting I recently attended at Jo’s school.

For an hour and a half, I set round a table with a group of people, care, education and therapy staff, who worked on three basic principles:

  1. A child will make progress if you remove the barriers that prevent it.
  2. Parents know their child best.
  3. Children will tell the truth about what they need.

I’m sure there are specific children, families or situations for whom these three principles do not all apply but I believe that, in general they can provide a good foundation for the planning and implementation of SEND support.

The school staff listened carefully to me and to each other, asked considered questions to gain a deeper understanding, looked for ways to provide the right support (instead of excuses not to) and agreed realistic plans that I felt confident would be implemented quickly, effectively and with integrity.

Not once did anyone suggest that Jo was asking for more than she needed, was trying to manipulate anybody, was looking for excuses to avoid things she didn’t feel like doing or was lying to me.

Nobody told me that they were surprised to hear that she had a problem with a situation they had observed because she had appeared to be fine or happy.

Nobody suggested that I was the one who was anxious or that I was meeting my own needs by exaggerating hers.  Nobody questioned my parenting in any way or suggested that my expectations were unrealistic.

They talked through ideas for support with commitment and creativity.  Making suggestions that they sometimes shot down themselves when it became apparent that they couldn’t work.  They were clear that they wouldn’t try anything they didn’t feel confident was likely to be successful.  This was no tick-box exercise.

The staff are ambitious for Jo and deeply caring.  They do not expect her to become less autistic in order to access her education and they understand that chronic, unmanageable anxiety cannot be tolerated because it hampers learning and destroys mental health.  They also place great importance on her being able to trust the adults caring for her and being able to enjoy her time in school.

We each ended the meeting with a deeper understanding of Jo’s needs and how they could be met in school.  We agreed a plan that requires us to work in close cooperation, as a team of equals and I have every confidence this is exactly what will happen.  I also believe that they will take what they learned in the meeting and build on it.

Best of all I could see that they relished the prospect of rising to new challenges and working creatively to find solutions that have evaded the professionals that preceded them.

It’s been a long road to get here.  The system and some of the people along the way have been abusive in the extreme.  The cost of securing the right provision has been unacceptably high in far too many ways but today’s meeting reminded me that it was worth the battle because Jo has a future again.

This school is well resourced because it is a specialist independent but the most important aspects of the provision, those three basic principles, are free.  Any school could use them and, by doing so, they could possibly avoid causing trauma to other children which results in them ending up, like Jo, having to live away from home to access an education or, more likely, just being unable to access a school education.

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10 thoughts on “A School With a Helpful Approach

    1. It is, L but it took a lot of looking before we knew we had the right one. I hope you find somewhere right for your daughter too.

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  1. How I wish to find this approach by schools rather than the constant obstacles of following their own agenda and “you’re child will conform to our rules” belief xx

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    1. Agreed. I know we all understand that mainstream school don’t have the resources to offer the same flexibility but believing parents and children costs nothing as does accepting that anxiety can be a barrier to learning.

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  2. Nice post! I guess like many others reading it I wondered… Why? Why can’t it be like this for my child right now? If things looked bad 6 months ago due to the EHCP process in Devon being so desperately flawed, right now they look even worse as schools try to bail out our kids before they’ve even begun (funding, results tables, lack of creativity, but perhaps most damaging…a lack of desire to believe it can work, and an absence of energy to make it work). So where is this magical school? …Can we all go?

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    1. It’s such a shame there aren’t more of them.
      She did attend a mainstream school with resourced provision for a while that took a similar approach so they are out there. There just aren’t enough.

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  3. This is actually a sad indictment on the whole system when you think of it. What you’ve described should be everyone’s experience, rather than being an extraordinary one worthy of celebrating. I’m so glad that Jo’s needs are finally being met – I can only imagine the relief! xx

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  4. Just found this site and so much of it rings true. I have struggled with the school system with both of my daughters. The eldest is quiet and has difficulty speaking out in school. The youngest has Aspergers and I now Home Educate her because of the lack of understanding in school that was just making her life so miserable. I have put your quote “A parent can be a valuable source of information about their child. Not using that resource does everyone a disservice.” on a sticky note as it sums up so well where things are so wrong with the education system, but could so easily be put right if they valued what parents have to share about their children. Thank you for sharing your story, it means a lot to know we are not alone.

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