Earlier this week, we heard from Mum Becky about her daughter A’s transition from mainstream to special school. Lots of factors can contribute to a successful transition but Becky believed that A’s SENDCO played a crucial role during the process. So, My Family, Our Needs spoke to A’s SENDCO Anne to hear about the transition from her point of view.
Starting out in teaching
Many years ago, before I was a SENDCO but while I was a Class Teacher, I was privileged to teach a class of children with additional needs in a mainstream school. Developing confident, self-assured young people with belief in their abilities and pride in their differences was always the most important aspect of teaching for me. I watched proudly as these children left Primary school with their heads held high, only to see them often lost and confused at their new school.
From that point onwards, I recognised with new eyes how precious change is. I recognised how we have to be aware of the impact change has on every individual that we have in our care and how it will be different for each one.
My role now
I often wonder how those early years shaped my passion for the role of SENDCO. Relationships are everything. The relationship between the SENDCO and the child, the parents, siblings, class teachers, the 0-25 Team, professionals… These relationships are all built on trust and a shared passion for working out what is the best possible provision for the child and then working together to gain it. There will be obstacles, many of them, but the goal remains the same.
When addressing the transition process for children with additional needs, I think the following points are really important:
- Respect the views of parents – they know their children as others cannot – and listening to their highs and lows. Gaining their trust and communicating both regularly and proactively will help you to know their child better. Respect their passion and the fact that they have had to battle to get the best for their child.
- Look at schools with parents – make time to visit and get to know members of staff. Offer support with questions and make links.
- Seek the views of the child whenever possible – assume they have a voice and listen. Listening is not just recording what they say, it involves action.
- Work closely with the 0-25 SEN Team – respect the challenges they have and remember that they, too, are passionate about the children they support.
- Meet to discuss the needs of the child – this may sound obvious but the people who know the child talking together is powerful – it can make change manageable and even welcome.
- Guide staff who work closely with the child – make communication with them easy and pave the way for the challenges of change. Involve them and respect their observations and questions.
In my most recent experience of transition, with A and her family, staff from the new school visited us – and we visited them. This meant that A saw a team of people working together, modelling positive relationships alongside excitement, empathy and determination. All for her.
The little things can make a difference – it was a sand pit and a rabbit for A and these are things that we talked about, looked at pictures of and imagined. We built stepping stones from these, finding new treasures when we visited and bringing them in our photos and thoughts to share with family and friends.
Although this sounds like a perfect process, the challenges and obstacles were there. However, planning for change, starting conversations sooner, making links with education providers and using Interim and Annual Reviews to explore options, all supported a positive transition process.
Our school community is a better place for having A – we have learned so much from her and her family and are privileged to have been part of her journey.