Relocating a child with special educational needs

We take a look at the provision for special educational needs in international schools around the world, and suggest points for families to consider when relocating with a child who has special needs.

Below is an extract from this article published in Relocate's Guide to International Education & Schools 2017. Click below if you are interested in receiving a full printed copy of the guide.

Parents of children with special educational needs (SEN) often have to fight to get the necessary support. When moving to a new school in a new location, the process becomes even more challenging.While the UK government recognises the challenges and has updated its system of support in England, the situation for families moving overseas is more uncertain, with little regulation and consistency of integrated support in some international schools.

SEN provision in the UK

The UK government considers children to have SEN if they have a learning difficulty that calls for special educational provision to be made for them.All state schools in England are required by law to ensure that help is provided for children with SEN, and every local authority in England has a responsibility to support the children living in its area. However, the system of support available for children with SEN through local authorities is, by their own admission, complex.Teachers, health workers and social care workers often work separately to meet the particular needs of the child. Parents very often have to battle to confirm that their child even requires extra help and to be provided with a coordinated education and health plan – that is, an official record of the specific needs and requirements of the individual child.It can take years for parents to get an acceptable level of provision, so for them to up sticks and start again will be a not-insignificant task. Not surprisingly, the ability to get the right support can be a dealbreaker for these families when it comes to accepting a new assignment.In an attempt to make the process easier, the UK government has introduced a single assessment process for education, health and care, which results in what is known as the EHC Plan for children and young people (25 and under) who have SEN. An EHC Plan can only be issued after a child or young person has gone through the process of EHC Needs Assessment.[…]

Best practice

It is important that the parents of a child who is currently receiving assistance in a mainstream school have documentation of everything that is being provided, to enable the new school and authority to make similar provision. A visit and an interview with the headteacher and the special educational needs coordinator (SENCo) will also be indispensable. […]In some cases, though, a mainstream school, no matter how well intentioned, will not suit the child’s needs, and parents will need to investigate a school specialising in the provision of education and care for children with specific learning difficulties, and to cope with the particularly demanding emotional and social issues that can arise.[…]

Moving overseas

For parents of children with SEN moving overseas, the situation is even more complex. International schools are not generally bound by local or national law as regards special education and provision of learning support, but prospective schools should be able to talk through with parents their system for target setting, monitoring, and recording the progress of children with SEN.[…]Schools must now demonstrate that they can meet the needs of all students, including those with learning difficulties or special talents. Schools in the region teaching the International Baccalaureate or the English curriculum were found to have the best SEN provision.Parents will need reassurance that the school they choose will meet their child’s needs. Properly accredited international schools are a good place to start.[…] 

International developments

According to a report from the International Schools Research Group (ISC Research) in association with Next Frontier Inclusion (NFI), an increasing number of international English-medium schools are embracing the opportunities and challenges of inclusion.A survey of over 8,000 international schools around the world about their approaches to inclusion and their provision for children with learning differences found that there were encouraging signs of increasing levels of provision as a result of the demand for specialist support from expatriate families and local families who were unable to access support in their state schools.[…]No matter which school parents choose, they should ask about the individual staff who will be helping their child, and ideally meet them, in person or via video conferencing. Providing honest information about the child’s needs is also vital.[…]Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online Directory  Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit

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