Even though it’s only March, we are looking far forward into 2011 already. I want to have decided on a school for S by the end of term 1 so that we can be sure to have as much in place as possible as early as possible.
I am sure I will be writing a lot about this over the course of the year.
Finding the right school feels like the biggest challenge we’ve faced for a while and it probably is. I’ve heard so many stories, both good and bad about starting school experiences and I’m determined to get it right.
But I’m realising that’s a pretty daunting task.
How do I know which school is the right school? How can I be sure that it will be an inclusive, positive, proactive place of learning for my boy for the next 6 years?
Step 1 has been approaching our nearby schools to arrange a visit.
As we’re only new in the area, I don’t much about the schools. I’ve just had a little feedback from friends who live nearby.
There are 4 schools that are fairly close to us so that’s where I am starting. And hopefully stopping. I really have my fingers crossed that ONE of these schools will be the right one.
I rang each of these schools on Tuesday to arrange a visit next week.
I figure that first impressions count, so I was keen to hear their response when I told them I was looking for a school for my son who has additional needs.
I spoke to the principal at each school and here’s how it went.
School 1 (the biggest of the schools with over 400 children) was very confident, telling me about their big integration program, currently with 22 children. He was also keen to tell me the school was very accessible, had had students in the past with physical disabilities and had NO problem with bullying. We arranged a visit for next Wednesday morning.
School 2 (the furthest away of the 4 but with a ‘solid’ local reputation) was very positive about S attending, but took a very different approach. Rather than talking to me over the phone she was keen to arrange a visit instead where I could ‘see the school for myself’ and ask any questions that I then might have. We arranged a visit for next Thursday morning.
School 3 (the one I am most interested in at this stage) is the only school I’d already spoken to at length. This school has a lot going for it – it has a unit for hearing impaired children attached to it so I at first was sure this would spell a school that knew about inclusion. I also love that the LOTE is Auslan. It’s quite small and from having driven past it several times, I can safely say is very FLAT – easily accessible for a little boy in a walking frame. It’s also a school that a good friend is considering for her two little girls with very mild CP or next year. I have arranged to visit the school next Tuesday.
School 4 (the closest school) has always had a huge question mark over it. Locally, it has a very good reputation BUT it’s an accessibility nightmare. Stairs everywhere. Still, I decided to call them because it is the closest and my friend whose children go there loves it. I figured that you never know, they might be keen to apply for a whole stack of funding and make the school fully accessible! But after my phone call on Tuesday, I think I can safely say that this school is now, officially, off the list. Whereas the other 3 schools were keen to arrange a time for me to come in and meet them, the principal of this school instead told me I should come and walk around the school grounds one weekend to see what I thought. That was it. No invite to meet with her. No suggestion that we would be welcome. When I pushed the question of whether the school COULD be made accessible, she said that she ‘supposed’ that there was funding available but she wasn’t sure how far it would go.
OK. So four has already become three.
I am looking forward to the visits next week. BUT I still don’t know HOW I will be able to tell from the visits which of these schools is best.
To anyone who is a bit further down the track: please, I am keen for any advice! What should I look for? What questions should I ask? What answers should raise red flags? What answers should I be thrilled with? Which school should I chose? ;-).
Now that the process of looking has started, I will admit I am not dreading it as much as I was. I was genuinely really impressed with the attitude of the first three schools which I really felt were putting out a welcome mat for us. I still think this is going to be a challenge, but I am really looking forward to the next step of SEEING the schools next week.