Early years and Primary education - Down Syndrome Awareness week 2017

It is international Down syndrome awareness day on 21 March 2017. To help raise awareness, we are writing a series of articles about Down syndrome and education. Today we are exploring early years and primary school education for children with Down syndrome.

Early years (2-5 years)

There is no requirement for formal education in the early years. Down Syndrome Education International found that children with Down syndrome typically respond well to visual learning, such as reading and colourful visual prompts. Parents and teachers should use a visual teaching approach, using concrete and practical materials.

It is important to speak to your Special Educational Needs Coordinator, (SENCo) to ensure your child is receiving adequate support at nursery. If the support provided at the nursery is not adequate then it would be worth looking at specialist schools. It is also important to start corresponding with the Local Authority to arrange an Education, Health and Care needs assessment to assess your child’s specific needs at school and what support needs to be put in place for when they transition to primary school.

Primary School

Although every child is unique and will require tailored support, many children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) go to mainstream schools, with 42.9% of pupils with Statement of SEN or Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) attending mainstream schools in 2016 (DfE). If parents want their child to attend a mainstream school they may require additional support, which should be provided for in an EHCP.

There is a strong presumption for inclusive teaching at mainstream schools, with the case of Hampshire v R and SENDIST [2009] EWHC 626 and SENDIST stating that parental preference for a mainstream school should only ever be displaced by positive finding of incompatibility with education of other children. However, parents do have a choice based upon the needs of their child and can request a specialist school to be named in their child’s EHCP.

Whatever type of school the child attends, it is important to communicate with the school and class teacher to get regular updates of your child progression. Home school books or communication diaries are useful tools as their language skills may not be developed enough to explain what is happening at school and what they are doing well or struggling with.

It is important to start research into secondary schools early and ensure your child is ready for the transition. Make sure your child’s EHCP is reviewed thoroughly in preparation for the transition into a new school.

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