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ADD/ADHD Information - Scotland

Choosing a School

If you have a child with special educational needs (SEN), you may want extra information and help in choosing a suitable school. Transition periods such as nursery to primary school, primary to secondary, and leaving school are times when you may be involved in making decisions about the educational establishment most suited to meet your child's needs. A transition can also arise if a family moves home, particularly to another local authority area, and the child has to move to a new school.

Children with SEN are taught in many different types of setting.

These include:

a. mainstream schools (ordinary schools which cater for children in a local area);
b. mainstream schools with special units or learning bases/ centres;
c. special schools;
d. attendance at both a mainstream school and a special school, each for part of the week;
e. independent residential special schools;
f. home or hospital based education.

More information on all these types of school placements can be found in section three of The parents' guide to special educational needs. (see Further useful resources)

Placing requests

If you wish your child to attend a school other than the local one provided by the local authority, or if you disagree with the choice of school that the professionals are suggesting, then you have a right under the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 to make a placing request. This is sometimes referred to as "parental choice".

Points to consider

Choosing a school for your child can seem a very difficult decision, but it is important to take time to think about all the available options. As a parent you have a right to be involved in the decision-making process about which school your child is to attend. The local authority should be able to provide you with information on educational options available. You may wish to discuss these with your local educational psychologist. It is important you feel confident that your child will be going to a school able to meet his or her needs, where you can discuss his or her progress with school staff, and most importantly, where he or she will be happy.

Your child may have his or her own preferred choice of school. It is important that your child feels included in the decision process and accompanies you on school visits where possible.

There is currently a great deal of debate about whether mainstream schools or special schools offer a better education for children with SEN. It can be helpful to talk to other parents of children with SEN. The quality of education your child will receive in a particular school is the main thing you have to think about. However, the important point to remember is that every child is different, and the best choice for one will not necessarily suit another. The tables overleaf illustrate some of the main arguments.

Attendance at a special unit or learning base attached to a mainstream school or split placement may appear to be the perfect compromise, with the benefits attached to both special and mainstream schools. However, it is worth taking time to make sure that these options would be in your child's best interest. For example, it is advisable to find out exactly what proportion of time your child will spend in the special unit away from a mainstream class, as this can vary enormously depending on the individual school and local authority policy. A split placement may be problematic for some children who find it difficult adjusting to change and meeting many different people.

Additionally, a range of specialist resources may be provided by different agencies if your child has particular needs, eg. for those with visual or hearing impairments. These services can supplement the provision your child receives at school.

It is also important to remember that educational provision is not static. Regular reviews about your child's progress will take place, and if necessary, changes and adjustments can be made to better meet your child's SENs.

The changing role of special schools

Many local authorities in Scotland now have inclusion policies. This means that wherever possible children with SEN are educated at their local mainstream school. However, it is recognised that special schools often have a wealth of experience which can be used in the wider community, and outreach teaching support takes place in some areas. This is where an experienced teacher from a special school works in collaboration with mainstream colleagues, and gives information and advice on teaching children with a particular disability or learning difficulty.

Visiting schools

Before you make your choice, it is a good idea to make an appointment to go and visit the different schools involved. It could help to arrange this through a professional, or to take someone with you who knows your child and/or the education system well. This could be your child's home visiting teacher, educational psychologist, speech and language therapist or your health visitor.

The first place to look is often your local school. Some of the things you may wish to consider are:

1. distance from home and transport arrangements;
2. which school your other children attend (if applicable);
3. general accessibility of the school building and state of repair;
4. accessibility of toilets;
5. number of stairs;
6. class size;
7. playground security and supervision;
8. the school's SEN policy and discipline policy;
9. whether the school has any specialist resources required by your child;
10. if the school has previous experience of children with SEN.

Every school should have a handbook available for parents in which its policies, aims, rules, etc are clearly stated. The handbook can give you some information on the school's ethos and approach to SEN, as well as how children with SEN are included and provided for.

Examples of questions to ask during a visit:

1. How many children are in a typical class?
2. How big is a typical classroom? (thinking about space for specialised equipment )
3. How much help do the teachers have, eg. classroom assistants or special needs auxiliaries, and how is this help organised in the school?
4. What are the staff's skills, attitudes and approaches towards teaching children with SEN?
5. Are there any other children with SEN in the school and how are they progressing? (bearing in mind certain information about individuals may be confidential)
6. How can the school encourage social inclusion for my child?
7. How will the school organise support for learning or other extra provision (eg. speech and language therapy) to support my child?
8. What kind of personal and social development will the school provide in such things as daily living skills?
9. What are the school's arrangements for children who need medicine or medical support?
10. Will there be any problems transferring to the local secondary school?
11. What is the best way to share information about my child?
12. How will the school ensure the progress and support of my child over the long term? (eg. do they use staged intervention approaches and Individual Educational Programmes)
13. What are the school's aims and targets regarding children with SEN?

Parental participation - other sources of information

Find out more about the role of the School Board and Parent Teacher Association at the school. They can be useful communication channels between parents and schools. You could also ask the School Board or head teacher about ways in which you could participate in the life of the school and in your child's education. It is always useful to talk to other parents who have children at the school.

Arguments for and against special schools


1. small classes;
2. expertise in educating children with disabilities;
3. access to therapy/medical staff may be easier;
4. chance to make friends with children with similar disabilities;
5. specialised equipment may be more readily available;
6. more supportive environment.


1. usually not in local community - can lead to isolation from local children;
2. smaller school may mean narrower curriculum and less opportunity;
3. distance involved and transport arrangements may decrease; opportunity for parental contact and involvement;
4. school day (ie. time in the classroom) can be shorter, but the whole day (allowing for transport etc) can be long and tiring;
5. expectations of pupils' achievements can be lower.

Arguments for and against mainstream schools


1. part of local community - child has the chance to make friends with local children;
2. broader curriculum - opportunity for many varied experiences;
3. school community made aware of differences between people;
4. human rights argument - equal access for all;
5. child may have more opportunity to become independent in their learning and to have more 'real life' experiences;
6. other children provide good models of language/behaviour etc.


1. school staff may have less or no experience of particular SENs; 2. therapy and specialised equipment may not be provided on site; 3. the curriculum may not be adapted as well as it should for children with SEN - making the pace too fast or too slow; 4. large numbers of pupils can be intimidating for certain children; 5. pupils with SEN can feel isolated or 'different' in a mainstream school. - Ecosse ADDers 2005

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