Choosing the best school for any child can be a difficult job. In order to make a good decision, you need to do some research, make some visits, ask a few good questions and get some advice from friends and other families. Choosing the right school for a child with a disability is just the same…only harder. Sometimes it is very difficult to find the information you need. Sometimes there might be no-one who seems to know the answers to your questions. Sometimes a school may not seem very interested in issues that may be crucial to you. And unfortunately, sometimes there just isn’t a school that offers what you want for your child.
Most schools these days seek to accommodate children with disabilities alongside those who have no disability. There are mainstream schools with specialist units for hearing impaired pupils, schools with behavioural units and schools that have developed specialities in helping pupils with specific learning needs. All mainstream schools should have a SENCO, which is a Special Educational Needs Coordinator.
Here is a check-list of some things you could do before deciding which school you want to send your disabled child to:
- Write down a list of questions that you need to ask of any school you may visit
- Meet the Head, Deputy Head or SENCO so that you can ask your questions, and more that come to you
- Read the school’s Special Educational Needs Policy
- Visit the school for a guided tour. Think about whether the building, classroom environment, dining hall and journey to school are all suitable for your child
- Check, as far as you can, that the class teachers and assistants have the skills and experience necessary to help your child learn
- Ask about the school’s anti-bullying policy
- Check the school’s OFSTED report
- Find out how home-school communication will be handled if you child will be getting school transport to school
It’s a long list, but if you have a choice of schools for your child, it makes sense to find out as much as you can before you make that choice.
In order to gain a place at a special school, you child will need to have a Education health and Care Plan (EHCP) that names that school. Find out more about EHCPs here.
If you need help with getting a good EHCP for your child or want some independent advice on the process, contact Independent Support Kent, a project run by 4us2 along with its partner charities Includes us 2, M4S and Beams. You can access the Independent Support team here.
There are a number of special schools within Swale, Thanet and Canterbury.
Meadowfield School in Sittingbourne caters for pupils aged 5-19 with profound, severe and complex special educational needs.
St Nicholas School in Canterbury is a community day school for pupils aged 4-19 who have profound, severe and complex learning difficulties.
St Anthony’s School in Broadstairs caters for pupils aged 5-16 who have behaviour, emotional, social and learning difficulties.
Foreland School Broadstairs provides services for pupils aged 2-19 who have profound, severe or complex learning difficulties. Many of the pupils have Autistic Spectrum Disorder or medical problems and physical and sensory disabilities.
Stone Bay School in Broadstairs is a specialist residential and day school for pupils aged 11-19 who have Autistic Spectrum Disorder, moderate and severe learning difficulties and challenging behaviour.
Laleham Gap School, which has a junior school at Broadstairs and a senior school campus at Margate, is Kent’s specialist school for high-functioning pupils aged 4-16 with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and / or Speech and Language disorders.