Today, alongside the first flurry of autumnal leaves, came the recognition that the glorious long holidays will soon be coming to an end. September is indeed just around the corner and in many households across the country, preparation for the new school year may have already begun.
The thought of a new school year is certainly an exciting one with much to look forward to. For those youngsters starting senior school for the first time this is especially true.
For their parents however, there are also often natural and niggling concerns about how their child will cope with the move. For those parents who have children with special needs, there are often particular and real anxieties about how their child manage and how they can best support them.
The good news is that fortunately, schools usually have excellent programmes to assist students as they move into the world of senior school; and most young people will settle easily and well. However, for others, and especially those who have additional learning or other requirements, early preparation is the key to a successful and happy start. And this coming term is the perfect time to get the process underway. In partnership with your child’s school, taking a considered but proactive approach to transition is often best.
So, if your (not so) little one will soon be heading to senior school, here are some pointers to help make their move as smooth as possible.
How to help
If your child has ever been assessed (usually by specialists such as an educational psychologist or paediatrician), be sure to pass these reports in confidence to the school. Fully understanding your child’s needs will be important to school staff. Even if you think that the reports are not immediately relevant, they may become so at some later point in your child’s schooling.
At senior school, opportunities for you to get to know school staff may not exist as regularly as they did at primary school. However, you will still absolutely have a vital role to play in contributing to a shared understanding of your child’s needs and how to meet them. You can find out the best ways to communicate with staff by asking what would be most appropriate.
Remember that your child will also want and naturally need increased independence too. Importantly, your child should be encouraged to contribute their voice to the any plans which will involve them.
Plan your approach
Note down any concerns or thoughts in advance of a school meeting. If your child finds change difficult, would additional orientation visits during the first weeks be helpful to get a better sense of the new school’s geography and meet key teachers? Are there certain skills which could be prioritised this term in any additional lessons? For example, does your child need to improve their personal organisation and their ability to complete homework independently? Is touch-typing and organisation of work on a computer still a struggle?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, ask if these can be supported at school and where appropriate and possible, supporting at home too can be very helpful.
Understand School Support
If your child is likely to require additional lessons or care, contact the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Co-ordinator (SENDCo) early on to discuss your child’s requirements. Find out how support is organised in this new school. For example, when might small groups or individual lessons take place?
If your child is likely to struggle with the full curriculum, perhaps there are opportunities to drop a subject and have additional literacy lessons instead.
Unless there is a pressing need to agree extra assistance immediately, be open-minded about the type of input your child might require. In many cases, waiting to see what a youngster requires in a new school works well. You may well be surprised and delighted how your child’s needs can positively shift and change over time.