20th November 2018
Last week saw another hugely successful Transition Event East at Newmarket Racecourse. Parents left armed with more knowledge than they came with and young people visiting from their schools loved the live art and seeing services and products for themselves. If you want to see more about the day, follow #TransitionEvent on social media and you’ll find advice from experts, photos of the day and even a little EHCP myth-busting video.
Continuing with the theme all this week, we know that a good transition means different things to different families. So, we are bringing you the story of one successful transition from two points of view – firstly from Mum Becky’s point of view and later in the week we will hear from their SENDCO Anne who, in Becky’s opinion, was crucial to creating a good transition for the family. At the heart of the transition is A – an almost 8 year old who has in the last couple of weeks transitioned from mainstream school to a specialist school.
A familiar feeling
I remember exactly where I was the moment the fear began, that oh so specific SEND fear, that your child will not be supported, cared for, kept safe and hey, y’know, educated at school. I was at my friend’s house, on holiday, having just settled our daughter A down to sleep. The rest of my family were with our friends downstairs, so I took the opportunity to, I’m ashamed to say, check emails. The actual content of the email that changed everything is of no importance here, but it was proof that I had been lied to by both a health professional AND a Local Authority education professional. A was just four years old.
Fast forward nearly four years and I am an older, wiser mum who woke up that day to the realisation that the world of SEND is most certainly not all roses. I’ve spent the intervening years empowering myself by learning bits of law and meeting the incredible online SEND community.
Now let me tell you a little about A. She is nearly 8 years old. She has no diagnosis other than Global Developmental Delay and Sensory Processing Difficulties. She is not keen on sleeping or getting to the toilet on time. Or at all. She often melts down and smashes things.
She is glorious, funny, loving, sensitive and always tries her hardest.
And this week it was time for her to move from her mainstream school to special provision.
But has school turned out to be the minefield I had feared so much? I feel so fortunate and privileged to say no. And this is purely down to an inspirational SENDCO and a devoted team in a small, supportive rural school.
In the two years that A was at her school, our SENDCO Anne worked closely with us right from day one. Just a few of the things she did included:
- A steady stream of emails and meetings where I can honestly say we were listened to and our concerns followed up and acted upon.
Being extremely proactive with the EHCP process.
- Going above and beyond the call of duty, and helping us secure the funding for respite in the form of a local holiday club, through direct payments.
- Making us laugh on a regular basis.
However, probably the most significant thing that our SENDCO did was build a very strong relationship with the regional officer from the 0-25 team. This meant that many of the most stressful, hateful sides of the EHCP process were made to miraculously disappear by her. I know from what I see happening in the wider community that we probably escaped a good 70% of the anxiety most families go through in this circumstance.
Going back a few years, we knew from when she was in Reception, that at some point A would need to transition to special school. We also knew it would probably be around the time she would be due to move to Key Stage 2. We began to research local special schools some time ago, and discovered, to our horror, that the nearest state funded one was an hour away, which would have been pretty unworkable for A. However, at the same time, a brand new independent special school was opening nearby. We went and looked round several times and were really impressed. When we told our SENDCO about this, we were worried in case she thought this was simply impossible to get it named on the EHCP. She not only agreed, but also she just couldn’t see A going to the school an hour away.
We began to work, well in advance, to secure this place. We worked slowly and steadily, and in the end, despite earlier conversations where the Local Authority had been adamant that this school wasn’t an option, in the end, the officer from the 0-25 team fully agreed. No battle was needed. The relationship our SENDCO had built with the 0-25 team had paid off.
Transition itself was arranged between the two schools. It involved several trips over the period of a month, sometimes with her TA’s and SENDCO, sometimes just with us.
After every visit we received detailed feedback, and pictures, via the SENDCO and team, so we could show them to A to help her understand. A flip and reverse book was made so that one side was her old school and the other side was her new school. It was filled with pictures and anecdotes for her. Our visits were very helpful to us too, as it gave us a real sense of what her new environment would be like for her.
The special school itself held meetings with us to find out in fine detail anything and everything they could about A. Throughout the whole month it was clear that A was at the centre of the process, with each visit building on what had been learnt about her during the our previous visits.
After a tearful farewell to her old school (all mine and her TA’s) A started at her new school this month. The transition worked. She has loved every second this week, and though she misses her friends and her TA, her sleep has not got worse and astonishingly, since she started, her meltdowns have actually reduced.
So, our successful transition meant teachers, TA’s, us as parents and A being at the epicentre. It meant communicating well, frequently and swiftly. It meant creating an ideal environment for a little girl who hates change, to make a huge brave step into the unknown. And her future is looking rosy.
Make sure you check back later in the week when we hear from A’s SENDCO Anne as she tells us what role she played in the transition process and what she learnt from A and her family.