Which school is best for my child?

As parents of previously looked after children, you face the task of finding the best school setting for your child. You'll have knowledge of both your child’s early experiences and their present interests, strengths, difficulties and needs. 

Finding the right school is about selecting the best possible match between your child’s whole development needs and the quality of provision offered by different schools. To this extent, it is an individual match. 

Ofsted reports will inform you about the overall quality of education. Those which are rated good or better have evidenced good standards in a range of areas including the quality of education, behaviour and attitudes. They also display good personal development, leadership and management.

Who should I ask?

To get a full picture of what a prospective school can offer, you will need to speak with someone senior enough to fully answer questions.  This may be the:

  • headteacher or principal
  • deputy or assistant headteacher/principal
  • special needs and disabilities co-ordinator (SENDCo)
  • designated teacher for looked after and previously looked after children, (as long as this member of staff has a senior enough leadership role)
  • dedicated admissions officer, if the school has one

It will need to be someone who really knows the whole school system and the approaches taken. It may also be useful to speak to whoever is the lead for pastoral support in school. You will need to inform the school of your child’s needs.

What should I ask?

The most inclusive schools understand the importance of strong, positive and nurturing relationships. This is important in helping children to feel settled and to learn.

Children who have experienced neglect or trauma in their early lives will often have a heightened need to feel secure. This may show in anxiety and an increased need to know that they belong and that someone knows and understands them well.

Some children may have high needs at times in learning to manage their social and emotional lives. This may impact on their behaviour in school. This may mean they need a school which understands and prizes the strength of relationships between staff and pupils. It may also mean they need a school who can adapt their teaching and management approaches to the needs of children with high or additional needs.

Speaking with the special needs co-ordinator (SENCo) can help you understand how the school provides for pupils. Especially those with similar needs to those of your child. All children benefit from consistent, well understood, fair approaches and open, two-way dialogue with parents and carers.

These questions have been informed by insights from recent research and guidance around supportive school culture.* They are designed as a menu from which parents can select and adapt to their own need. They are meant to supplement other questions you may wish to ask concerning the curriculum, teaching methods etc. 

* Improving Behaviour in Schools Education Endowment Foundation(EEF). June 2019 and Parental Engagement Guidance Report EEF December 2018

Knowing my Child

  • Who greets children in school each morning?
  • Do all teachers greet children at the classroom door?
  • How do you consult with parents about the needs of their child?
  • How do you share information about a student’s needs with different teachers?
  • How do you ensure that a student will have a supportive relationship with a designated member of school staff?
  • How does your school foster a sense of belonging for children?

Behaviour for learning

  • What are the aims of your behaviour policy?
  • How do you go about teaching good learning behaviours in school?
  • Do all the teachers have the same approach to behaviour with children?
  • How do you encourage children to reflect on their own behaviour?
  • What reward systems for behaviour are in place?
  • Can you give me an example of how you adapt your behaviour systems to meet the individual needs of children? 
  • How do you manage those who may have high behaviour needs?
  • What kind of behaviour management training do your staff have? Does this include an understanding of attachment and the impact of early trauma on learning?

Communication with parents

  • How do you communicate with me about my child’s behaviour?
  • How do you communicate with parents on a day to day basis? 
  • What meetings are there for parents to understand how their child is progressing?
  • Do you use text messaging or e-mail to communicate positive news?