Children go to school to learn, of course. But parents of children with alternative educational needs often ask:
“How will I know my child is learning and making progress?”
A parent’s guide to progress:
For most parents, there are two main areas that concern them about their child’s education:
- Is my child happy at school?
- Is my child making good progress at school?
The first of these questions is vital to get right.
- A happy child is more likely to make progress in their work. For most parents, it is easy to tell if their child is happy at school through discussion with their child and the class teacher. In recent IDP’s, it was pleasing to note that the vast majority of pupils at Unity College do enjoy school, and parents are quick to inform us of any concerns so that they can be dealt with quickly.
The second question is often harder for parents to answer.
- All pupils progress at different rates, and some children who have particular difficulties with learning may progress at a slower rate than their peers. The child’s IDP will break down the next steps in learning into achievable targets which will be worked on in school and shared with the parent and child. IDPs are reviewed regularly, with new targets added as a child makes progress in their learning.
But parents should not leave all the checking to school personnel. Parents need to be involved in making sure that their child is progressing. Parents can gain valuable insight into their son’s or daughter’s learning by carefully observing him or her at home and in the community. To get a complete picture of their child’s progress, parents need to consider information from several sources.
Parents can gather important information by observing their child in settings outside the classroom, such as at home, at the supermarket, in the playground, or at the mall. These observations may reveal progress in a child’s development, academic skills, social skills, or behavior. For example, parents may notice that their child can speak more clearly when ordering a meal in a restaurant, is more confident about reading a book, or can count change more quickly when purchasing an item in the supermarket. They may observe that their child has an easier time making friends or behaves more appropriately with his or her siblings. They may see that their child needs less help to complete homework assignments, takes less time to finish chores, or is able to stay focused for longer periods. Parents may find it helpful to keep track of this information by focusing on a few changes at a time. They can create a valuable record of progress by making a list of two or three areas in which they would like their child to improve and jotting down specific observations over a three-month period. This record can then be shared at teacher conferences or meetings to develop an IDP.
Parents should talk to their child about school, as appropriate. They should ask about how things are going, what subjects are most enjoyable, how much time is spent on particular activities, and which assignments are easiest or most difficult. These types of conversations not only provide parents with useful information; they also help the child develop a critical skill – the ability to monitor his or her own progress. Probably one the most essential personal skills that make people successful is that ability to monitor personal progress.
So, there is no single test or measuring stick one can use to measure progress at school, it remains a science and art that must be regularly informed and updated by the school, the parents and the child.
Let’s join and walk fearlessly into the future.