Last week we attended Harry’s final annual review for his Statement of Special Educational Needs.
At Harry’s school they carry out ‘person-centred’ reviews which they describe as “best practice and for which we are a lead school.” They are different from some of the review meetings we have attended in the past in that:
- They do not sit around tables (although in practice we all do sit around a table because we all need to take notes)
- The pupil attends the meeting
- The meeting focuses on what the child does well
- The meeting addresses the following issues:
- What we like and appreciate about the student
- What is working well
- What is not working so well
- What is important now and in the future
- What support does the young person need to stay healthy and safe
- Any other areas for discussion
All those in attendance are given a pen and asked to write down their thoughts on whiteboards with these headings.
I find such meetings a bit wishy-washy. I usually end up writing the same things under the same headings every year when what I really want to do is get down to the ‘nitty gritty’.
In theory, all agencies who have dealings with the student will have been invited and should send in a report and/or attend in person. In practice, the same attendees turn up every year.
This being Harry’s last review I expected to see his Transitions Manager (Social Services) and Speech & Language Therapist in addition to the Headteacher, Class Teacher and a member of the Connexions team. However, there was no representative from SALT and his Transitions Manager has moved to another role within the service and a new manager has not yet been recruited.
I had had a good meeting with the School Doctor (an Associate Paediatric Specialist) only a few days before the review meeting. He is relatively new to the post and was making an effort to get up-to-date with the students under his care. He agreed to write a report in support of Harry’s application to residential college. He also agreed to get the Occupational Therapy team to do an assessment of Harry. Harry has not had any OT input for many years, despite having poor fine motor skills and floppy joints.
The Headteacher explained that we would not spend much time discussing what has gone on in the past. Rather, we would concentrate our efforts on planning for Harry’s future, which suited us perfectly.
The Connexions advisor (although that forum and title has been swallowed up into North Yorkshire County Council, I shall continue to refer to him as such) was at pains to stress that he would have to make reference to the Personalised Learning Pathway offered by the college closest to school. He also reiterated that Harry would still have to make an application to our nearest college, despite the fact that he was nowhere near to reaching the Entry Level required by that college.
We expressed our frustration with this system and the Headteacher sympathised with our – and other parents – position. This particular aspect of the transitions process needs to change and change quickly.
The gist of the meeting seemed to be that we need to get as many reports from the agencies that have an input into Harry’s education as possible. These will act as support documents for his application to residential college. He needs an up-to-date Care Assessment from Social Services (anything within the last two years will suffice), a report from Learning Disability Services who have been working with Harry on his stick obsession and an assessment by the Educational Psychologist.
The Connexions advisor hinted that it would be in Harry’s favour that we had chosen a college whose fees were lower than the majority, but that it was unlikely that NYCC would fund a 3-year course, which is what Harry has been offered. They are much more likely to fund a 2-year course instead. At this stage, we would be happy to get funding for two years and then fight to get another year.
I left the review feeling mildly optimistic. It seems to me that many students in Harry’s year are opting for (being pushed into?) the Personalised Learning Pathway. As far as I am aware only one other student will be looking at specialist residential college and I know that his needs can be met by the PLP.
The fact that we live so far away from our nearest college will also work in our favour. We have impressed upon everyone that if we lived closer to college we would not have a problem with the PLP. The Headteacher supports our opinion and stated that their recommendation is highly regarded by the county council.
Now all we have to do is wait for the reports to start rolling in. I shall be cajoling, nagging and prompting from now until Christmas. In the New Year the Connexions advisor will be starting to put together his report and it will pass back and forth between us and him until we are all satisfied.
Roll on 2013…