If your child has additional support needs you will probably be talking to your child’s school more than other parents. Having a positive relationship with the school can really help.
Here, one mum shares what she feels has helped build a positive relationship with her child’s school.
“My daughter is in P7 and gets a fair bit of support with her learning and with anxiety. I’ve been talking to the school about what support she needs since P2. I’ve always tried to have a good relationship with them and most of the time it’s worked. I’m a bit of a worrier so I feel better if I’m involved with the school and know what’s going on for her and that she’s OK.
I wanted to share with other parents what has helped me when I’m talking to my daughter’s school. Although my daughter is dyslexic I think the tips would work for any parent of a child with additional support needs.
8 things I’ve found helpful in dealing with my daughter’s school
1. Share what your child is telling you at home.
My daughter’s dyslexia really affects how she feels about herself and school. She gets very upset about being different from the other children and feels stupid which means sometimes she doesn’t always want to go to school or ask for help. I told the school how she feels and I think it helped. Her teacher looked at how she could provide positive feedback and made sure my daughter knew to ask for help when she needed it. Her teacher also asked if she wanted to take part in sessions to help build confidence and she did- they’ve also really helped.
2. Don’t be afraid to make suggestions about what might help.
Over the years I’ve made quite a few suggestions to the school – from ideas about equipment to help my daughter with her reading and spelling – to asking that the school let me know when any assessments or tests are going to happen so I can prepare my daughter for them. The school listened to my suggestions and put quite a few in place.
3. Feel confident to chase things up with the school if action hasn’t happened.
During one school year my meetings with the school stopped because of changes in school staff. At the start of the new term I got in touch with the school and reminded them that we hadn’t had a meeting in a while. They were happy with my daughter’s progress but suggested that we re-instate the meetings once a term.
4. If you are attending a school meeting share the things you’d like to cover in advance.
I was worried that nobody was talking about my daughter’s move to high school. Before the next planning meeting I emailed the school to ask if we could have time in the meeting to discuss how the high school would know about my child’s needs and if I would get the chance to talk to the high school about how she would cope with the different subjects, teachers and classrooms. I also asked if we could talk about using more IT in P7 to help her get used to using it in high school.
5. Think about if what you are asking for from the school is reasonable and think about other options that might work.
I spoke to the school about the fact that my daughter’s extra support with math’s and reading always happened when the rest of the class were doing art. Art is a subject my daughter is really good at and she was getting quite upset at missing the bit of school she feels good about herself in. The school explained that the pupil support teacher was only in school at particular times of the week and so it was impossible to change the time of the support sessions. I felt this was reasonable but the class teacher then came back to me to say she could look at changing some of the times the class did art which meant children getting extra support didn’t always miss out.
6. If you are upset about something going on in school take a deep breath before getting in touch.
I get quite emotional if my child is upset about something in school. I used to email straight away to raise my concern but now I take a bit of time to think about what I want to say. I don’t think sending angry or emotional messages to the school really helps. I try to think about what’s likely to get the best response from the school and for my daughter.
7. If you have a good meeting with the school tell them!
If a meeting with the school has gone well I usually send an email to say I found it helpful. Depending on what the meeting was about I also sometimes use the email as a way to share what I think has been agreed! It’s a good way to check back on what was supposed to happen before the next meeting at school.
8. Knowing about Enquire really helped.
I wasn’t sure what I could and couldn’t ask for but reading Enquire’s Parents’ guide to additional support for learning helped me realise it’s ok to ask questions. It just made me feel more confident that I’ve a right to be involved. I didn’t know about some of the support that was available from the school and if I hadn’t spoken to them about how my daughter was feeling she wouldn’t have got the support she did.
My child goes into S1 next year and I really hope that the good relationship with her primary school will help make the move to high school go as smoothly as possible.”
Order your copy of Enquire’s free Parents’ Guide to Additional Support for Learning here or call the helpline 0345 123 2303.