1. Consider what you want to achieve.
Before you approach your school about your child's education, try to have an idea about what you would like to achieve. You could write down your concerns and if you have any suggestions, you could write those down too. You might have an overall outcome you would like to happen, but it may need some smaller steps to get there.
2. Try to follow the school's "chain of command."
It is important to work with your child's class teacher at primary school and form tutor or other identified contact at secondary school. If you have a concern about your child's education, they should be your first port of call. They are likely to be in the best position to address your initial enquiry and to bring in other members of staff if required.
If you feel that your relationship with your main point of contact has broken down or you are not receiving the support you have agreed or expect, you can contact someone with more authority such as the SENCo, the head of key stage, year or house, or ultimately the Head Teacher or the Governors.
When meeting with your school, try to actively listen to what they say. What recommendations do they make? Do they have the same opinion as you about your child? Recognise that they may have a different point of view to you so you may need to explain your concerns in more detail. If you feel they have not listened to your concerns, you could always ask "Please could you tell me what you think my concerns are?"
4. Write things down.
When talking to your school, have a notebook to write down things you want to remember and things that have been agreed. These do not need to be long notes but could be short, bulleted points. Make sure you put a date on each page; you will then have a good record of who you have spoken to, what you have spoken about and what was agreed. You can ask for time to do this while you are meeting or you could take someone with you to make notes on your behalf. In some instances, you may be able to record meetings but you would need the permission of all those involved - it might be better to organise this before you meet.
5. Set a time frame.
If you and your school have come to an agreement that something should happen as a result of your meeting, for example, your child will be screened for Dyslexia, agree on a reasonable time frame for this to take place. This makes sure both the school and you are aware of when things should happen.
6. Be prepared to support at home.
It could be that your school will suggest additional support that can be carried out at home such as extra reading, a behaviour support chart or a communication book. Remember - working together will result in the best outcome. Your role as a parent is extremely important.
7. Be informed.
It is always good to have information to make sure your rights and the rights of your child are protected. At Kent SEND Support, we would advise you to only get information to support yourself or your child from reputable sites such as The British Dyslexia Association, The National Autistic Society or IPSEA. There are lots of great websites where you can find resources and information. You can always come along to one of our SEND Talk coffee meetings if you are unsure where to look.
8. Be realistic.
In an ideal world, every child and family would receive the support they needed without question. However, at this moment in time, a number of our national services including health, social and education are all under-funded in relation to the demands placed upon them. This means that some support is just not available in some areas of the country. Make sure you are aware of what support your child can receive then work with your school to see what you can do together to get that outcome.
9. Be assertive, not aggressive.
Sometimes, trying to get the right support for your child can be frustrating. However it is very important to remember to never be aggressive (either physically or verbally) to anyone involved in your child's education. Your opinion will have more impact if you are respectful and you should receive respect in return. Try to aim for an open and honest discussion, maintaining a working relationship with the school to enable the best outcome for your child.
10. Remain positive.
Try to maintain a positive relationship with your child's school. Attend parents' evenings, reply to letters or surveys - be interested in what is going on. Try to give praise and positive feedback when something goes well. A postive relationship will be not only a benefit to you but also to your child.