If your child is starting school for the first time or moving to high school, you might have particular worries or questions about how things will be for your child when the schools reopen.
Your child’s new school, and their current nursery or school, will have been thinking about the best way to support pupils in your child’s situation. Scottish Government guidance for local authorities also says that they should have a particular focus on supporting pupils who are at key transition points in their planning for schools reopening.
Local authorities, schools and nurseries have a legal duty to plan for transitions for pupils with additional support needs. Because of the work they have been doing in responding to coronavirus, this planning is likely to have been significantly affected and the law has been changed to allow for this. This does not mean that nothing needs to happen – your child should still be getting help to prepare for their move – but it may be different to the support they would usually receive.
For example, if your child was due to have an ‘enhanced transition’, things that were planned like extra visits to their new school, or meetings for you and the people that support them to plan the move, are likely to have been cancelled or to have happened in a very different way.
It will depend on arrangements in your local area whether your child might be able to visit their current or new school before the summer holidays. Changes in the law mean that it is possible that this could happen after June 15th, if the schools have been able to make the necessary arrangements to keep everyone safe and follow physical distancing guidelines.
This is only for schools, so if your child is in nursery and due to start P1 in August they will not be able to go back into their nursery, but they might be able to have a visit to their new primary school. If your child is in P7, they might be able to access either or both their current and new school.
If your child is in P7 and is able to spend some time in their current school, this might be so that the school can arrange an activity to help P7s mark the end of their time at primary school. For example, if your child is going to a different high school to some of their classmates, this might be an opportunity for them to see each other before this happens.
If your child has the opportunity to visit their new primary or high school, this will give them the chance to start getting used to the new buildings and maybe to meet a few key staff members.
If a visit is planned for your child, the school will need to take your child’s additional support needs into account to help make sure they understand rules about physical distancing and other safety measures.
Schools know that moving into primary or secondary school is always a big change, and that the coronavirus situation will be increasing lots of children’s worries about starting somewhere new. The school and nursery closures will also have significantly affected any plans that had already been made to help your child prepare.
Many schools are coming up with innovative and creative ways of helping all children prepare for moving to their new school. This includes things like virtual tours of the school and sharing photos of staff and buildings.
Your child’s new school will need to take account of your child’s individual support needs in their planning, and information should have been passed on to them from your child’s current nursery or primary school to help with this. They should also take account of any information you provide, so if there are particular things you think the school needs to know you can get in touch.
If you have already been given information by the school, you can spend time with your child going through it and helping them understand what things are going to be like in August. If your child needs extra support to understand the information that has been sent out, or if they need it in a different format, the school should provide this. It is important to let the school know if the information you have been given is not accessible for your child.
If you do not yet know what the arrangements will be for your child, but you think there are specific things the school will need to take into account in their planning, it is important to speak to the school about this. For example, if you think your child will need a longer transition period to slowly build up their time at school, or to have access to the school when very few people are there to get used to any new layouts or rules.
If your child has a support plan, you could ask if this is being used and reviewed as part of the planning. If your child has healthcare needs, it is important that the school works with you and any relevant health professionals to review the arrangements they have in place for things like what to do in an emergency or if your child falls ill, or how to give them medication or intimate care that they need.
A big part of planning for starting at a new school and returning after a long break will be you speaking to your child and supporting any worries they have. There are some useful resources to help with this, including the Salvesen Mindroom Centre’s Back to School Toolkit which we have linked below.
Planning for your child’s move should have already started before schools and nurseries closed, so their new school should already have been thinking about what support your child will need and making arrangements for this. It is likely that plans which were already in place will need to be changed to take account of coronavirus and public health guidance.
The school or nursery may still be working out the details of what things will look like for your child at their new school and how to prepare them for this. They should communicate their plans with you once they are able to. If you are not feeling happy with what has been arranged so far, there are a few steps you can take.
It may be best to start by putting your concerns in writing to your child’s current school or nursery, and their new school. This will give you the chance to think through what your main worries or questions are, and will give staff the chance to give a more detailed reply.
If you think it would be helpful, you could also ask for a transition planning meeting by phone or video call. As it is near the end of the school term and staff are busy planning for pupils returning, it might be that not everyone you would like to be there will be able to attend. However, it could still be a good opportunity to discuss plans for August and make sure the new school has all the information they need about your child.
If you are still not feeling happy after this, our factsheet on Avoiding and solving problems explains what other things you can do. Because of coronavirus, there might be delays to some of these steps so it might be most helpful to focus on working together with the school or nursery.
We know that you might be feeling particularly worried about your child’s transition if you do not yet know which school they will be attending, because you are appealing a refused placing request.
The timescales for getting a decision about a placing request appeal are longer than usual at the moment because of coronavirus. The pages linked below explain more about how education appeal committees and the Additional Support Needs Tribunal have been affected. Where possible, everyone will be trying to make sure that decisions are made before the schools are due to go back.
In the meantime, it might be helpful to contact the school where your child does have a place to talk about the support they would need to attend there. This means that either if your appeal is refused, or if you do not have an answer by the time your child is expected to return to school, support will still be in place for your child and you will have an existing relationship with staff at the school.
We understand that some parents and carers might feel worried about sending their child to a different school than the one they are appealing the placing request for. If you do not have a decision about your placing request by the time schools reopen, contact our helpline for advice.