For children that have special educational needs, a mainstream education environment may not be the best choice. Allow us to explain the role of special schools in providing help.
All parents face a huge challenge when they come to deciding on the right school for their child, however, this responsibility becomes even more challenging if your child is among the 1.2 million living in England who have a recognised special educational need or disability (SEND).
Around half of the children that have an SEN statement or EHC plan go to mainstream primary and secondary schools. For most of the other half, a government-maintained special school fills their educational needs. How can a parent decide on which choice would provide the best support for their child’s educational needs?
What Is a Special School?
When we talk about a special school we are referring to a school that is able to provide education for children that have a special educational need or a disability. According to Alex Grady, Educational Development Officer at the National Association of Special Educational Needs, special school types vary but in essence, they all provide education for children who could not have their needs met in a mainstream learning environment, it is provided for parents or carers who have either requested or agreed to their child being placed in the school.
At the present time, approximately two percent of school-age children go to a special school and most of these have a statement or EHC plan. The children who attend special schools have been identified to have a learning difficulty or a disability which means that they need special educational provision.
What Are the Different Types of Special Schools?
Different areas provide different types of special schools. Some of these are state-maintained, some of them are independent and others are academies. There are schools that allow children to start at as young as 3 and will educate them until 19 (in some cases even up to 25), others operate as primary schools or secondary schools. There are also ‘assessment nurseries that allow children to attend while they are being assessed to understand their needs better. Early Years classes also operate within some of the special school settings.
There are four wide special school types as listed by the government, these are as follows:
Social, emotional and mental health
Communication and interaction
Cognition and learning
Sensory and physical needs
Alex, noted earlier explains that some special schools are generic and cater to children of varying needs and who fit into any of the above categories. Other schools specialise in one particular area and others still specialise in just a part of one category, for instance, autism schools or speech and language schools.
There is also an option not to choose between special or mainstream school since some of the mainstream schools have ‘resource bases’ or special ‘units’ where children that have a SEND are able to receive specialist education while also mixing with a wider peer group and making use of resources available in mainstream schools. By looking at Hampshire school jobs you will see the variety of posts that need filled to ensure a smooth running of a school and its special needs schools.
What Is on Offer at Special Schools That Is Not at Mainstream Schools?
A key difference between special and mainstream schools is the staff ratio which always tends to be higher in special schools since the pupils have more needs. Alex explains that a lot of the teachers are specialists in their area and there tends to be plenty of teaching assistants to provide support. That being said, it is not a guarantee of one-to-one support for each pupil.