For Families and Carers : Looking at Secondary Schools

Looking at secondary schools – some questions to ask

Mainstream schools


  • What is the anti-bullying policy like?
  • Do they promote positive images of children who are different?
  • Does the school genuinely care about pupils of all abilities or only about the high fliers?


  • Environment – how is the space arranged – e.g. colour coded areas?
  • How many children are in the school?
  • How easy is it to find your way around the site? Is it safe and secure?
  • How far away is the school? How would your child get there?

Social and communication

  • Will there be familiar faces from primary school?
  • How does the school support friendships and social interaction?
  • What happens at break and lunchtimes? Are there any lunchtime clubs?
  • Would the new school work with primary school to settle the child in?
  • Communication with parents – how is this done?

Teaching and learning

  • How do they keep records – what kind of assessment do they use? How is this differentiated?
  • Are children taught in mixed ability groups or in sets? If in sets, how are these organised?
  • Speech and language therapy – is this available and how is it delivered?
  • How do they differentiate the curriculum – are subject teachers involved or is it left to TAs?
  • How do they use TAs? How many – are they subject based or allocated per child?
  • Is there a separate learning support unit? Do children with SEN spend all their time in mainstream classes or are they withdrawn for a large part of the day?
  • Is there an alternative curriculum at KS4 for young people who can’t manage GCSEs?
  • How much homework is there? Is this differentiated?
  • Is homework available on the school’s website?
  • Experience of children with Down’s syndrome / willingness to undertake training?

Special schools

  • What is the specialism of the school? Is it set up for particular types of SEN?
  • What sort of peer group would there be? This is important in terms of social interaction.
  • Is the curriculum at the right level? Can young people gain qualifications?
  • Does the school support alternative communication methods?
  • Are there opportunities for practical and vocational learning?
  • Are there good role models for behaviour?
  • Are therapies and medical support available at the school?
  • Sensory needs (hearing and vision) – is the environment suitable? Are there specialist teachers at the school?
  • Transport – is this provided for all children?

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