Unraveling the challenges of annual reviews with scant information: a guide to finding clarity and making informed decisions in the corporate maze.

Coping with the Challenges of the Parent-School Information Vacuum: SEND

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The parent’s job is to transport them to the school gate

If you are reading this, there is a good chance, almost certain chance, that you have at some time in the past had an education experience, good, bad or neutral. Thinking back in your mind’s eye, ask yourself this question, how involved were your parents, did they have an hour-by-hour breakdown, and when things were not working well how involved did they get, and was it effective?

In my day, there was a general feeling, that complaining against any establishment, not just schools, was in the main, fruitless. This supports the idea that the British, tend to endure inconvenience, discomfort, or unfair situations without protest or complaint;

Whether this analogy is even remotely reflective of the country, I am not sure, was this just my experience? or was there not such a a high demand for parents to get involved (do comment below).

Fast forward, to where you are today, making another leap of faith that you are reading this as a parent, guardian, caregiver, or relative….. of a child with Special Education Needs.

Your child goes to school equipped with a contract, called an EHCP. The process behind it may be frayed, but that is a different question. Remember the time, effort, battles and tears you spent on securing this ‘contract’ document.

To do your job well as a parent you need to understand 3 fundamental things, are the needs identified correct and are the provisions working, what is working well, what is not working, and what needs to be improved? It does not get simpler than this.

Why is it so difficult to get a contextual answer (with evidence) to these questions?

The Impact of a Lack of Information

The EHCP process provides an update on progress in the form of the Annual Review, a process that is held annually between all stakeholders, including the Local Authority if they choose to attend. Here is one parent’s view on the Annual Review:

“I found our Annual Review stressful and fustrating, we spoke to one set of parents who had theirs at about the same time, and they where quite boyant and pleased about the progress their child had achieved, but I could not help but think, what evidence do you have for any of that. I think I was just worn down by the whole thing. We battled for 2 years to get the plan with the same school who now turned from advising we do not need one, to how well it is doing. Others had a different view”

Parent view on the Annual Review

An evidence-based process requires evidence, it is the fuel that provides all the moving parts the ability to move forward. A common theme we see over the stress of the Annual Review is the lack of evidence anyone ‘does not’ bring to the table. As one of our inputters illustrates

“One of the acadmic provisions looked at word building, not just spelling. On paper you could imagine building a quite neat forward thinking learning model, that nests new content as the curicculum progressed. What did we get implemented? nobody knows, I suggested the learning style of repetition, at least, write these words out, print them, construct sentences. What we where told is the provision was delivered verbally, as and when new content arrived. How is that working? In the same way the provision was delivered, a verbal opinion was provided,of it working well – there was nothing to look at the end of a 35 week academic year.

I am not a teacher, but you sit there and think, how does that benefit anybody, if the Ed Psych spent time defining a specific provision, that too me is an indicator, its a gap and requires more than what is happening to the other 30 in the class.

Not even a blink of agreement that our point had any value – was this just us? never shared a similiar conversation with the other parents with plans”

Send Parent on the lack of information – Annual Review

Bridging the Gap and Stress Strategies at the Annual Review

One of the areas we work on is mapping out what our clients do and do not have control over. Stress and Anxiety often become unmanaged when we continue to ruminate over areas of our lives we have very little control over. Real Problems need real solutions.

To do this in session we would begin the process of mapping out our education map the touch points, and trigger points and begin the process of identifying areas of control. The next phase is then to better manage the areas we do have control over and problem-solve the areas we have little control or perceived lack of influence over.

We worked with one challenged parent who would engage with their school, with a shopping list of issues, we explored how the approach was working. Using the parent’s vocabulary, we identified the school experience was similar to trying to hang a picture on a water slide.

So in session, I said, this is great, you put all this effort in, curate your shopping list and get nothing in return, so if you did nothing, found a hobby and did something else, you would achieve the same outcome, that is progress! Then the problem-solving began! – If this is something that resonates with you please reach out using the contacts on the page.

Navigating Forward

Acknowledging the transactional nature of the school-to-parent relationship is essential to move forward. Parents, armed with better support and information, can find more space for self-care and advocacy.

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