Chapter 11: Being involved in making decisions

Parents play an important role in supporting children’s achievement at school and their overall experience of school. Parents have a unique expert knowledge about their children, which they should share and education professionals should draw upon, at every stage.

It’s important on a practical level to make sure you are fully involved in making important decisions, like whether your child has additional support needs and what kind of support they require.

Your legal rights are referred to throughout the guide. You can see them in the ‘At a glance’ sections at the end of each chapter.

It is essential that you are aware of your rights and use them. However, the quality of your involvement in your child’s education will depend largely on your relationship with your child’s pre-school centre or school and with the staff who work there.

The local authority must have a contact person who will be responsible for providing information about local arrangements for additional support for learning. They will be able to provide you with:

  • local policies and procedures including those about resolving disagreements
  • information about planning and provision in your child’s pre-school or school
  • details of local advocacy and support services
  • details of who else you may need to contact.

The following summarises the guidelines given to professionals. It may help you understand what to expect in your involvement in your child’s education. Your child will have a Named Person (this entitlement is likely to be in place in 2018) who is available to listen, advise and help both child or young person and their parents, providing direct support or help to access other services.

Professionals should:

  • recognise and use your knowledge and expertise relating to your child
  • respect and see the value in your views even if they differ from theirs
  • find helpful ways of resolving any differences you may have
  • consider your child’s strengths as well as their needs
  • make sure you are available to attend meetings
  • tell you what is happening between meetings
  • acknowledge any information about your child that you provide
  • cater for any needs that you have to help you communicate with staff. For example, if you need to communicate using sign language
  • when giving you information, make sure it is clear and easy to understand. They must try to avoid using technical language (jargon) without explaining it.

If you feel that you do need some help getting your views across, you can ask others to help. Whoever you nominate to help you will be called either your ‘supporter’ or your ‘advocate’.

Supporters

A supporter can be a friend, relative, befriender or worker from a voluntary organisation. They could also be a professional working with your family. Their role will be to help you make decisions, understand policies and procedures and to give your views, for example at any meetings you attend to discuss your child’s additional support needs.

Advocates

You also have the right to be supported by an advocate who can help you in the same ways as a supporter, and also speak on your behalf and represent your views at meetings. An advocate may be trained in advocacy and should have a good understanding of Scottish education law and other legislation.

Supporters, advocates and the local authority

Although you have the right to be supported by a supporter or advocate, your local authority does not have to provide one for you, or pay for one. Contact your local authority to find out what services are available in your area, or you may find the resources section in this guide useful.

Your local authority must comply with a wish to have a supporter or advocate present, unless it is unreasonable. The local authority might consider it unreasonable to include your supporter or advocate in discussions if it believes they are unable to represent you or if they are in some way hindering the process. If this happens, you must be given clear reasons for the decision.

There is an independent advocacy service to support parents and young people in Tribunal proceedings. You can find out more about this from the Additional Support Needs Tribunals for Scotland or Enquire.

Abbey’s story

Abbey - picture posed by model

Abbey

(picture posed by model)

Abbey has just changed school as her family has moved into a new area. Abbey has dyslexia and is in primary three at her local school. Abbey’s mum is disappointed in the new school as she no longer gets to talk to the class teacher as much and feels she doesn’t know what support has been put in place.

Abbey’s mum had asked to speak to the class teacher but the teacher said it wasn’t a good time as she was busy. Abbey’s mum felt put off by this and she decided to speak to the head teacher about Abbey’s support instead. The head teacher arranged a meeting to discuss how Abbey was adjusting, with her mum, the class teacher and the learning support teacher.

Abbey’s mum asked a family friend go along with her to the meeting as her supporter because she finds it difficult to say what she feels in meetings. The head teacher went through what Abbey had done so far at her new school and asked her teacher to comment on where she was getting on okay and where she needed some extra help.

The head teacher explained how the school aims to keep parents informed about their children’s progress and they talked about what would work best in this case. They agreed that while the class teacher would not be able to update her every day they would use a weekly diary to keep her mum up to date with Abbey’s progress. The head teacher also explained to Abbey’s mum what support is available for teachers on dyslexia and the role of the learning support teacher in the school. They agreed they would see how Abbey was getting on in three months, and if she needed some extra help they would arrange some time with the learning support teacher.

