The Girl, my daughter who is the first child with Down Syndrome to attend Cardiff High School, has just commenced Year 11. Like so many of her peers, she is already having to think about what and where she will be studying in Years 12 and 13. When her mother, The Boss, and I were The Girl’s age it was a straightforward choice; we would enter the sixth form and thereafter go on to sit ‘A’ levels and attend university. The Girl however, has additional learning requirements and a Statement of Special Educational Needs. A Statement of SEN does not mean that kids are any more special than kids without Statements, just that they need more designated support in certain identified areas. It may be that a child needs a leg up with literacy or numeracy; with speech and language development; with access to the curriculum; or with any other intellectual or physical challenge. Or perhaps one-on-one support would allow the student to achieve their potential. There is an Annual Review at which reports are prepared on the capabilities and achievements of the statemented child. The school staff will meet with the family, and of course with the child, and professionals from the education authority will attend. Together they will decide what inputs are required to help deliver the very best education given that child’s needs. In this way, deciding where The Girl will be for years twelve and thirteen begins with an Annual Review meeting in the October of Year 11.
Cardiff High School only offers ‘A’ Levels as a post-16 option. Although The Girl looks likely to achieve well enough in her subjects next Summer, at the end of Year 11, we’ve always known that ‘A’ Levels would be a step too far for her. There are three main options, two of which involve Colleges and the third necessitating a change of school. Let me start with the two College options. Cardiff and Vale College (Dunballs Road) and Coleg y Cymoedd (Nantgarw) would both offer training for employment, including work placements. She would expect to spend a couple of years at College and then, hopefully, find work. The Careers Advisor at Cardiff High, liaising with the two Colleges has spent a lot of time with our daughter (and us parents) establishing what sort of job she’d like to do; what her skills and interests are; etc. If both Colleges would take her the big choice facing us would be to decide which College can best help her achieve her hopes and desires.
The third option is very different and would involve transferring to Whitchurch High School, which has a Specialist Resource Base (SRB) that specifically caters for the development of kids with additional learning needs; they would continue their studies as Sixth Formers; and they would build upon the subjects they were examined/assessed on in Year 11. We are visiting the two Colleges next week and we visited Whitchurch High last week where, as it happened, The Girl knew five of the students – either from shared extra-curricular activities, or from Primary School – two of whom have Down Syndrome. Essentially, the Whitchurch option would allow the sixth formers to take their existing qualifications to the next level, continue to receive skills training, and facilitate work/vocational experience. She would still have the option of attending College after completing Years 12 and 13.
I have been mightily impressed with all concerned with this process and many of them will be attending October’s Annual Review, after which a Transition Plan will be developed and given effect. It’s fair to say that The Boss and I see merits in both the College options and in the transfer to the Whitchurch SRB. But we are tending towards Whitchurch, not least because The Girl was really impressed and happy with the people and the curriculum. It can be very very hard for young adults with additional learning needs to move into employment, just as it can be hard for them to enjoy independent living in their community. The Boss and I are very taken with our Girl receiving two more years of education and skills development after Year 11, and only then taking the College route.
Of course, her possibly overprotective parents are prone to overestimate the difficulties our lovely girl will face and underestimate her ability to overcome any barriers. We’ll see, and The Girl herself will have a significant say in the final decision. She is determined, hard-working, and willing, all traits that will stand her in good stead wherever she goes next and whatever it is she studies. Exciting times!
Trampolining and activities.
Meantime, The Girl has got her post-lockdown activities well and truly sorted.
Monday: swimming lesson, 30 minutes.
Tuesday: trampolining lesson, 90 minutes.
Wednesday: ballet, 45 minutes.
Thursday: trampolining lesson, 90 minutes.
Friday: ballet lesson, 60 minutes.
Saturday: judo lesson, 60 minutes.
Sunday: special trampolining session for disability competitors, 120 minutes.
She also does 5 minutes daily on each of the following Doodle exercises: maths, tables, English, and spellings.
She leaves her poor old dad gasping for breath. Luckily, my job is driving her places rather than taking part in said activities. Which reminds me, I have to get her to her Sunday trampolining class. ‘Til next time!