Having a good relationship with your child’s school
Having a good relationship with school can help your child get the right support. Being able to have positive conversations with the school is one way to try and avoid disagreements arising.
The following simple pieces of advice are based on what families have told us has helped in keeping a good relationship with school.
Find out about additional support for learning
Understanding how additional support for learning works can help you to feel more confident when working with your child’s school. It’s also helpful to understand your rights and your child’s rights.
Each local authority arranges support in slightly different ways, and it can help to know how it works in your area.
It can be helpful to know:
- what your local authority’s arrangements are for identifying your child’s needs and putting support in place that meets those needs
- how you can resolve disagreements if they arise
- who you can contact for more information and support
To find this out, you can ask your child’s school. This information should also be available on your local authority’s website.
Additional support for learning: Key facts
This factsheet explains the key information you need to know about your child’s rights to additional support for learning.
Share your views
Your views should be taken into account when planning your child’s support. It can help your child’s school to better understand your child’s needs and what works best for them. Your child’s school should create opportunities for you to share your views, like during meetings about your child’s support or during parents’ evening. You can also create opportunities by asking to meet with your child’s school or communicating via email or phone.
For some ideas about what kind of views to share, try answering these questions:
- have you noticed anything happening that shows your child is (or is not) making progress?
- is there anything that you feel is working well at the moment?
- what has worked well in the past that could be implemented again?
- how do you support your child’s needs at home?
- what next steps or goals are important to you or your child?
Sharing information about your child with their school
Infographic with useful tips on sharing information about your child with their school.
Raise any concerns early
To avoid issues or tensions escalating, it can help to bring up any issues that arise as soon as possible. If you have concerns about your child’s support, or feel you are not being involved in decisions, let the school know as soon as possible. You don’t need to wait for meetings or reviews to do this. You can ask for a meeting or write to the school at any time.
Avoiding and solving problems
This factsheet explains the steps you can take if you are worried or unhappy about your child’s support, and some of the further steps you can take if you are in a disagreement with a local authority.
Keep your child at the centre of your interactions
It is important to remember that your focus, and the school’s focus, should be your child and their needs. Sometimes, planning, meetings, and other interactions can lose this focus as disagreements or tensions arise. To help stay on track, make sure that your communications focus on your child and what you, as a team, can do to support them.
Some ways that you can do this are:
- take a photo of your child with you to meetings
- make sure to share your child’s views about their support – they could share this themselves; you could do so on their behalf; or your child could write, draw, or record something to be shared
- focus on what goals you and your child are aiming towards, and what support will be needed to reach them
- try to use language that focuses on your child’s needs rather than your own, e.g. “I think that my child would benefit from having…” rather than “I want him to have…”.
Making time to prepare for meetings and other interactions with your child’s school can help to maintain a good relationship. This could mean writing down your thoughts or spending time discussing what you’d like to say with a friend or advocate.
Preparing in this way means that you are ready to share your thoughts and also gives you the chance to prepare your child’s school, too. For example, you could email the school before your next meeting to let them know what you would like to discuss. This shows that you want to work together with the school to do what is best for your child.
Focus on what’s most important
When working with your child’s school, there can be a lot of factors at play. Sometimes, it can help to refocus on the particular goals or areas of concern that you or your child feel are most important. If you have been dealing with difficult issues with the school for some time, try and focus on the ones that are important now and not what’s gone wrong in the past.
You could think about:
- what issue is having the biggest impact on your child right now?
- what would the very next step look like to resolve this issue, and how can we implement that?
- as a starting point, are there any small, simple changes that would make a big difference?
Remember it’s ok to show emotions
It is understandable to feel a lot of emotions about your child’s education and support. There can be a mixture of worries, hopes and expectations. It can help to be honest with your child’s school about how you are feeling. Understanding each other can help to build a stronger relationship.
If you are finding it difficult to express yourself, it can be helpful to write down what you would like to say. Taking time to think about and prepare what you would like to share can help to make meetings less heated or emotional. It also gives you time to work out exactly what you want to say, and gives the school space to recognise your feelings outside of difficult meetings or phone calls.
We also all make mistakes sometimes. If you feel you have overreacted, got angry or upset during a difficult meeting, acknowledge it and explain you find the situation very emotional. This shows that you are willing to work in partnership and reminds people you are a parent, not a professional. If you are feeling overwhelmed or frustrated, it is ok to ask for a break, or to leave the room for a moment if you need to calm down.
Listen to other perspectives
You know your child best, but staff who work with your child can also have helpful and important insights. Sharing your understanding of your child and their needs can help to make sure your child is getting the support they need at school. Listening to staff who work with your child means you can benefit from their professional knowledge and find out how they are getting on at school.
Try not to make assumptions about what you think people are going to say. Be open to suggestions about what might work for you child. If somebody suggests a support strategy that you don’t think is right for your child, hear them out and then give your views. Sometimes trying something new or different to what has been provided before can work. If you still disagree, explain your concerns. Sometimes you can come to a compromise that everybody is happy with.
Seek support and/or advocacy
Having someone to support you can help you to feel confident when working with your child’s school. If you are attending meetings with your child’s school, you have the right to take someone with you if you would like. This can be a friend, family member, or an advocate.