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Contributing your views

Parents are asked to give their views or comments about their child’s additional support needs and the support that will help them to get the most out of school. This might be for a meeting to review how your child is getting on or to prepare a plan. You may also be asked for your written comments on a plan (for example an IEP or CSP). It can be difficult to know what to say or what is expected when you are asked this. Here are some things you might think about including:

  • Do you agree with what is written in the plan? Is there anything missing that you would have liked to include?
  • Are the right people involved, in the right ways, in helping your child?
  • Have you noticed anything that shows that your child is making progress, or not? Is there anything that you think has worked really well?
  • Is there anything a teacher, support staff member, health or other professional, has done in the past that really works well for your child?
  • What works well at home? For example you could talk about your child’s interests or how you manage their behaviour at home. Include anything that you think would help to build up the most accurate picture of your child for the people working with them.
  • What next steps are important to you and your child — what would they like to learn more about? What information do you need to help them achieve these next steps?
  • Do you have any concerns that have not been addressed?

Remember, you don’t need to wait until reviews or meetings about plans to raise any concerns or discuss your child’s progress.

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Good communication

The following is from Supporting children’s learning code of practice (Chapter 7, Section 40). It outlines what practitioners in local authorities can do to encourage good communication with parents and work well with them in partnership to provide what is in the best interest of the child.

Professionals should:

  • acknowledge and draw on parental knowledge and expertise in relation to their child
  • consider the child’s strengths as well as additional support needs
  • recognise the personal and emotional investment of parents and be aware of their feelings
  • ensure that parents understand procedures, are aware of how to access support and are given documents to be discussed well in advance of meetings
  • respect the validity of differing perspectives and seek constructive ways of reconciling different viewpoints
  • cater for the differing needs parents may have, such as those arising from a disability or communication and language barriers.

Information should be:

  • clear and understandable and avoid jargon
  • provided in easily accessible formats
  • readily available and provided automatically without a charge and without fuss.

Communication works well when:

  • people have the interpreters they need
  • someone in authority takes responsibility for keeping parents up to date
  • people are told what has been happening between meetings
  • any information provided by parents is acknowledged
  • formal references to statutory procedures are avoided.

Effective working relationships develop when:

  • contact with parents is sensitive, positive, helpful and regular
  • parents feel included and are encouraged to contribute to discussions
  • positive, clear and easily understood language is used
  • parents are involved and processes and roles are explained from the beginning
  • parents are told what to expect and the next steps
  • times of meetings take account of parents’ availability.

Meetings work best when:

  • parents are asked what times and places suit them best, taking account of any access need or family responsibilities
  • notes from meetings, and any other papers to be considered, are sent out in good time
  • parents are invited to add points to the agenda, at the same time as everyone else
  • people attending are aware of their roles and the roles of others and they understand the child’s or young person’s additional support needs
  • there are no hidden issues, and no last-minute surprises
  • decisions are made when the parents are at the meeting, or agreed with them before the meeting takes place, not after the meeting has closed, unless further consultation takes place with them
  • ample time is given for people to raise concerns, so that decisions are not rushed.

Identifying the way forward works well when:

  • all views are taken on board — including those of the child or young person
  • people are interested in learning from each other
  • people show an interest in general family priorities and take them on board
  • services are identified in agreement with the family and are responsive to individual needs.

Accountability and involvement:

  • who is responsible for what is clearly defined and understood
  • parents’ concerns are responded to quickly
  • decisions are open to scrutiny
  • parents have a clear point of contact who can answer questions, make decisions and ensure that agreed actions are taken
  • people do what they agreed within the agreed timescale — if a decision is likely to take time, parents are told and given some idea of when a decision is likely.

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At a glance: Being involved in making decisions

You have the right to:

  • have your views considered and be involved in decision-making
  • have a supporter or advocate present at any discussions or meetings with a local authority when your child’s additional support needs are being discussed.

Your child’s rights

  • If your child is aged 16 or over, they have the same rights as you, listed above.

Local authorities must:

  • have a contact person in place who will be responsible for providing information about local arrangements for additional support for learning
  • publish information about a range of matters including:
    • their policy in relation to provision for additional support needs
    • arrangements for identifying children and young people with additional support needs and those who may require a co-ordinated support plan
    • the role of parents, children and young people in any of these arrangements
    • arrangements for monitoring and reviewing the adequacy of additional support
    • arrangements for independent mediation services
    • where parents and young people can get more information and advice.

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