Preparing for a Meeting about Your Child
You may be asked to attend a meeting or you may request a meeting be held about your child. This could be for a variety of reasons such as:
- There are concerns about your child’s progress
- There are concerns about how any Special Educational Needs your child may have, are being met
- As part of the EHC process, there are requirements to attend meetings so you as a parent/ carer and your child/young person can make sure your wishes and feelings are heard and acted upon.
- There are concerns about your child’s behaviour, how it is being managed and the impact on their education
The best outcome for your child is achieved where you, school and other agencies can work together.
Before the meeting
This is an essential part of ensuring a successful meeting.
- Why has the meeting been called? Read or distribute an agenda and other papers. If the meeting is part of the EHC process, the Local Authority should ensure all paperwork has been received by those attending.
- Understand the situation – be informed. Collect in advance, all the necessary information. This may be a time consuming process but it will enable you to take part fully and confidently in any discussions.
- View it as solving a problem – break down the problem into small parts so you have a greater understanding of exactly what you want.
- Have 2 sheets of paper: On one, have the points you want to make with any evidence you may have to support your view (e.g. examples of your child’s behaviour at home, letters from other professionals such as a doctor, or details from reviews of your child’s Individual Education Plans). This is all the information you want to PUT INTO the meeting. On the second, write down questions that you would like to ask. This is the information that you want to TAKE AWAY from the meeting.
- Take someone with you for support and ask him or her to take notes. It’s hard to speak and listen and then be able to recall all the details of a conversation. Having a note taker will enable you to participate fully and not have to worry about writing it down.
- How does your child feel about the situation? Does he or she want to attend the meeting? It may be a good idea for them to attend just part of the meeting. If not, can you record their feelings and take them to the meeting? Evidence is much better in your child’s own words, but if they are unable to write then someone can scribe for them. Even a drawing can be an important part of the discussion.
During the Meeting
- Be realistic - remember, you could be frustrated at something that the school and/or the LA have no control over.
- Remember that everyone at the meeting is there to support your child.
- Stay focused on the needs and provision for your child or young person.
- Go through your list of points and questions with the school. Tick them off as they are dealt with. Begin with points which you think will be easily agreed. If you do not reach agreement on some points, it may be worth coming back to them at the end.
- Be prepared to negotiate.
- Allow yourself to be engaged in active listening. Be clear on what is being said.
- Allow yourself time to pause and take deep breaths. If you get upset, ask for a “time out” whilst you leave the room and compose yourself before returning to the meeting.
- Before you finish, check if you have covered all the points and questions made in your notes?
- Ensure that any agreed actions are recorded with who is responsible for carrying them out. How will these be reviewed?
After the Meeting
- Talk to your child; how did he or she feel about it?
- Ask for a copy of the meeting notes. If you disagree with them then make your case to the author of the notes. If you do not do this it will be assumed that you agree with them.
- If no notes are taken you could write a letter or email of thanks with any agreed actions included. This ensures that there is a written record of the meeting outcomes.
- Follow up on agreed actions if necessary.
- Start to note how the agreed strategies are effective in supporting your child.
- Keep all paperwork in a file so you can refer to it at a later stage if necessary.
Issues to consider when talking to your child about attending a school meeting
- Always remain positive.
- Keep your child informed.
- Is your child aware of his/her diagnosis? Talk to your child about it honestly and appropriately for his/her age and ability.
- Use clear words.
- How does your child feel about the issues? Listen and consider his/her feelings.
- What type of support would your child like to see in school and at home? How much support is enough support?
- Would your child like an opportunity to discuss this at school?
- Talk to your child about what will happen at the meeting. Discuss who will be there and their roles.
- Try to be creative about how your child could access the meeting. Maybe he/she could attend for the first or last 10 minutes only?
- Could your child put his/her thoughts into writing?
- Do not force your child to do anything he/she is not secure doing.
- Enable your child to stay in the process as best as he/she can and still be comfortable.
10 tips for a successful meeting
- Do the preparation. Be informed and well prepared with up to date information
- Ensure that the right people attend.
- Distribute (or receive) an agenda in advance.
- Listen to what is being said and if necessary confirm your understanding by asking questions. It’s OK to say you don’t understand and ask for someone to explain in a different way.
- Respect others at the meeting. They may not agree with you but people listen when spoken to respectfully. Acknowledge support already given.
- If reports are produced at the meeting ask for time to read them through thoroughly.
- Meetings can be stressful and in this situation it is easy for you not to “hear” everything. This means that you may misunderstand what has been said. If you take someone with you this will give you an opportunity to confirm with them after the meeting what had been said.
- Get an agreement on who will do what agreed actions and by when.
- Be confident – remember you know your child best.