Few decisions seem more important than those regarding the education of a child in our care. Even before school age, parents and carers can agonise for months about whether to home-educate, flexi-school or try for a place at a suitable ‘mainstream’ state or independent school.
If your child has High Learning Potential (HLP), you might be particularly concerned with how to meet their educational needs and craving for constant physical or mental activity. Perhaps your little learner is of Dual or Multiple Exceptionality (DME), meaning that their high potential is challenged by a second ‘exceptionality’ such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) or some form of physical disability? Finding the best setting for HLP and DME children requires many considerations.
When it comes to choosing between home and school settings, how closely can you match the following aspects to your HLP or DME child’s needs? What questions should you ask yourself and which would best suit the time, financial or lifestyle demands of yourself, your child and your wider family.
- Home Education
- Mainstream ‘Early Years’ Schooling
One-to-one attention can make home educating your hlp child attractive. However, you may hesitate due to qualms about them missing out on the life experience of group dynamics and team activities. For many people who home educate the answer is to join active contact groups across the country which merge home education with peer-group tutoring and who organise group projects around children’s hobbies accessible in the community. See https://www.gov.uk/home-education for important procedural information.
Flexi-schooling allows a child to spend part of their week in a classroom setting and part being educated at home. This is an option often discussed by HLP parents, although rejected by many schools. The decision to allow flexischooling is one taken by the headteacher, usually after a period of getting to know a child. However, in an Early Years Setting, a child with ASD, for example, might find a whole week at school too intense and overwhelming, so a flexi-schooling arrangement could combine reduced classroom hours with study or ‘decompression time’. While an HLP child with a specific interest or talent, such as maths or music, may find that withdrawing from the school one day a week to develop that area of high potential learning at the right pace, can combine well with the social aspects of the rest of the week in their local school.
Mainstream School. The majority of parents will choose to at least begin with mainstream full-time entry for their child to their local catchment primary school (Nursery or Reception) or choose another school slightly further afield, perhaps for reasons of religion, school reputation, type of schooling such as private schooling.
These advice sheets outline various different options and are downloadable from: https://www.potentialplusuk.org/index.php/advice-sheets
- Young High Learning Potential Children at Preschool or Nursery; (England: PA501a), (Scotland: PA501b), (Wales: PA501c), (Northern Ireland: PA501d)
- Home Education (PA302)
- Flexi Schooling (PA303)
- Finding a School for a High Learning Potential Child (PA306)
2) Environment – Ask yourself, what will best suit your child?
- Outdoor and indoor space for daily play?
- Daylight and nature for study or general stimulation?
- Messy play, nature walks, noisy activities, etc?
- Quiet room, nap time, story corner, etc?
- Regular walks, skills days or trips?
- Overall philosophy; maybe a faith school, free school or active, individual learning at a Montessori school?
- Larger or mixed age groups who join together for assembly or carpet time?
- Class sizes that meet your child’s needs?
3) Location – How far are you happy to travel, do you want your child to be near to home or perhaps where you work?
- Home-based; would this be beneficial or problematic?
- Local ‘catchment’ school or feeder nursery; does it need to be in walking distance?
- Will you and your child make or maintain local friendship groups or establish new ones further afield?
- Should it be near to a workplace, bus route or countryside?
- Is Local Education Authority (or similar) transport funding available?
- Is there availability of government funded places, childcare vouchers, etc?
- Do you need to factor in special educational needs?
- Does it have before/after school club venues and times?
4) Curriculum – What are your views on:
- a strong multi-disciplinary approach to stretch your child’s abilities in every area?
- time and resources being allocated to develop a certain key area or even profound gift or talent?
- financial, time, expertise and space provision for music, sports, crafts, maths, literacy, reading schemes, phonics, science, ‘Forest Schools’, personal development, independent eating, etc?
- approaches to spelling tests, key stage 1 and 2 SATs, sporting achievements, etc?
- ‘fast-tracking’, ‘acceleration’ or other schemes? (See more on educational acceleration at https://www.potentialplusuk.org/index.php/product/pa308-fast-tracking-educational-acceleration/ )
5) Policies – Research Early Year Setting policies – do you agree with them, do they go far enough? Will your child agree with them? Many HLP children have a strong sense of ‘right and wrong’ and need well-defined school (or home education) rules and discipline processes to feel comfortable.
- Bullying, Child Safeguarding etc should be covered by sensible, up-to-date policies
- Does the setting operate ‘Buddy’ schemes, where, for example a Year 6 student shadows a youngster joining Year 1 or a local community businessperson ‘mentors’ students. (See Mentor and Buddy Programmes at https://www.potentialplusuk.org/index.php/product/pa311-mentor-and-buddy-programmes/)
- If your child has special needs does the setting have policies covering your child’s individual needs, such as HLP, ASD, ADHD, Dyslexia or Dyscalculia. The free factsheet F05 Sensory Processing Disorder and High Learning Potential may help, especially the section on ‘HLP Children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) in the Classroom’
- Does the school have any written policy about flexi-schooling or HLP children?
Potential Plus UK offers blog articles and downloadable advice sheets (free to members) to help HLP children and their families with topics such as home educating, finding a school and how to build a good relationship with it. Visit https://www.potentialplusuk.org/index.php/advice-sheets for these and other advice sheets. Plus check out how to support your child’s emotional preparation and transition with a factsheet on anxiety in HLP youngsters at PA606 Worry and Anxiety in High Learning Potential Children or more general articles elsewhere, such as https://blog.chewigem.com/5-tips-for-getting-your-child-ready-to-start-school/ and https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/49130/tips-to-help-kids-with-back-to-school-anxiety