Sunday, 4 July 2010

End of an epoch; the start of an even better one?

It would be wrong not to mention that Nikki and I are acutely aware that there only a couple of weeks left of Angharad's nursery year. She attends Marlborough school nursery every morning from 0900-1130. Then, most afternoons she has activities that I take her to. These include swimming, dance, parent-and child classes, music and so much more. This September sees the start of her Reception year. Angharad will, at our request but backed by the head teacher and the LEA, leave the mainstream class she is in right now and move to the Special Resource Unit, where kids with particular needs can be given extra supervisory support. There will be a SENCO (school special educational needs co-ordinator) and 2 support assistants for about 8 kids. These kids may have conditions like Angharad's or autistic spectrum disorders or anything else.

It isn't the case that "if you have condition X you go into the unit". It's more about supporting any child's particular needs. Thus we and the school feel that Angharad will be best placed there not because she has Down Syndrome per se but because that condition has caused her some speech and language delays. This is NOT a distinction without a difference. Placing kids into the Unit because of a condition, regardless of need, would smack of an educational ghetto. Placing them there to help with a specific need recognizes that the need might successfully be met and the child able to move fully back into the mainstream setting.

Different criteria might apply where a child's condition necessitates that they attend a Special School. That is not Angharad's case. She is in a mainstream school and will remain so. There will be ready and frequent integration with her age-peers and not just at break and lunch-times. (And she is no shrinking violet; she will be out there seeking the friends she has made this year and joining them in play, we have no doubt.) If she was in the mainstream reception class Angharad would need a full-time adult 1:1 supporter. If all had agreed this to be the right option for her funding would have followed her and been made available. Nikki put it best though, had we opted for this option it would have been harder for Angharad to be herself than being in the Resource Unit. The latter has 3:8 staffing ratios (good) and avoids the need for permanent 1:1 adult:child assistance (which in Angharad's case would soon have been unacceptable to her, marking her out as different). Time will tell us if our instincts are correct. But the school Head and SENCO have been at this for quite a while and we have visited the class, been impressed and trust their advice. We heard this week that the SENCO is moving on. But we learned at the same time that the Head had already appointed a replacement who has signing skills and set about adapting the Resource Unit physically (involving real ££) to meet the particular needs of Angharad and the other newbies starting this September. Still, it is the end of an era.

We will need to find new after-school activities too. After a full day at school we doubt Angharad will be able to do much for half a term or so simply owing to tiredness. But she will soon enough be ready for more. We shall keep going with her 1:1 swimming lessons and, in some format or another, with her dancing. She loves these activities and wouldn't let me stop taking her, I'm sure! So watch this space in the Autumn to see what else she fancies having a go at. We'll no doubt return to this at the end of term.

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