As I drive around, seeing signs for school open evenings, I am reminded of this time last year as we walked around secondary schools, each of us fearing what the next year would bring.
A month in, and I can honestly say we couldn’t have made a better choice. The Bear is thriving at secondary school, and would quite honestly tell you she loves it. So much so, that I can’t quite believe it.
So how did we make our choice, and what should you look at when assessing which is the right school for your child:
Follow your gut
Always remember that an Ofsted report can only tell you so much, visit schools during the working day as well as on an open evening. Walk round and envisage your child there, ask yourself whether it feels like somewhere they would be happy. Talk to key staff to gauge how approachable they are and choose a school where you feel like you would feel comfortable calling if there was a problem.
Listen to your child
Moving from a tiny village primary school was always going to be a huge change for the Bear, so we knew it would be important to get her views. We shortlisted five schools to look around, and out of the five she felt comfortable in two of them. For her the older style buildings with narrower corridors felt less overwhelming than the more newly built schools. Finding an environment she felt safe in was really important in making our selection process.
Gauge their Autism knowledge
Talk to the SENCO and ask them openly about their experience of working with young people with Autism. Secondary SENCOs tend to have more experience than primary schools – simply because of the sheer number of pupils passing through – but it’s always good to raise the question just in case any red flags pop up.
Ask about their behaviour policy
We knew a highly structured environment with high behavioural expectations was what the the Bear would need to feel safe. But whatever you need from a behaviour policy, it’s a good question to ask in advance. For young people who struggle with demands or who can lash out either verbally or physically when upset, this is especially important, as it can help schools and families to negotiate strategies in advance that will be helpful.
Talk to other parents…
… but take their advice with caution. When it comes to schools, one size definitely does not fit all. So ask how other parents find the school and listen to their words, find out the things that work for their children and the things that don’t. Then look at your own child and think about how those things would impact them. Some will and some won’t. Remember it is your choice not theirs.
Why not join our lovely, friendly Facebook Group full of parents determined to make sure their children are #UNIQUEANDSUCCESSFUL.
If you do want to learn more you might find our autism section a useful place to start. It’s full of different strategies to try out.
Or if you’re looking for more personal support to help you take that action, why not check out our Consultancy Services.