Starting primary school is an exciting milestone for all children and children with Down’s syndrome are no exception. Importantly, although your child will take longer to learn, with the right support, high expectations and additional time they will reach their potential. This is our message as a charity and we work hard to promote genuine inclusion and to support families and schools and ensure equal opportunities for children with Down’s syndrome.
Inclusion-wherever possible your child should be included in ALL learning and social activities throughout the school day. The curriculum should be adapted to take account of your child’s individual needs, but this should not involve spending long periods of time working one-to-one with an adult, at the expense of learning alongside their peers.
Most of our member children attend their local mainstream primary school along with brothers and sisters and other children from their community. Some children with more complex additional needs go to a special school. Research consistently shows that children who attend mainstream primary school are at an educational advantage and make greater progress across all areas. However, it is important that whatever decision you make is based on the needs and circumstances of your child. Whatever setting you decide upon; your child has the same rights as any other child to access a full and inclusive curriculum.
Preparing to start school – Tips for Parents
Children with Down’s syndrome benefit most from being in familiar surroundings and understanding routines. UpsnDowns parents have found the following strategies helpful in preparing their child for school.
- You know your child best! In the summer term, before your child starts school, arrange a meeting with the SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator), Class teacher and Learning Support Assistant (LSA) which will help you find out more about how the school will make provision to support your child.
- Introductory Visits for your child (ideally a few). This could be with you as parents or with nursery / pre-school or portage workers. During these visits, arrange for your child to meet their new Class Teacher and Learning Support Assistant (LSA) or TA (Teaching Assistant) and to experience their new classroom environment.
- Transition Book - Before the summer holidays, ask the school to email photos of the buildings and rooms, the staff and the outside area. This will enable you to talk about it together during the holidays. There are also apps such as ‘Special Stories’ which enable you to make electronic versions using photos CLICK HERE
We have prepared a document of ‘Helpful Questions’ for you to take with you when visiting schools. Click the icon below to download a list of the questions.
Special Educational Needs and Funding
The majority of children with Down’s syndrome will need more help than is normally available from the school’s existing resources. Education, Health and Care Plans (or EHCs) replaced Statements of Special Educational Needs in 2014. There is lots of information about how to apply to be assessed for an EHC on the local authority website CLICK HERE
Schools apply for ‘High Needs Funding’ to support children with Special Educational Needs. However, they must meet the first £8000 from their ‘Notional SEN budget’ (this is the money schools are allocated to support all children with SEN in the school). The DSA provides further useful information about Special Educational Needs, funding and the Law CLICK HERE
Teachers receive only minimal hours of formal training in Special Educational Needs and may not have taught a child with Down’s syndrome or know much about the condition. Even if they have taught a child with Down’s syndrome before, it is important that they recognise that all children are unique individuals and there’s no ‘one size fits all’.
As parents we are advocates for our children and therefore have an important role in educating schools. UpsnDowns runs a variety of educational training for teachers and Learning Support Assistants to support them in meeting the needs of our member children. Courses include Speech and Language, Occupational Therapy, managing sensory needs, supporting children with literacy and numeracy and courses about behaviour and social needs. We also offer match funding for schools to purchase equipment or resources.
Practical Strategies to support your child at Primary School
Working with the school as a home / school partnership has been a winning formula for many of our families.
Home School Communication Book – establish a daily report about what your child has learned and achieved. Use this as a two-way communication tool and write in it to inform school about home, appointments or special events in the life of your child.
Visual Timetable – research suggests this is an effective way to help your child to understand routines and transition between different activities.
Photos – emailing photos to school is a great way of providing a resource to help start a conversation or, as literacy skills develop, it can be used to complete a piece of writing. Importantly, photos are a communication tool for children who have speech and language difficulties.
Numicon – this is a multi-sensory approach to teaching maths developed by experts in the classroom. It is designed to help children understand connections between numbers. Find out if your school uses this.
Training Opportunities– As parents you will receive information about forthcoming UpsnDowns Education Training. Actively encourage your school to attend this training. Also make them aware of online training courses through Downs Syndrome Education (DSE) https://www.dseinternational.org/en-gb/
Organise a fundraising event- Raise awareness and funds in your local community through your primary school – maybe to raise awareness about World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) which is celebrated on 21st March each year.