For Families and Carers : Education FAQs

Please click on a FAQ below to expand.

For more information, see our families and carers section.

Early Years

1. How do I get the right support?

Local Education Authorities recognise that most children with Down’s syndrome will need a Statement of Educational Needs and usually readily agree to start an assessment early. This will identify the educational needs your child has and the extra provision required to meet them. You are also entitled to request an assessment but the authority is not obliged to carry one out until your child is two. Find out more about statements.

2. What is available?

By three years of age, your child should be able to join a playgroup, preschool or kindergarten. Children often benefit greatly from the role models for social behaviour, play and language provided by other children. Many children with Down’s syndrome benefit from extra support in mainstream settings, but some will be able to cope without extra help. You may prefer your child to attend a specialist nursery or pre-school which offers support to children with additional needs. Find out about the early education settings available in your area and if possible make some visits before making your final decision. The publication Early Support Information for Parents Down’s Syndrome provides further information about these issues.

3. What school is best?

Every child with Down’s syndrome is different and will therefore have their own educational needs. A placement that is right for one child will not necessarily suit another Some children with Down’s syndrome thrive in inclusive settings. However other children might do better in a special school setting. It is all about finding a place that suits your child and remembering that as they develop their needs change and so the placement should to be kept under review. The publication Early Support Information for Parents Down’s Syndrome provides further information about these issues.

If you choose mainstream education for your child, Including Pupils with Down’s Syndrome, offers information and useful strategies for teachers to support the inclusion of your child at primary school.

Primary

1. Can I have my child put in the year below their age group at school?

Will this benefit my child?

You may feel that as your child with Down’s syndrome is functioning at the developmental level of a younger child, they would be better off in the school year below their chronological age.

There is no research evidence to recommend this as a general practice. Schools are used to catering for children with a wide range of abilities and difficulties and teachers must adapt what they teach to the needs of all children. As children with Down’s syndrome have a particular learning profile, these changes to the curriculum will need to be made whatever year group they are in. Children with Down’s syndrome should normally be in the class with their age peers and be able to move up the school along with their classmates.

In a few cases however, it may be to your child’s advantage to start school a little later or to repeat a year early in their education. This might be for instance if they have missed a lot of education because of health problems or have a late summer birthday, making them the youngest in the year.

Can I insist on a younger year group?

You do not have a legal right for your child to be placed out of year group. It is up to the headteacher how the classes in the school are arranged and she may be willing or not to put your child in the year below. However, informal arrangements can sometimes cause problems at secondary transfer, as children may be expected to skip a year at this point to put them in the correct class.

What about my child’s statement?

If there is agreement from professionals that your child needs to be in a different year group, you should ensure this is written into your child’s statement. A possible wording might be ‘Mary will be educated with the age cohort one year below her chronological age for the whole of her school career’. Having this in part 3 of your child’s statement is the only way that you can guarantee that it will happen.

2. Communicating with your child’s teacher?

Although many parents will come into school regularly, a home school communication book is an ideal way of communicating daily news. This is invaluable when the child’s own speech and language skills are not sufficiently developed for them to convey their news clearly.It is an opportunity for you to find out about your child’s day and also record anything you feel important for the teaching staff to know. A conversation diary is another strategy to improve communication. This is is a personal book that the child helps to create each day, with a sentence written in the first person, illustrated with a sketch or photograph, about something the child enjoyed. The idea should come from the child. The sentence(s) should be written in black felt pen and in a natural, grammatically correct style. The child can be helped to read this back, in imitation, at home. The conversation diary can also be used to share information from home to school. The diary helps children to share their lives with others and also helps model language for communication and promote literacy. Further ideas are available in our Education Support Pack for Schools – Primary.

3. Should my child’s teacher and assistant be experienced in teaching children with Down’s syndrome?

It is not necessary for your child’s teacher or assistant to have previous experience of teaching or supporting a child with Down’s syndrome. All children who have Down’s syndrome are different and most of their needs are the same as those of other children. Teachers and assistants will need to know about the learning profile (pattern of strengths and weaknesses) of a child with Down’s syndrome. Information and training will help staff feel confident to teach children with Down’s syndrome of all abilities in their classrooms. One day of training and information published by the DSA will get them started.

4. My 5 year old is lashing out and kicking other children at school. What can I do about this?

This may feel terrible, but remember that all children have ups and downs in their school life. Most behaviour problems can be addressed by parents and school working together, calling in outside help if necessary.What’s behind the behaviour?

Behaviour problems as such are not an intrinsic part of Down’s Syndrome. Difficult behaviour normally occurs for a reason, for instance:

• Immaturity – your child is showing behaviour that is typical of a younger child

• Poor communication skills – maybe your child is not able to tell another child to go away or that they want to join in.

• Frustration because of increased demands at school

Work with the school

Ask for a meeting at school with all the people who work with your child: Class teacher, Teaching Assistants, SENCO. Encourage the school to look what is behind the behaviour rather than fixating on what your child did. They should carry out an ABC analysis to look at

• Antecedents – what was going on before the behaviour happened? Who was there? When and where did it happen?

