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Schools and education

Schools and education

 Schools can play a major role in your child’s life. They can help them deal with the difficulties they have faced and equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive. But, schools also provide other worries to you and your child, so it’s important to know how to choose the right school and how to continue to support them as well as your family.

Research shows that children, who are stressed, uncomfortable or worried about school, are less likely to do well at school when compared to their peers. These worries can be felt by other family members too. The below information and points to consider can help ensure both your child and wider family get the support they need.

Coping with school

Children can find it incredibly difficult to cope with change such as moving schools, classes or moving up to the next educational step. During this time they may also struggle to manage their relationships with peers and/or teachers – so it’s important for parents to help manage these worries by being understanding and explaining things to them, as much as possible. Although, in this day and age, time is the thing we’re all often short of, it’s very important to take out 5-10 minutes for a conversation with your little ones or not so little ones. Checking on them, ensuring they know you’ll always be able to spare a moment for them and talking about what’s worrying them, is a vital part of tackling their family monsters and yours.

Asking a general question can easily open up into a much more easy flowing conversation. If they ask you a question and you don’t know the answer that’s ok! You can always reassure them that even though you may not know the answer now, that you can always find out and that you will be there to help them. Because talking about family monsters and tackling them together makes them so much more manageable.

Here are some good conversation starters:

  • ”How’s school been?”
  • ”What did you study/learn about today?”
  • ”Who did you play/hang around with today?”
  • ”Did you get up to anything fun this week?”
  • ”What’s the best bit about school? Followed by what’s the worst thing?”
  • ”If you could change one thing about school what would it be?”

It’s a good idea to end the conversation by reassuring the child that they can always talk to you and that you want to help them solve the issue. Another, good idea is to try and change the subject to a more positive subject if you can so they can have a smile back on their face.

Before having a conversation, consider who is the closest to your child – maybe aunty or uncle is more likely to get a more honest response, so they could approach the subject instead. If there is an issue maybe the chosen person can ask the child if they mind what they have said being shared with their parent/carer.

This can help you to get a good understanding of how their school life is going so if there’s a problem you or aunty/uncle can help them sort it out – together. Sometimes, children just need to talk about their pressures in order to get past them. For a lot of children, just knowing that they have someone to talk to and to help is enough to manage them. For other children, they can become a bigger issue and that’s where we’re here to help.

Choosing a school

Whether it’s your first child and their first school or a child moving from primary to secondary school or even from a college or university, choosing a school can be scary. No matter which stage it is, these transitions can be testing with complications and pressures for any parent or child. This choice may impact how well the child does within the educational environment, that’s why it’s important to keep to a rough guide of what the place needs to provide. Try to keep calm and level headed when making these decisions, as you will get the best from it by keeping a clearer head. Have a look at some of our general suggested check points and questions you may want to find out about, when choosing the school:

  • Location – It’s always a good idea to choose a fairly local school where possible. Can your child make their own way into school (older children)? Are there a few options for travel routes? Will you be able to get to the school quickly in an emergency?
  • Is the head teacher a good role model? Do they interact and get to know the children? Do they promote good values?
  • Are there enough staff and support staff available?
  • What out of class support do they offer?
  • How does the school help children build friendships/peer groups?
  • If your child or family unit has any specific needs (for example SEND families) how does the school support these needs? Is there specially trained staff available?
  • How do they support the child when they move between educational institutes?
  • Do they have a whole-school strategy to support children?
  • Are they a child centred institute? Do they promote child ambassadors and celebrate/reward good work?
  • Do they provide additional support/learning for adults to help with the children’s homework?

If you have a family need then it’s important that you let the school know if you have any special circumstances. Sharing the specialist need or your pressures might uncover a world of support that can really help you with them. It is a good idea to meet the school’s specialist within the area and ask them about the support they can offer. Other school staff that might be able to offer extra support are: the pastoral team, emotional learning support assistants and learning mentors. Talk to the school about the provisions that they have and what may be available or useful for your family or child.

Another resource that could be useful for your child and family include the pupil premium scheme – it could be a good idea to find out about this and what other financial support is available to you or your child.

The pupil premium is additional funding available, for publicly funded schools in England ,to raise the attainment of children with disadvantaged backgrounds and help to close the gap between them and their peers.

Pupil premium is available for children from reception age to Year 11. It entitles state schools to access £1,320 for pupils in reception to year 6 per pupil per academic year and £935 for pupils in year 7 to year 11. The funding can be used for a variety of purposes, including:

  • Part-time teaching assistant support.
  • Training around attachment issues, managing transitions, emotional regulation and anger and aggression.
  • Specific resources such as timers and creating visual timetables.
  • Communications or passport book.
  • Extra resources such as lessons, special school trips and even residential trips.

Free school meals

All children in infant schools receive free school meals. Older children might still be able to get free school meals if you are receiving any of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit run-on
  • Universal Credit

If you meet the criteria outlined you can apply for free school meals here.

Tools to help your child progress

A tool that the school might use is the Common Assessment Framework (CAF). This will help to identify and meet any early additional support that your child might need and will involve a range of agencies. If you are concerned about how your child is developing you can ask the school if there’s a CAF in place or request one. There may also be ‘Team Around the Child’ (TAC) or ‘Team Around the Family’ (TAF) meetings which you should be invited to. Again ask the school what is planned for your child.

How you can support your child in school

When choosing a school ask how they spend pupil premium. Ask about the facilities they have and look for a nurture room and group, ask if one-to-one time is built into children’s timetables. Recognise that different schools may have different approaches to spending the pupil premium but they may be equally effective.

Good communication with your school is vital. Meet your child’s named teacher in person to help ensure your child is getting the support they need. Encourage your child to talk about things they’re finding hard and where some extra help would be useful. Keep talking to the school.

In addition to parent’s evenings it can be helpful to arrange half termly review meetings or just getting a quick catch up when you pick your child up on a regular basis. Especially, if your child has additional needs. These can be useful even when things are going well and to pick up when things aren’t going so well.

Talk to your child to find out what they would like you to tell other parents and children about your situation. This will be helpful for you both when you are doing the school pick up and you won’t accidentally slip up and embarrass them.

If school doesn’t seem right

For some pupils and parents school just doesn’t work out. The benefits of the society we live in today is that we have so much freedom and knowledge is often just a few search engines, books or seminars/webinars away. Another option away from the schooling system is home schooling or online/virtual schooling. Many students use online university rather than the traditional settings and you can look into similar options for younger children too.

If you are thinking of home school it is important to remember this is a very big commitment so before suggesting it to your child you need to ensure it’s a workable option. Some good questions to ask yourself are:

  • Do you have enough knowledge?
  • Do you have the correct resources?
  • Can you commit to home schooling? Do you have enough time? Will you need to work as well?
  • Is it financially going to work?

If you decide to proceed with home schooling, it’s very important to ensure your child is also on board. You might think it’s a good option but how does your child feel about it? Talk to them you need to be sure they’ll be happy and they aren’t just going with it. Will they be resentful and feel like they’re missing out on things they may get at school? How will they make friends – peer groups and friendships are a key part of childhood and the social learning for children.

Need more support?

Our free FamilyLine helpline is here to provide a listening ear, answer those particular parenting questions you have or help with guidance around more complex issues. All via telephone, text message or email for free.

Opening times:

Monday to Friday 6pm-10pm

Saturday and Sunday 10am-1pm

Telephone: 0808 802 6666

Text message: 07537 404 282

Email: familyline@family-action.org.uk

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