Approaching a school for the first time

“We did a lot of research and went to workshops. We also had friends who had mainstreamed their child. We already had our older daughter in the school and they were very welcoming to us.”

Khalilah, mother of Ahmed

When making a decision about which school might best suit your child and family, visiting some schools is an important step in the process.

Allow plenty of time for making decisions, completing any applications and planning.

As a general rule: schools should be approached 2 years prior to when your child would start if the child has a physical disability and 12 months prior for all other disabilities.

How to approach a school

When you have decided on a school or schools you may like to send your child to:

1. Contact the schools you’re interested in and make an appointment with the school principal. Remember the first point of contact for public or Catholic schools is your local school. More

Usually the principal will arrange a time to meet you and have an initial discussion about the school and your child and for you to have a tour of the school.

2. Be prepared and know what you want

Before your first visit to a school you may like to:

Here are some things you may like to talk about on your first visit to a school:

  • what is most important for your child and family in terms of a school for your child e.g. open communication between the staff and you, being alongside typically developing children of the same age, being with siblings, or within your own community?
  • your child’s main strengths and needs. There will also be other opportunities to share this information in more detail at a transition planning meeting
  • any specific questions you might have about the school

The Raising Children Network website has some useful questions you could ask. Click here to read more.

Take along a note pad and pen to record any notes or things you may like to discuss with your team afterwards. The school may also ask for a copy of recent assessment reports.

When you visit the school, consider the school’s readiness to work with you and your child:

  • How welcoming is the school principal and staff when you meet them?
  • How do key staff members at the school interact with your child?
  • Can you see yourself working in partnership with the principal and key staff members you meet?
  • Does the school seem open to learning from you about your child?
  • Does the school seem open to working collaboratively with professionals who already work with your child and know him or her well?

After your first meeting at a school, what next?