A We Are Family member, and single adopter, shares her journey supporting her daughter to start primary school, the challenges, achievements, and lessons learned along the way.
Entering the adoption process was, I thought, scary, but I came through it as an adoptive mother to my child, embarking on a new life together…but entering the education system, is something I found quite unexpectedly scary. My thoughts at the time were: I have never had any real issues in school so why would it be any different for my child!
My child started reception as a young 4-year-old, the first term going quite well they tell me. The next term was during lockdown and despite me trying to get the school to keep my child in school as I was concerned for further development delay, they felt that due to her progress so far this would not be an issue. They told me there were other children with greater needs than my child. What could I say to that?
So, we embarked on the next few months of home learning, a challenge indeed but we came through it. Apart from the little thing of having to work full time as well as home school, it was an enjoyable experience to be able to see firsthand what my child was being taught at school and her development.
In the last term back to school to finish up her reception year, additional speech and language support was offered to children. As we had used the services previously when my child was two, I thought it would be good to have a check that her development was on track. To be honest I really didn’t think anything would be identified as I had seen her development from being a non-communicative child to one that has always got something to say! I knew she engaged with other children whenever we went out, so no issues there, or so I thought.
No date was given for the speech and language assessment until one day I received this seemingly random report from them that talked about my child’s development delay which clearly meant that she had already been seen by them. I probably would not have been so taken aback had I had a conversation with someone beforehand. I stewed about the contents over the weekend, discussed it with my family and come Monday morning as I dropped off my child, I thought “I need to raise this with my child’s teacher”. Which I did and, as I had been told I could have a meeting with the specialist, this is what I requested, as I didn’t really agree with the report.
To my total surprise the teacher said, “oh this wasn’t the only thing there were others” and started to give examples: her writing abilities, her balance, paying attention… All this at the door of the classroom. I have to say I was totally taken aback but we agreed a further discussion was needed which would include the SENCO lead.
I remember walking home and feeling so upset that I had let my child down so badly that she was behind on things. By the time I got home I was really upset and had to have a WhatsApp conference with my family to get some sense out of this.
To hear the view that your child cannot talk and barely gives two-word answers was so upsetting, particularly as that did not resonate with my child’s behavior at home and with family.
I was able to have a very productive conversation with the speech and language therapist and agreed to send videos of my child in ‘action’. I also made the point that my child’s shyness should not be seen as ‘she cannot do something’, which they agreed with. I also had a very productive meeting with my child’s teacher and the SENCO lead, but I was compelled to make the point, had my child been allowed to attend school during lockdown restrictions as I wanted, perhaps we would not be in the situation we were in! To that they respectfully declined to comment.
I could not understand what had happened as in term 1 she was doing well and in term 3 things had changed. The meeting brought out that more communication was needed but with Covid communication styles had changed and there seemed to be no allowance for home working versus the general standards expected of children.
The interesting thing was that when her end of year report came home, the way in which the teacher had identified that there were issues was not reflected in the way the report was written, which I found curious.
This experience has changed my perspective on school education and I have learned some valuable lessons namely:-
- My child is only just entering the education system and whilst she is at this school, we need to work together in a productive way.
- I need to be my child’s strongest advocate ensuring I speak up if I feel something’s not quite right.
- I have realised that I need to up my game when it comes to my child’s education. I need to understand how my child is being measured, what is being taken into account, and what the expectations are for each year are just some of the things to think about.
- I’ve been told that it was good the school picked up on some things early on so that we can put interventions in place, and we can understand the areas of development.
I am still a little wary and remain unhappy about the way things unfolded last school year. My child has a new teacher who seems very nice- not that her other teacher wasn’t- but I just want information to be communicated to me in the right way. Parents evening is coming up by phone so we shall see!
Author: We Are Family member