Important aspects of SEN provision are regular meetings with children and parents to discuss their progress and continuing needs. This e-bulletin considers how careful planning can maximise the usefulness of these reviews and ensure that they are productive for SEN children

Support for SENCOs
The summer term is often review time in schools – including formal ‘annual reviews’ for pupils who have a statement of SEN, (which must be reviewed at least once a year). There will also be other meetings to arrange with parents whose children have been receiving support, and these are just as important to the families involved. For some parents and carers, these meetings can be intimidating and stressful, however, so whatever you can do to prepare the ground and put them at ease will pay dividends in terms of the quality of their contribution and in their satisfaction with the process. (The Lamb Inquiry has found a large measure of parental dissatisfaction with how they are treated by LAs and schools.)

A letter inviting the parents to the review and explaining in simple terms what it’s all about will be a good first step (remember to get it translated into the family’s first language if necessary). Consider some of the following points for inclusion:

  • We are holding a review (annual review) so that we can:
    • check that your child has made progress and that any support has been successful in meeting his/her needs over the last year
    • find out if there has been any change in your child’s circumstances.
    • think about and plan for the next year
    • set new aims and targets
  • The review meeting will be held at… on… and will last for approximately…
  • People asked to attend will be…….( You, the parent or carer; a relevant teacher; an LEA representative; the educational psychologist; therapist; social worker; SENCO; INCO; support assistant/TA – with names)
  • Your child if he or she wishes to attend. (If your child does not wish to attend, their views should be recorded and submitted with other reports.)
  • You may wish to bring along a supporter or friend.
  • At the meeting, we will ask for your views and then professionals involved with your child will talk about the past year, the successes or difficulties and the way forward.
  • After the meeting we will prepare a report (and submit it to the LEA no later than 10 days after the meeting or before the end of term, whichever is the earlier).The report will contain a summary of the outcome of the review including recommendations for targets for the coming year (and whether any amendments to the statement are necessary). A copy of the report will be sent to all those involved in the review.
  • The LEA will consider the report, decide whether to make amendments to the statement and then send a copy of its decision to the headteacher, the parents and anyone else they consider appropriate.

Giving some forethought to the venue for these meetings and how to make everyone as comfortable as possible will be much appreciated by the participants: this can be summarised in a few words – quiet, warm, comfy chairs and a cup of tea. Encourage parents to make a few notes to bring with them to a review meeting, or give them a questionnaire/checklist to complete; this will enable them to be better prepared and feel more confident. Be aware of the difficulties some parents/carers face in fitting in with ‘school hours’ (shift work, child care, transport); be flexible where possible and offer an early/late meeting time (though this is obviously more difficult when other professionals are involved).

If you suggest at the meeting that family members actively support a pupil at home, be prepared to offer some clear guidance on how to do this. It’s easy to assume that if we say, or write ‘share a book every night’, or ‘help with spellings’, that people know exactly what we mean – often they don’t. Providing notes can help, or running a parents workshop to explain and demonstrate approaches to reading, writing, numeracy, behaviour: providing opportunities for parents/carers and children to work together can also be very effective.

Support for parents and pupils
If you have any anxieties about attending a review meeting, consider asking a ‘supporter’ to go along with you – a family member, friend or neighbour. He or she can help you to prepare for the meeting by completing any paperwork and making a list of points you want to raise. You may also wish to include any reports you have from private tutors, doctors or therapists.

For a formal statement review, you should receive copies of all reports and/or advice about your child’s progress two weeks before the meeting. Contact the school if you have not received the reports before the meeting. Make notes on anything you are unsure of in these reports so that you can about them at the meeting.

Using the list you have made, be confident about sharing your ideas and do not hesitate
to ask questions at the review. If you don’t understand something that has been said, do not be afraid to ask for a clearer explanation.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in May 2009

About the author: Linda Evans is the author of SENCO Week. She was a teacher/SENCO/adviser/inspector, before joining the publishing world. She now works as a freelance writer, editor and part-time college tutor.