• Behaviour – what did the child do?

• Consequences – what happened immediately after the behaviour? Is your child getting something out of the behaviour such as escaping from an activity they find difficult?

This should build up a pattern to help you and the school understand what is going on.

Behaviour plan

Ask the school to draw up a behaviour plan in and set a date for review. The plan should contain strategies and be clear about who is responsible. Strategies should be agreed with you in advance and might include social stories or visual reminders for good behaviour. Don’t forget to include lots of rewards for when your child gets it right!

Still struggling?

If the behaviour does not improve, suggest the school asks for support from outside agencies. This might be an advisory teacher, a behaviour support teacher or the educational psychologist.

Our Education support pack – primary has practical strategies on behaviour management for schools.

You can also speak to one of the DSA information officers on our helpline 0333 1212 300.

5. Is my child getting the right support?

If you are concerned your child needs more support at school and they do not have a Statement of Educational Needs, talk to your child’s school about starting the assessment process. This will identify the educational needs your child has and the extra provision required to meet them. Find out more about statements.

If your child already has a Statement and you are concerned they are not getting the special educational provision specified in Part 3 of their statement then please contact our Information Team on 0333 1212 300, who will be able to advise you of the action to take.

6. What are P levels?

The P scales are a set of descriptions for recording the achievement of pupils who are working towards the first level of the National Curriculum (Level 1).

Schools use P scales to help measure children’s progress in learning from Year 1 onwards.

They are split into eight different levels with P1 being the lowest and P8 the highest. Level P8 leads into National Curriculum level 1. Levels P1 to P3 are not subject-specific as they describe early learning and conceptual development.

There are P scales for each national curriculum subject and for personal, social and health education (PSHE), and religious education (RE). Further information on P levels can be found in our publication Including Pupils with Down’s Syndrome, Primary.

7. What makes a good transition?

Our publication Including Pupils with Down’s Syndrome, Primary has some important actions to include in a transition plan for secondary school. A programme of visits will be central to a successful move as many children with Down’s syndrome are thrown by change and find it difficult to adapt to new surroundings without extra help and preparation.

8. How do I choose the right secondary school?

Discuss the choice of secondary school at the annual review. Seek advice from all the professionals involved in the care of your child as their views will help inform your choice. If the Year 5 review meeting is held early in the academic year it will give you the time to investigate local provision, identify a suitable school and put a transition plan in place between the schools involved.

Secondary

1. I have been informed that my child has some challenging behaviours at school. What should I do?

Working in partnership with your school is the best way to address behaviour issues. Your school will need to collect information about the circumstances of the behaviour – what was happening before, what the behaviour was, what happened immediately afterwards, and to share this with you. This type of recording is usually done on an ABC form, where A stands for Antecedent, B for Behaviour and C for consequence. Schools often have their own form. This information is then analysed and will help everyone to understand more about why the behaviour is happening and to find solutions. There is a process for doing this, with a small team of people who know the child well. Parents should always be asked to join that team, and to work in partnership with the school. Together, they create a behaviour plan, which is then reviewed and updated as necessary. If you would like further advice regarding behaviour please ring our Helpline on 0333 1212 300.

2. What do I do about homework?

Difficulties with language and short-term memory can make remembering what is expected for homework particularly difficult for children with Down’s syndrome. It can also take a pupil with Down’s syndrome much longer to complete homework than their peers. It is important that all homework is suitably differentiated in terms of content and time. Including Pupils with Down’s Syndrome, Secondary provides useful strategies to ensure homework is a positive and valuable experience for everyone.

3. What is the Transition Plan?

If you child has a statement of special educational needs, the annual review in Year 9 is particularly important in preparing for their move to further education and adult life. This review can involve all those people and organisations who will play a major role when your child leaves school. This will include your social worker who will begin to liaise with your local Adult Learning Disability Team. If you do not receive social care services but feel this might be necessary in the future, now is the time to alert the Adult Learning Disability Team for your area so they can be involved in future planning. This review will not only consider your child’s targets and statement but also discuss a Transition Plan for your child’s move to adult life. The head teacher must make sure that the Transition Plan is completed after the meeting. The Transition Plan can be discussed and changed, if necessary at later review meetings. You and your child will be asked to help with this Plan. Find out more about transition.

Further Education

1. What happens after my child has left school?

Each year, we hear of more accounts of young adults with Down’s syndrome who are working, living independently and gaining more experiences and qualifications. Many attend a local college course at 16 or 19, depending when their statement ceases. If local colleges cannot offer the right support or course then there is the possibility of a specialist residential college placement. The case for such a placement must be very strong as the cost is high, our Information Team will be able to discuss this with you and you can contact them by calling the Helpline on 0333 1212 300.

Most people with Down’s syndrome receive a service from their local Adult Learning Disability Team. The level of service is determined by the assessed need our and Information Officers can provide further details about this. In addition some young people move onto voluntary and paid work. The DSA’s new Employment Project hopes to improve better access to mainstream employment and other meaningful activities for people with Down’s syndrome. Our Workfit website will tell you more about how to become involved.

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