“Where a pupil is receiving SEN support, schools should talk to parents regularly to set clear outcomes and review progress towards them, discuss the activities and support that will help achieve them, and identify the responsibilities of the parent, the pupil and the school. Schools should meet parents at least three times each year.”
SEN Code of Practice, 2014
How to do it
As SENDCOs, we have a duty to do many things, including meeting parents 3 times per year. But meeting parents takes a lot of time. In spite of its many benefits, finding the time is not always easy. The National SENCO Workload Survey reported such meetings as being the second most time-consuming task for SENDCOs. As you look ahead to how you want to work with parents and carers, consider some of the following as your ways to meet all parents/carers of children on the SEND register, at least 3 times per year:
a. tell parents that your door is open. It’s up to them to come, should they wish to. Doing so, you’ll see some parents a great deal, but others not at all.
b. hold coffee mornings or information events explicitly for parents of children with SEND. This way, you can provide support and guidance, as well as some peer support.
c. latch on to appointments that parents are having with teachers anyway. When particular parents come in to review a PSP, return from an exclusion or receive a Headteacher’s award, go along also. Parents can find this more convenient; it also provides joined-up thinking.
d. latch on to whole-school events, where you know parents will be attending anyway – a parents’ evening, an end of term assembly.
e. provide a weekly appointment slot (i.e. 20 minutes on a Tuesday morning, 2 slots available, bookable through your school office)
e. arrange appointments for all parents 3 times per year – a ‘SEND parent review day’ where all parents/carers get the chance to sit down with you or a colleague. Some thoughts follow on the logistics of this, and on ways to ensure that it can be a success.
SEND parent review day
It’s a rush, but you get lots of easy wins – the chance to tell a child that they need to read at home in front of their parent; the chance to request from a parent that they ensure their child has the right equipment for school, in front of their child; the chance for parent (and child, where appropriate) voice to be genuinely heard. How do you make this realistic, especially if your SEND register has 100+ names on it?
- Get administrative support wherever possible. Even if you don’t regularly have administrative support, try to source some for this purpose at least. The ‘statutory duty’ argument goes a long way with some Headteachers.
- Share out the load amongst other staff if possible – could your line manager in school take some appointments? Would you be able to share some out with support staff?
- Don’t make them long appointments in most cases. Try to stick to 20-minute appointments, in which you review and update the child’s pupil profile/1-page summary of need (having this piece of paper, though it may sound unimportant, helps to facilitate the meeting and provide focus). Children with EHCPs will of course also have separate, longer meetings through their annual review.
- Use parents’ evenings as the middle time you meet with parents.
- Keep meetings very focused – a chance to set/review specific targets. Know your own limitations and don’t try and solve every problem the parent may have – use your local SENDIASS; know contact details for the local Housing Association, for early help services in your Local Authority, for Citizens Advice, for free legal advice.
- Although keeping the meeting focused (i.e. around strategies and targets for the year), make sure you are genuinely listening to the parent in those meetings.
- Make sure you fit in time to be giving positive messages to parents about their child’s progress.
- Book an appointment with the parent even if there is nothing in particular to report. Parents will mostly be happy having a meeting that doesn’t have any negative headlines!
- Be careful not to define the child by their SEND. For a parent, their child’s SEND may be something they disagree with, or deny, or are fearful of, or saddened by; it will certainly only be a description of one aspect of them, rather than the thing that defines them. Show that you know there is much more to their child than a particular area of deficit.
Every year, I’m aware of the need to improve parent/carer partnership further. In a busy school, it’s easy to forget to make time for the people who aren’t normally in front of you in the way your pupils are. But by making a plan for the year, it can help you to ensure that parent meetings do happen, that you meet your statutory duty and that these vital stakeholders help you to do right by the children on your SEND register.