As we begin the summer term here in education land (why do spring and summer terms not equate with the actual seasons - going back on the 3rd January and calling it spring is cuckoo if you ask me and it certainly doesn't help the children's knowledge!!!) my thoughts as SENCO are to the following autumn term when children are transitioning to new classes and even more importantly to new schools. Our year 6s all go off to begin their lives as secondary school students (learning to be small fish in very large ponds again) and the very young join our school for the first time (nursery) or begin life in more formal education settings (Reception). For children with special needs, this can be a very scary and confusing time so getting it right is really important.
These would be the things on my wish list as a SENCO to make transition the best that it could be:
All children have a chance to visit their new setting (meet new teacher/s - see their classroom/s)
All parents have a meeting where they can talk about their child and any concerns they may have about their child beginning their new school
A member of staff who can be that parent and child's main contact and who can be contacted outside of school hours (e-mail preferably)
and in addition to this for all children with special needs:
several visits to their new school if they or their parents want this
a visit by the SENCO from the new school to the old school to discuss and maybe see the child in their current setting
an additional meeting with parents to discuss the issues and how they see their child's needs could be best met in the new setting
I know this takes time and I feel really pleased that having established bonds with the parents of children at my school they take the initiative in coming to see me to discuss problems before they become too big but I also worry that some parents of former students also come to speak to me because they don't have a rapport at their child's new school and their child is worried and struggling.
Talking SENCO to SENCO should be a priority - pieces of paper do not show the whole picture. I have already talked to one secondary school because I know the file they will receive will not reflect the true picture of the child (they are on an integrated move to us - they were expelled from their previous school) and that this child can succeed if the correct support is put in. I am still waiting for them to get back to me with a date they can look around the school (this was not offered until I specifically asked for it!!)
On the other hand, having pro-active SENCOs in other settings such as Children's Centre nurseries who invite you to call them to arrange a visit for both the SENCO and class teacher mean that before we have even met the message going back to parents will be "your child will be OK - the people in the next school care - they want to engage with you - they will support your child - everything is being done to make this a smooth move". What parent doesn't want that for their child?
I have always been incredibly lucky with both of my own flesh and blood children that their education has been fine and any wobbles have been sorted out satisfactorily through talking with teachers. But the children of friends have not always had such an easy passage and the difference a good "caring" teacher available to talk outside of school hours and make things happen has been instrumental in ensuring those children do not come off the rails and that they do achieve their full potential.
Let me know what you think about the next move your child is likely to make in their education. What would you like to see happen to make things go well? Do you have any concerns? As a teacher, what would help you when children transition to your class? Is support there for you too?