What to Consider When Visiting Potential Schools For your Child With Dyslexia
Once you have created a shortlist of ideal and potential schools, it’s time to plan your visits.
During the autumn term, many schools hold their Open Day. They are usually widely advertised in the local press, through the school’s own website and through social media. If you register your interest with a school, they may automatically send you an invite to Open Day events. Your child’s primary school may also provide you with details of Open Days.
Before attending an Open Day event, you can contact the school to request a copy of their prospectus. Also, have a good look at their website and read their latest inspection report. If you have any questions, note them down and ask them at the Open Day event, as this will help you to decide if the school could be appropriate for your child.
Before your visit, prepare a list of wider questions that you can ask to help you clarify what provision is available. Don’t be afraid to take the list and refer to it during your visit. You can also decide on which specific areas of the school you would like to see. Remember, you are looking to see if the prospective school understands your child’s specific needs, and if they have the expertise, experience and the resources to support them.
Following a successful Open Day visit, contact the school and ask to arrange a visit to see the school on a ‘working’ day and to meet with key staff. This meeting may be with the Headteacher, Head of Year or SENCO. This is your opportunity to discuss in more detail your child’s specific profile and how the school can support them. Again, take a list of questions with you, and if available a copy of your child’s assessment report to share with relevant staff.
I would strongly advise that you are open and honest during communications with staff when considering a school. Explain the nature of your child’s difficulty and the support that they currently require. By talking with you and reviewing the report, the school will be able to see if your child can cope with the demands of their curriculum, and if the school has the necessary expertise and resources to fully support your child.
Possible questions to ask could include:
- Is there a Learning Support or Additional Learning Needs department?
- Do you provide specialist provision for pupils with dyslexia?
- Are there Specialist dyslexia teachers? Do they hold ATS or AMBDA qualifications (nationally recognised qualifications for specialist dyslexia teachers). How many are there?
- What type of support is offered – specialist dyslexia lessons, study skills sessions, revision strategies and exam technique support?
- What format are the lessons -1 to 1 lessons, small groups? How frequent are they - daily, weekly?
- Do you provide teaching assistant support in class?
- What percentage of children attending the school have dyslexia?
Ask to see the Specialist teaching areas – this will provide an insight to how well resourced this area is.
If possible, chat with the subject teachers during your visit. Are they aware of Dyslexia – what it is, how it manifests and how they could support your child in class? Do they view dyslexia as an opportunity/different learning style or do they view it as a barrier?
Following the visit, review your experiences. Through observations and chatting with various members of staff you should be able to ascertain if the school has the resources and the understanding to support pupils with dyslexia?
If you feel that the school would be appropriate for your child, speak with the admissions officer to find out how to apply for a place and the timeframes involved. State schools follow LEA guidelines. Independent schools have their own admission policy and procedures, which may include your child sitting an entrance exam.