The decision to send Maria to a Special School was much easier than I'd expected.
I'd been reading the book 'Working with Hannah: a special girl in a mainstream school' by Liz Wise and Chris Glass, and I was ready to fight for a place for Maria in one of our local mainstream schools.
One day in July 2012, we'd arranged two appointments that morning. The second was to meet with the Head of SEN to discuss Maria's Statement of SEN. Fortunately, just before that meeting Joan and I went to visit our local Special School. The deputy head showed us around and answered all our questions mainly with honesty but also with a touch of diplomacy.
The more I saw, the more impressed I became and soon realised that Maria would flourish in a place that completely understood her needs, without having to fight for concessions, provisions and equality.
By the time we arrived for the appointment with the Head of SEN, all I wanted was to get a place for Maria at the school. The deputy head told us of a shortage of places and how oversubscribed they were. To make things worse, we were applying late; I couldn't see how Maria would get a place.
After our meeting with the Head of SEN, he said he'd speak to the school. Within a week we received a letter offering us a place at the school! Maybe the Head of SEN wasn't all bad after all!
One year on as our intuitions about the school proved right. Maria has thrived and developed wonderfully. She's enjoyed every minute and there's no doubt it's the right place for her to be at present.
The school Ofsted reports only rated it as 'Good' but, according to the same report, parents rate it highly. I can see why; it's hard to imagine a better environment for Maria. As far as I'm concerned it's an 'Outstanding' school.
I feel a bit guilty because I've given the Head Teacher a hard time this year while I've learnt how the school system operates. The school has tried hard to improve its communication with parents and, one year on, I'm beginning to see the benefits of having made the right choice: the sheer joy on Maria's face when she goes to school each morning and returns home with stories of what happened that day (expressed in babble, English and Makaton) and Maria's significant educational achievements make us appreciate how much the school has done for her this year.