Secondary School Experience for SEND Families
In the first half of Autumn half term, we received concerns from parent carers in Kingston that their Secondary-School-age children were receiving detentions from school for fidgeting, forgetfulness and uniform violations. This was despite the children having a diagnosis of Autism and/or ADHD. In particular, this information was a concern for us as we have recently undertaken with two local mainstream schools on the Autism in Schools project – funded by the NHS and working with the Autism Education Trust. Based on the information shared with us, we were concerned that Reasonable Adjustments, expected under the Equalities Act (2010) as described here
On the basis of our discussion, we have made a survey of parent carers in secondary schools as a snapshot of the picture of SEND children in Secondary School. There was only a small cohort of respondents. We would like to share their concerns to highlight some issues we have been made aware of as a forum, in addition to these initial concerns raised about reasonable adjustments. Everyone who answered the questionnaire was asked to contact their school directly to address specific concerns in addition to sharing information with us.
What we asked.
Q1 How happy are you with your young person’s transition to their next school year?
- In our recent focus groups participants, were concerned about how well children moved from year to year, including to secondary school
- Parent carers who responded – most of the responses were happy to very happy that the transition to their next school year had gone well
Q2 Thinking about this transition to the next school year, how happy are you that your child’s school are able to support their needs?
- This was not as clear cut – an equal number of parent carers said they were unhappy with their needs being met – to understand this more we will be sharing comments they left.
Q3 Again thinking about this transition to the next school year, how happy are you with how your child’s school communicates with you?
- The large majority of parent carers were happy with the communication they received from school with nearly 50% indicating they were very happy with the communication
An overview of the comments
Some parents said communication was “excellent” and that their emails always received a response. There was particular praise for Sport’s Day with Junior school and work done in the Summer holiday. One parent did share that her son had been unable to attend summer school because of anxiety and so more help with transition to secondary school would have helped.
There was praise for some schools but other parents described support as “non-existant” or stated they “could not be heard”. One suggestion was that parent carers would benefit from a workshop on working with schools to get the best for their children.
Another suggestion from a couple parents was a “buddy system” during break times to support children who do not know “what to do with themselves” in this unstructured time, And support to develop friendships.
Parents mentioned that anxiety was preventing their children from attending school or joining in. This is similar to what we have heard from other parent carers and is a national issue. Emotionally related school avoidance is a wider issue that needs to be addressed for a number of students in Kingston.
Concerns were raised about the school not “having the right training” to support their child needs. A learning support assistant was changed with no notice and did not seem to be able to “match” with the respondent’s child. This would align with the comments we got about unhelpful detentions and reactions to behaviour that may or may not have been appropriate for that child with SEND needs.
We also received a comment that there was little information about preparing for adulthood and about where their child can go next as there is limited information about support for physical disabilities at college.
We will share these results with Sheldon Snashall , Associate Director of Pupil Support at Achieving for Children. At the Consortium Meeting in September he gave a presentation about how schools were supported to help transition to secondary schools. and stated that they would be working with schools during the Autumn term. It is hoped that this information is then shared widely with the schools.
Actions we might like to see happen is a consideration of reasonable adjustments and also training where appropriate. We are aware that there is training that covers more than just Autism matters available from the Autism Education Trust.
We will take steps to suggest a workshop for parent carers, and work with local SENCOs, about communicating and working in coproduction with your school during this school year.
Claudia Isaby, October 2023