QUESTIONS TO ASK SCHOOLS?
When parents find out that they have a dyslexic child and that the school the child is currently at is not geared up to support dyslexics, they often look at alternative schools, but how can you tell if another school can help support your child?
Obviously every child is unique, and each child has a different set of requirements and different level of support, but how do you tell the difference between schools that pay ‘lip service’ to Dyslexia and the Code of Conduct, and those that fully embrace it and deliver on their promise.
First of all, you need to visit the schools you have short-listed, and make sure you see at least 3 schools as comparison, and you need to visit them ideally twice, once perhaps at an Open Day (if the timing is right) and once on a one to one for a more detailed view, and if you are not sure, don’t be frightened to visit a third time! … this is probably going to be one of the most important decisions you will make during your child’s life!
Below are some useful questions to print out and take with you, which, once answered, should give you a much better feel and understanding for how well the school is geared up to support dyslexics, or whether they have just the odd one or two and have “a special needs teacher” or several teachers and a whole school policy.
- How many dyslexic children do they have within the school?
- How many FULLY dyslexic trained teachers do they have? AND how many of these are full-time and how many are part time
- What are the class sizes?
- Do they stream by class or subject?
- When i.e. what year do they start streaming / setting?
- What subjects do they set in? (many schools differ here, some stream just maths and English, some e.g. my sons school stream maths, English, science, geography and history?
- Dyslexics ARE NOT stupid, so should be set according to ability not disability !!
- On average, for the dyslexic pupils they currently have, how many one to one lessons a week do they have? (they may try and avoid this one !)
- How long are the one to one lessons?
- How does the Special Needs Dept. or SENCO (Special Ed. Needs Co-ordinator) liaise with the other departments/teachers in the school, and how often?
- How do they measure a dyslexic child’s progress?
- What dyslexic teaching methodologies do they generally adopt? (e.g. PAT (Phonological Awareness Training) Jolly Phonics, Alpha to Omega, Letterland etc)
- How do they enable dyslexic children to access the curriculum?
- How many children are statemented?
- What lessons do they pull them out of for one to one lessons?
- Do they make dyslexics do French or Latin? (if they understand dyslexia, they should NOT make them do either of these!)
- How are dyslexic children made to feel amongst their peers? (How do they know this?)
- How do they measure children? Important and difficult to judge, but for example some schools on termly or bi-yearly reports give a child’s position in a subject e.g. 4 out of 17 i.e fourth in science out of 17. Whilst this is good for the able child, being dyslexic and being bottom is not good for self esteem !!
- Do they also recognise EFFORT as opposed to ATTAINMENT? Again, for a dyslexic, they will often under perform, but do they measure children’s effort. e.g. my son’s school report as an effort grade and an attainment grade. We tell him we don’t mind what his attainment is, as long as the effort grade is good, we can ask no more!
- What allowances are made in exams and tests? (Are they aware what is allowed, and do they know how to apply to the examining boards for this?)
- How well do they use computers throughout the school. Not so important at 7, but important when they get to around aged 10? Can they use notebooks? If so when?
- Do they have a “plus and minus” board. How does this work? (it should encourage good behaviour, not lots of minus points for bad behaviour). e.g. many schools give minus points for not having your PE kit, or if you forget your pencil case – disaster for dyslexics, as they are generally so dis-organised? Do they make allowances for this?
- Do they only take “bright” high IQ dyslexics, or are they more open?
- If you get the opportunity to talk to dyslexic pupils at the school, even better, ask them how they find the school, and how do they feel about being dyslexic? Children are usually honest.
- Lastly, does the school have a broad curriculum that will support YOUR child’s strength. If a school is known for being ‘very academic’, it may not necessarily be the right place for your child, but if they are strong in other areas which Dyslexics can be strong in such as Art, Science, Music or Sport, then this will be a plus and will allow your child to excel and build their confidence and self esteem which is paramount.