Back in September 2013, full of trepidation, my son took his first steps in to the world of secondary school.
Despite being a very bright and capable boy, he has a condition called dyspraxia and therefore needs to be in an environment that will both challenge and understand him. Quite a fine balance and one you can ill-afford to get wrong.
Getting your school choice wrong
At the time of choosing, the school we were advised to send him to seemed wonderful, and after several meetings they had us convinced that they were able to match our child's needs. It was going to be great; a fresh start at a school that was prepared to both push him academically and provide a nurturing environment; a place where he would thrive, make new friends and emerge prepared for further education and the workplace.
Sadly this turned out not to be the case. Without too much elaboration, our chosen school has failed to deliver on all fronts. Academically he has missed a year, and we now find ourselves in the distressing situation of moving him. But to where? And how to ensure we don't get it wrong again?
Deciding to change secondary school
For any parents who find themselves in this predicament, they should realise that changing secondary school is far tougher than changing primary - and even more so if it's primarily the decision of the parents, not the school itself.
Advice for parents
The first step is to contact the school you want your child to go to. Check with them if they have a place in your child's current year and discuss their specific requirements; in our case, we need specialist provision.
Once they have (hopefully) confirmed that they have a place, book an appointment to visit. This initial visit is always a good litmus test for getting the right 'feeling' from a school.
Once you have decided upon a school, contact your local authority or council and ask for advice. You will inevitably need their full support in order to move to a school of your choice, so it's extremely beneficial to form a good relationship from the off. My personal experience so far has been very positive and we have received excellent advice and support from our local authority.
Similar experiences from other parents
Since beginning this process, I've talked to quite a few other parents who have also decided to change their child's secondary school and have found their reasons for doing so are usually similar.
As in our case, it is because they feel their child is not learning due to a negative environment caused by a number of factors. These can include anything from bullying to too many students in a class, lack of discipline, or poor classroom management.
Stick to your guns
The last thing you can afford is another failure, so do a thorough background check on all the schools in your area by speaking to parents or looking at Ofsted reports. If you're not happy with any of them, go out of county. It will be tougher but not impossible.
Although they are very good and want to help, your council will naturally try to offer you schools in their immediate vicinity, which makes the process so much easier for them. But if a school has failed your child, it is critical that you don't get it wrong again. Councils understand this and will not relish another failure so be adamant and stick to your guns.
Every child deserves to learn in a happy, safe environment. Getting it wrong is not an option, so don't be brushed off!
Jayne, Working Mum and Freelance Editor