Education Eye: Choosing the right school for children with learning difficulties

Catherine Stoker
Catherine Stoker

I’ve had conversations with five families this week who are struggling with choosing a senior school for children with various learning difficulties, from dyslexia to dyspraxia to Asperger’s.

They all start their research via school gate tips from friends who are keen to share their views, often fashioned by the parent grapevine and personal experience. However, when your child has learning difficulties, it’s important to consider schools which will best support their individual needs.

It’s so important your chosen school has the resources to challenge and stretch your child’s capabilities and interests.

Consider updating your child’s educational psychologist report. This helps schools to review their needs as part of the application process, as well as giving valuable guidance on how to best support their learning.

When visiting potential schools, be honest.

Withholding information regarding difficulties may lead to problems later.

Don’t be too concerned if there are other children with similar learning difficulties.

Your child will gain in confidence through feeling they are not the only one finding things tricky, rather than perhaps feeling like the odd one out.

Do you warm to the SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator)?

It’s important you find them approachable, knowledgeable and understanding. Ask how often your child’s individual education plan will be reviewed and if necessary amended?

Is learning support delivered one-to-one, in small groups or within the classroom? What training do teachers have in supporting children with learning needs within the classroom? Is technology used to support those with difficulties?

If your child excels in maths but has difficulties with English, it’s important they will be both challenged and offered additional support, where appropriate.

If your child has difficulty with organisation, what systems are in place to assist them to manage their belongings? How much movement is there between classrooms and how easy is it to navigate the school campus?

Will you have opportunities to meet like-minded parents, which can be of great value in assisting you to understand your child’s needs better and to have access to support and a listening ear when things appear difficult.