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Special Education: Frequently Asked Questions

Who are the teachers in the SEN Unit?
The SEN Unit is staffed by a team who have specialist training across fields of Educational Psychology, English as an Additional language and learning difficulties. Mrs Michel is the Co-ordinator (SENCo), and together with Mrs Cane and Mrs Heard we work across the Upper and Lower School.

How does my child get assessed?
Teachers make careful observations of all children in their class. If there are issues of concern, teachers first raise these issues with parents. Permission is then sought from parents for the student to be assessed by the SEN unit. The teacher gathers work samples, completes a referral form and discusses the issues with the SENCo. A series of assessment sessions are then arranged during the school day.

What assessments are done?
All assessment undertaken at the SJH school use materials that are approved for use in the educational setting. Should we require assessment that can only be undertaken by a specialist (such as an educational or child psychologist, audiologist, speech therapist, opthomologist etc), we first discuss this with parents and provide a range of contact details where possible. We seek assessment by a practitioner who speaks the childís first language where possible. These professionals can be contacted privately or sometimes through the National Health Service (usually Italian only). We have some links with English speaking practitioners in Milan.

How long does assessment take?
This is an individual process, usually taking between 1-4 lessons and is conducted during the school day. This usually occurs over a 1-2 week period. Where external assessment has been requested time can vary.

Will parents get results?
Once testing is completed and an assessment report is written, parents are then contacted for an appointment. This appointment usually takes place with the parent/s, SENCo and the class teacher and/or Head teacher in the Lower School, and with the parent/s, SENCo, Key Stage Co-ordinator and/or subject teacher and often with the student themselves in the Upper School. Where an external referral is recommended a written report will be provided.

Can I contact the SEN Unit directly for an assesment?
In our experience we have found it more productive for parents to first discuss their concerns with the subject or class teachers or Key Stage co-ordinators, who then gather relevant information and discuss this with the SENCo where appropriate.

What kinds of issues does the SEN Unit work with?
A large part of our work in the Lower School is working with students who do not have a diagnosed learning disorder. These students may be experiencing a literacy difficulty (reading, writing, spelling), a numeracy difficulty (writing, organisation, sequencing , memory), behavioural issue (concentration, organisation) physical issue (hearing, sight, co-ordination) which is leading them to experience difficulty in the classroom setting and as a consequence may have implications for them to reach age appropriate levels.

Some students will have a diagnosis of a Specific Learning Disorder (dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, specific visual, hearing or physical difficulties, communication disorders or attention related difficulty). Formal diagnosis of a Specific Learning Disorder is undertaken by a professional external to the school.

Some issues will coincide with EAL issues and in this case we work closely with the EAL unit to understand how to best manage the difficulties.

What kinds of issues can't the SEN Unit cater for?
Students offered a place at the SJH School should be able to access the majority of the mainstream programme. We are unfortunately unable to offer an alternative curriculum programme for students. This is due to staffing and space limitations. We aim to provide the maximum support possible across the school, taking staffing, space and studentís timetabling into account.

Should I tell the school about any previous difficulties or diagnoses my child has?
Our aim is to provide the best learning opportunities for your child. If you have information that may have an impact on your childís learning, it is integral that you share this with us. Any issue that has the potential to affect learning:- specific childhood diseases, late language acquisition, visual or hearing disturbance, physical or learning difficulties, or any other issue that you have sought professional advice or assessment for, should be disclosed initially on the SJH school application form or to the class teacher should issues arise at a later point.

How should I explain assessment to my child?
Children are very used to the Learning Support Department (SEN and EAL) teachers coming into the classroom and working with individuals or groups of children. You could ask your child if there is anything that they have been finding a little difficult at school. Children are very astute and are usually easily able to tell you if there is something difficult for them. You can then tell them that their teacher has also noticed this and wants to find out more to help them.

We match the explanation to the studentís age and students in the upper school are usually able to have a very direct explanation for why assessment is occurring.

Iím worried about my child feeling different if they require SEN support
We aim to be very discrete in working with all our students and it is common practice that most classes have students working either with SEN or EAL teachers. We explain to students that we all have different learning needs and help is available. Our experience tells us that students generally enjoy working in small groups in class or out of class because the individualised attention enables them to work to the best of their ability. However, if this becomes an issue affecting learning in a negative way, we can discuss alternative options.

How long will support last?
This very much depends on the child. Regular assessments are carried out throughout the year to track progress. Children all have different rates of learning.

When will I receive reports about my childís progress?
SEN reports are given to parents at the same time as other reports. Parent/Teacher meetings can be arranged with SEN teachers during parents evenings. However you may contact the school via the class teacher to make an appointment at any other time. It is usually beneficial to have the class/subject teacher or Key Stage Co-ordinator present so a holistic approach can be utilised.

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