Sunday, 29 November 2015

A common crisis - when Transition to secondary doesn't go as hoped.

Our stance

Children are sometimes withdrawn from the school system at crisis point, after failing to get the support needed to remain there. Parents are then left to cope unaided, with helping their children recover their mental health. Opting out of school does not mean opting out of health care too, yet as the referral route is unadvertised families are at risk of being left isolated as things stand.
School refusal, anxiety disorders and child mental health generally is a very complex area, and a burden parents should not have to shoulder alone. Nor should teachers, themselves not medically qualified to do so, be expected to perform mental health triage services to decide upon who is worthy of a rationed referral slot. As a first step the situation could be greatly improved if professionals & parents could work together to make the GP the first point of contact with the authority to refer children for expert support. Where children are unable to return to school, their educational needs including the ability to sit public exams should still be a key consideration of all involved. There are a huge variety of options available to choose from, from parental elective home education, thru LA home tutoring and online live teaching. We need to ensure parents are fully aware of all the options available, and that professionals fully engage with and listen to the child's own preferences, allowing that they may well change over time, if with support the child's mental health improves

What to do? 

The Transition to Year 7 is sadly when for many children with ALN it all starts to fall apart. Poor advance planning, lack of a statement as the previous Primary was coping, or just the sheer scale of the average comprehensive being too overwhelming means that this is a common time for folks to join us in the Home Ed community.

If this is your current situation here's a few pointers:-

1. Do not rush to de-register without first taking expert legal advice. Once electively home educating, in practice it can be very hard to arrange the support needed for a return to school should family circumstances dictate. We've listed a few of the places you can go to ask for help here:-

2. If after decent advice you still feel Home Education is the right way forward then come and talk to us on Face Book, and we'll support you through deregistration, help you find your local Home Education Group & generally offer moral support throughout those scary, early days and beyond. You'll also find lots of free or low cost specialist ALN learning resources listed in the files section of the group. This is a handy reference section when needed.

3. Your child's mental health is always more important than grades, so spend those first few precious weeks or months at home focusing on reengaging your child with that natural love of learning for the sheer fun of learning that all young children begin with. Take time to allow any emotional wounds to heal. Carefully observe your child and note what their preferred learning style is, and how they might enjoy learning best.

This phase is sometimes referred to as "de-schooling" in Home Ed circles, although a more proper term would be a "period of adjustment". It definitely does not mean that no learning is taking place. It would be much better to see it described as a critical phase of adjustment, to a whole new lifestyle and mode of learning for the child. It is fine to experiment during this phase with different pedagogues and approaches until you find the exact combination of methods, strategies and techniques that best suit your individual child's needs.

4. Take a look at our previous blog post "Dispelling the Myths" where a variety of real life home educators of children with additional learning needs have described how they approach home education. There are several Autonomous Education Blogs listed for those for whom that approach appeals.

5. For those who feel that a more structured approach might suit, we've put together a Skeleton KS3 Curriculum and some hints and tips for you just to get you started.  This will be our next post.

Author - Steph Shobiye.

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