Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Questions to ask when considering a school!!

As more and more schools are understanding their responsibility towards children with learning differences we see many schools setting up resource rooms to help children. Parents now are having a choice of schools, who may be willing to admit and help their child with learning difficulties.

But how do we decide which school will really be able to help our child? Will the program make a difference to my child's overall development, will it "cure" him, will he ever be out of the resource room, when will he be ready to face mainstream are some of the questions that are troubling parents.

Here are a set of questions you may want to consider finding answers to before taking an admission. A year lost is a lot for a child... Remediation if done properly in earlier years has the best results!!

  1. How many dyslexic children are there in the school?

  2. Does the school undertake screening for specific learning difficulties and, if so, what was the result?

  3. How many teachers, specially trained to work with SpLD children, are on the staff ?

  4. Is there a plan for training available? How many hours of training do the teachers undergo every year?

  5. What further training is needed by the school and is this already organised? Who is the regular training provider for the school?

  6. How many teachers hold an SpLD diploma or experience in Teaching?

  7. What is the Teacher Student Ratio?

  8. How many teachers does 1 SEN teacher handle in the day? An ideal ratio would be 1: 4 for primary and 1:3 for middle and 1:2 for high school.

  9. What is the Schools plan for additional teachers required when new children are diagnosed through the year?

  10. How many hours does the SEN teacher devote individually to planning, teaching, observing in class, training and preparing materials?

  11. What is the Schools opinion about these children? Being an inclusive school vs Ability and long term plan for helping a child cope and recover

  12. What is the long term plan for the children? Do these children have to drop out in middle school to attend open schools?

  13. How does the school create awareness in parents who have neuro-typical children so they do not discriminate against our children?

  14. Upto what level is the Management/Principal aware/trained/involved in the SEN department and their day to day management?

  15. How do non-specialist teachers address the needs of dyslexic children in their classes, and what specific training have the non-specialist teachers had during the last year?

  16. What are the arrangements for catch-up in training for absent staff or teachers who join during the year?

  17. How is special teaching delivered, eg in class, withdrawal, individually or in small groups?

  18. Does the teaching take place in a specific resource room and, if so, are there any specific resources or equipment available and how does the school address the fact that the child has to leave other lessons to attend a different department or unit?

  19. Does the special teaching include work for skill remediation or does it only include adapted curriculum for cping up with mainstream?

  20. Do these specific intervention programmes focus on both literacy and numeracy and do they use structured multi-sensory teaching?

  21. Will After school Remediation classes be essential even though the child is getting help is School?

  22. What specific intervention programmes are carried out in school?
    (These may include store bought specific programmes such as Alpha to Omega, AcceleRead/ AcceleWrite, Hickey, etc, or software programmes such as WordShark/ NumberShark, Smart Phonics 1, 2, 3 and Clicker Phonics.) There are many resources available. Else Teachers may have created informal teaching and remediation material suitable to the children they are working with.

  23. What do internet reviews speak about the school, the administration, the success of the remedial programs, the future of the children etc.

  24. Who supervises the programmes (this is particularly important if the programmes are predominantly carried out by learning support assistants rather than specialist teachers)?

  25. What access to and training for ICT do dyslexic children have over and beyond the usual facilities available for all children?

  26. How rigid/flexible is the school in their policies with regard to accommodations/modifications suggested for a Dyslexic child?

  27. In addition to support in subjects such as English, is there further additional support available for other subjects?

  28. Ask to see how homework is given and supported (this will be particularly important if the child has difficulty in copying things down at speed from the whiteboard into a homework diary) and also ask to see a typical Individual Education Plan (IEP) for a dyslexic child at the school.

  29. Dyslexic children often have difficulties with self-esteem, confidence, organisational skills etc. How does the school address these aspects? Does the school feel that the resources, which are currently available, are adequate and if not, what else is required and where could these be obtained?

  30. Is inclusion seen as a priority area and if so, how will the dyslexic child be included in all areas of the curriculum?

  31. Who would a parent contact, in the first instance, to discuss any concerns?

  32. What adjustments are currently being made for dyslexic children in the school and how is the curriculum being differentiated? It is always helpful to ask for specific examples, perhaps by identifying children (not by name) who are currently in the school. If a child has slow or poor written skills, what time allowances are made by teachers during lessons, homework and in examinations?

  33. How does the school ensure that there are adequate opportunities for dyslexic children to work with other children with similar cognitive ability or with an appropriate level of cognitive challenge, despite their literacy or numeracy problems?

  34. What other evidence can the school provide to demonstrate that their inclusive practice is being effective and having a positive impact?

  35. How does the marking and assessment policy ensure that the child is assessed on the basis of their knowledge (rather than poor spelling)?

  36. How does the school measure its effectiveness with dyslexic children? Is there qualitative evidence, eg increase in self-esteem and also, quantitative evidence, eg reaching expectations through the different key stages?

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