If your child is finding mainstream school challenging then looking for some form of alternative education can be a frightening and sometimes frustrating prospect.
At Stable and Wild we receive calls most days from parents who are lost in this process and just need some help to unravel what the choices are and what they should look out for, when choosing somewhere for their children to go.
So we have put together a list of useful tips and questions to ask, that hopefully will help to de-mystify the process and help you to make the right choice for you and your child.
1. What is Alternative Provision ( AP ) and how will it be different to school?
Firstly, it is important to say that when applied correctly the AP system can be a really positive route for many children and can often result in them progressing at a faster rate in an environment where they are happier and their educational and emotional needs can be met more appropriately.
The AP system can offer flex-ability and personalisation which is often harder to achieve in a mainstream setting. Often group sizes are smaller enabling a more individualised curriculum and setting a pace appropriate for your child’s needs.
2. Can my child attend and AP full time if they aren’t currently attending school?
We don’t deliver a full time education to any child but are commissioned by a school, local authority, or parents to deliver a specific form of support to meet a particular child’s needs.
Some APs offer a full time curriculum, these are usually registered as Special Schools or Pupil Referral Units ( PRUs) and have to be registered with the Department of Education.
3. How do I know that my child is safe and they are getting a good standard of care and support?
Organisations such as Stable & Wild have to meet the same high standards that you would expect in a school. We uphold the same safeguarding standards and all of our staff are trained and receive ongoing CPD ( continual professional development) in relation to this.
Ask to see an organisations policies, particularly Safeguarding and Risk Assessments. You should be able to view the same policies and procedures that you would in a traditional educational setting, even though at places like S & W we are working in a space which does not resemble a school at all!
4. Are APs inspected at all?
We are regularly inspected by the local authority and schools who are commissioning us and we provide progression reports, impact measures and attend professionals meetings alongside other agencies and educators working with the young person. It is our job to advocate on behalf of the young person to ensure that their voice is being heard and their needs met.
Check when talking to APS what inspections are carried out by third parties, such as schools, local authorities and Safeguarding teams. It is also worth asking if the AP is on the register of approved providers that most local authorities have now. This will give you some peace of mind that they have been quality checked in terms of being legally sound with appropriate insurances in place.
5. Can they help to support YOUR child?
You really just want to know what they can offer for YOUR child and so be prepared to share some information about the main issues your child is facing and ask what action they would take to support them?
Ask how they would assess the priorities and what their approach would be? Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions so you are clear that you understand how their approach would benefit your child.
6. How will they meet your child’s needs now and in the future?
APs like Stable and Wild can offer a highly targeted and therefore effective support to a child in meeting their particular needs. This can be in the form of a short term intervention on a 1-1 basis or over a longer period of time with a progression plan that can lead to group work, re-integration to school and ultimately into further education.
Any AP who you are considering should be able to discuss this with you and you should be clear after your conversation what you can expect from them and how it is relevant for your child.
7. Is there any pre-course information that can be shared with you / your child?
What are the AP offering to enable your child to successfully access their service, how will they support them early on to make them feel comfortable in this new environment with new people?
8. Arrange to visit
Always go out to visit the provision. Take note of how you are treated on arrival and how you feel. You should discuss the benefits or practicalities of taking your child along too. If your child does not go with you then consider how they may react when visiting for the first time.
Do you feel your child will be kept physically and emotionally safe in this environment. Are the staff professional and do you have confidence in their ability?
9. Ask where you can access copies of their Policies?
Risk Assessments, Safeguarding Policy, Equality and Diversity Policies should be available for you to view, together and any other evidence you feel is important to demonstrate that you child will be physically and emotionally safe when attending their provision.
10. Are they able to provide and Third Party References, testimonials or accreditations that would demonstrate that they are able to deliver what they say they can deliver?
Look for memberships of recognised organisations or quality standards.
11. How will you measure the impact of their work and how will they assess how effective they are being?
Ask how impact is measured, how they communicate with you and school about progress and next steps? Look for clear lines of communication and regular reviews and updates on progress.
12. Make sure you are 100% happy.
Have all of your questions been answered satisfactorily and are you clear what benefits your child will get and what will happen if things aren’t going to plan. Do the staff give you confidence in their ability and competence?
Lastly, Alternative Provision can offer an opportunity and solution to supporting your child to reach the next step in their education, where other more traditional educational settings can not.
Good providers will often be successful in supporting children therapeutically and emotionally by building confidence, skills and self-esteem. This can enable young people to progress to the next stage in their education or life equipped with coping strategies that enable them to cope in situations that they may have previously found challenging.
It is true to say that the opportunity to attend an Alternative Provision for some young people can be life changing.
For more information about what Stable and Wild can offer your child or a child in your care then please do not hesitate to get in touch.