Don’t dither – if you think your child may have a specific learning difficulty, act now. Without evidence and the support of your school, the learning difficulty will not be taken into account, and your child will miss out on the help that is available.
1) Request a meeting with your child’s head teacher. Explain your reasons carefully so you will both be fully prepared for the meeting.
2) At the meeting, explain exactly what you have observed and would like investigated. If previous academic reports have highlighted a particular concern, come along armed with those. They will give your argument a boost.
3) Be prepared to listen to advice, but don’t be fobbed off. Bright children may function satisfactorily in a large class – even with a specific learning difficulty – but this isn’t reason enough to hold back on further investigation.
4) Push for a report from an Educational Psychologist. These reports are expensive (around £570) and take 3-4 hours, so you will need to convince the head that there is a real need. If you don’t manage to achieve this, ask for something in writing to demonstrate that the school accepts there is a specific learning need. And for the school’s support going forward.
5) Use the findings of the report (or the letter from your head teacher) to make a case for your child at 11+. Special arrangements are not unusual – your child may need extra time, an adult scribe or reader, to allow him or her to compete more fairly with their peers. You won’t get this if you don’t ask, and the request should come from your school.
6) Ask your child’s teacher to create a file of work that demonstrates academic ability, and discuss what this file might contain. If the case goes to a head teacher appeal, or a later parent appeal, the panel will ask for work to be assessed.
Of course, grammar schools are not for everyone, and you do need to be sure that your child will cope if he or she is awarded a place at one. That’s why it’s worth beginning your discussions with the school now and really listening to what your child’s head teacher has to say.
7) Visit as many local schools as possible, particularly the alternatives to grammar schools. You may be impressed by what you discover – there are some wonderful schools out there!