Attend Open Evenings and arrange a visit to the schools you are considering: try to visit during a normal school day. These visits are usually held in the summer or autumn terms just before applications are completed. You can find out about them by contacting the school directly or you may see an insert in the local press.
You may wish to consider taking your child on a school visit or to an Open Evening, this is a decision that only you can make as children will vary in their reaction to this. A child who stammers who may worry about changes may benefit from being involved, particularly if he has never been in a primary school before.
Some ideas to explore with staff on your visit to the school
Many things go together to make a good school with happy pupils. High staff turnover may mean the school is unsettled. Very low turnover may mean the staff are happy but the school could be set in its ways. Small things such as friends being put in the same class can make a big difference to children. Good leadership generally means a good school.
Exercise is important for all children but are less 'sporty' children encouraged? Is there opportunity for children to take part in performances and would your child be encouraged to do this if he wished, even when stammering?
Schools can have healthy eating policies - has this school one? Does the food in the dining room look fresh and appetising?
Books and work sheets can be non-sexist and non-racist. Would the school be prepared to include a reading book for children that had a character who stammered if you recommended it? Is this important to you?
Is playtime/break seen positively? Is there a range of activities going on or does one activity dominate? Have playground supervisors had training, particularly in managing episodes of teasing and bullying? Does the school offer an extended day e.g. an after-school club? How are children's views taken into account? Is there a school council?
Some parents and education experts have different views about education. Teaching children in mixed ability classes is the norm in state primary schools but academic selection and the value of homework are all issues that people feel strongly about.
Selection is not allowed in state primary schools but in the private sector there may be an entrance test and some setting according to ability. Which would you prefer for your child? Does the school set homework? How much do children generally have to do each day? Does the school have a homework policy? Do parents have any say in how the school is run? What does the school do to involve and inform parents? How does the school report to parents?
Use your eyes and ears. Is the school inclusive, welcoming and well cared for? Do staff and pupils seem happy? Evidence of an exciting approach to language should be clear as you go into classrooms, look for effective displays of books, a quiet area where children can read and work and that indefinable sense of quiet purpose and co-operation that will provide an environment which is encouraging and yet offers challenge. Notice how staff speak to children during lessons, do the children seem attentive and responsive; do staff listen with interest to the children's answers?
Are you encouraged to see the whole school? Check the library. Is it well used and have a wide range of books? Are the cloakrooms and toilets clean and well maintained? Check the walls and notice boards. Is pupils' work on display? Are there notices for parents? Check the school gate and the playground. Don't be put off by large groups of older pupils - remember your child will be one soon!
Note how secure the building is as you arrive and leave, you should be reassured by the entry procedures.
Support for your child's stammer
You need to discover when visiting the school exactly how staff will offer support for your child's speech. The best teacher to meet with about this is the teacher responsible for special educational needs (SENCO). Discuss the support for your child's speech. Ask about the staff's experience/knowledge/ training in stammering, links with therapists and whether there will be a key staff member, such as the class teacher, to whom you can communicate your worries and who will contact you. If the school has a child who stammers on the roll you could ask if that parent could be contacted to give permission for you to talk with them about the support their child has received. Check if your child will be able to go to a particular adult if there is a problem: in primary schools this is likely to be the class teacher or the classroom assistant. Many schools have home-partnership agreements and you should enquire about this.
Children who stammer need to feel safe from bullying, and to be supported by staff and pupils so that their achievements are appreciated. Enquire about the policy on bullying and how it is dealt with. Make sure you are happy with the approach adopted. Look for evidence of the recognition of achievement in wall displays and for a sense of inclusion.
If staff have no knowledge of stammering there is no need to be alarmed. You should discuss with them how they could access this information from the therapist, and the BSA. Simple strategies to meet your child's needs in the classroom are available at BSA:Education.
Add any points you think important to your list. Then draw up your final list of schools for your application form.
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Text for this page: Step 4: Visit the schools you are considering and get the whole picture
Text for this whole section: Choosing a primary school