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Getting the right information, at the right time

Cat Thomson explains how Enquire is helping families of children with additional support needs build positive relationships with schools and how this work is contributing to the Additional Support for Learning Action Plan.

As the Scottish advice service for additional support for learning, Enquire’s vision is that all children in Scotland are supported, included, and listened to throughout their education. Our role in making this a reality is to offer advice and information – to children, young people, parents, carers and professionals - about children’s rights to additional support for learning.

What we know from over two decades work in this area, is that whilst it is hugely important that children, their families and education staff know and understand their rights and responsibilities, what often makes the biggest difference to children getting the help they need with their learning is when parents, carers and schools work together to get the right support in place.

Too often parents and carers tell us of their struggle to find out information or to feel their views are listened to and taken seriously.

These experiences were reflected in the independent review of additional support for learning implementation, “All our children and all their potential”. Launched in 2019 and reporting in 2020, it acknowledged the great work by some schools and parent groups, but found that many parents report a less than positive experience:

“… the Review has heard from many parents and carers about their negative experiences of being disregarded, not listened to or blamed for their child's behaviour. They express particular upset at feeling their child is not understood or cared about and is only seen as a problem.”

“Parents and carers have often emphasised feelings of initial frustration and increasing anger when they are not given information about school or education authority processes or about their or their child's rights. “

In the Scottish Government’s Additional Support for Learning Action Plan produced in response to the Review, relationship building between local authorities and families feature as a key area for development. It is important to acknowledge that for many parents or carers working together with a school may not be straightforward. This may be due to their own or their child’s needs, previous negative experiences of school, lack of clarity of how they can be involved or not feeling they are being heard. The good news is that Enquire can help.

How Enquire supports families

One of our goals is to help parents and carers feel more confident to communicate with their child’s school. Not only about their child’s needs and the support that may help, but also to work together to resolve disagreements should they arise. We do this by providing clear, easy to read information about ways to build positive relationships with school staff. In addition, our helpline offers parents and carers the chance to talk through any worries and get practical advice about next steps. Our programme of live and recorded Facebook session offers parents and carers access to our helpline team and the chance to listen to advice about the most frequently asked question at a time that suits them.

We know getting the right advice and information at the right time is key. Data from a recent helpline evaluation shows most parents and carers who used our service feel better informed, more listened to, more confident and more aware of the steps they can take. When we ask parents to share the impact of our advice and information it’s clear that it helped enormously:

"I gained confidence to make the phone calls and send the emails that meant my boys daily life at school has more accommodations than it had before. When his high school placement was turned down due to lack of availability as a group of parents, we lobbied this decision, and it was finally overturned and space found.”

“Enquire helpline was like a light in the dark for us and our family. We've been dealing with a challenging situation for many months. So, to speak to someone who could listen, then explain legal expectations and the process of how to resolve it was so incredibly valuable.”

New information

We’ve recently produced two new infographics to help families following  schools return after the summer holidays including:

Sharing information about your child with their school:  https://enquire.org.uk/3175/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/sharing-information-with-your-childs-school.pdf

Tips for talking about your child’s support:
https://enquire.org.uk/3175/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/tips-for-talking-about-your-childs-support.pdf

Also visit the 'Working with your child’s school and solving problems section of our website':
https://enquire.org.uk/advice-for-parents/

Cat Thomson is Enquire’s Communication and Engagement Manager.

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