As a parent/carer, are you horrified by the new GCSE and A-level curriculums? Can you imagine what it must feel like for parents/carers with children with Special Educational Needs (SEN)?
If you're in the latter category, you might be wondering how your child is going to leave school with a C or more in Maths and English under the new regime, which seems to be weighted against children with SEN.
Now that the roll out will go beyond just Maths and English and will, as of next year's exams, cover all subjects, you might well have given up hope by now of your child achieving a full set of GCSEs, So, how on earth can anyone describe your child with SEN as having a 'Superpower?'
If you're worried, take heart, many of our clients are as concerned as you are. That doesn't make it any better for you or your child, but it does mean that there's a level of empathy and support out there.
So, are there practical things that you can do to provide even more support to your child, given the current 'linear' academic environment?
And why on earth is a barristers' chambers writing about this subject?
Well, our Head of Chambers, Isabelle Parasram, is a school Governor and, at the time of writing, she holds no less than ten key roles within the field education of education - all of which she does really well (in our opinion)! She's absolutely passionate about education and lobbies, in political circles, for the rights of children across a range of fields, including safeguarding, child protection, E-safety and, especially in the current educational climate, Special Educational Needs.
Why? Because, with the new curriculums for GCSEs and A-levels in the UK, the potential breaches of The Equality Act 2010 against children with SEN are becoming more and more likely. And parents/carers of children with SEN who may already have to put more time and financial resources into their child's education than other parents/carers, need to be aware of their child's rights more than ever. Because they are often not in a position to assert them...
Do you have to be a great advocate to stand up for your child? No? Do you have to be able to know the applicable law back to front to be able to sound knowledgeable? No?
But do you have to be passionate about your child's education, have complete belief in their abilities and start fighting for your child's rights from as early on as you can?
Yes, because, in our experience, a month of giving an educator 'a chance' to address your child's needs is the equivalent of losing 6 months of potential progress, because, with a child with SEN, it can often be the case of '1 step forward, 10 steps back.'
Here is how we suggest you equip yourself with this new 'Superpower' of your own...
A. Read pages 15 and 16 of the Joint Council for Qualifications document "Adjustments for candidates with disabilities and learning difficulties\ Access Arrangements and Reasonable Adjustments". This sets out the Regulations under the Equality Act 2010 that you need to be aware of:
B. When you speak to the Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator (SENCO) at your child's school, ask them the following questions, but research them beforehand so a) you understand what you are talking about, b) you know whether a particular question is relevant to your child and c) you are comfortable with asking it:
Have you taken account of the reasonable adjustments recommended in my child's Educational Psychologist (EP) (or equivalent) report?
Do you do a check of expected GCSE results in Year 7? If not, how do you measure Progress 8?
Is it possible for my child to do iGCSEs (which have a higher level of coursework and rely less on 'rote' learning)?
How will my child cope with the new GCSEs and A-levels? (English is now very focussed on having a good working memory, learning and understanding poetry and 20% of marks are allocated to spelling, punctuation and grammar. The same or similar applies to humanities subjects.)
Can you tell me what I can do to work with you to help my child to pass their exams/do well at school/enjoy school/grow in confidence?
Does my child have access to any programmes such as Read/Write/ Dragon/ Lexia/ Toe by Toe/ Beat Dyslexia?
Is the SENCO at this school Level 7 qualified?
Is the SENCO at this school qualified to assess for access?
Do you operate the LUCID test? If so, how do you assess and take account of my child’s IQ?
Does this school have access to an Educational Psychologist either through the LA or through partnership with other schools?
How well trained are teachers across the board at this school in dealing with children with SEN?
Do the SENCOs at this school work in partnership with other SENCOs from different schools?
Do children with SEN have to do the Foundation level of GCSE English? Do they tend to do so at this school?
Does this school offer the option of doing 1 less GCSE and doing Learning Support sessions instead?
Of the different access arrangements available to my child under the JQC Regulations, what access arrangements do you have in place:
for the ordinary school day?
Examples include a Computer reader, Reading pen and Extra time
And remember, your child's teacher usually wants the best for your child. If that doesn't seem to be happening, it's usually because of a lack of resources and a huge burden of administration, rather than any lack of passion for their profession. Most of the teachers we have come across really want to see the children in their care shine, but can't always achieve this, because of external factors. Work with them and you'll find that you can develop your teacher's Superpowers, as well as your child's and your own...
NB - There is actually a book called, 'Dyslexia is My Superpower' by Margaret Rooke. We haven't read it yet, but Isabelle attended an event where Margaret was speaking and was so inspired, she began to delve deeper into the subject. And...here we are writing about it!