Special Needs continued…

Timing may push parents into the private sector as waiting lists for assessments by educational psychologists can run into many months. If you are prepared to pay, your child will be assessed within weeks. “Our lead time is two weeks,” says Melanie Tham, the Administrator for Fairley House Assessment Clinic. Opened in 2015 to meet increasing demand from the private and state sector, it is part of the Fairley House full-time school which offers intensive support to children with dyslexia and dyspraxia over two to three years, after which they return to mainstream schooling. The school’s USP is the integration of  education with speech and language and  occupational therapies. The school is also a training centre for teachers who want skills in teaching and assessing dyslexic students. It offers the nationally recognised OCR courses at level 5 and 7.

The school’s success rate is impressive, with one former pupil achieving a doctorate at Cambridge and the majority going on to achieve good degrees. “You can’t get rid of dyslexia but if strategies are incorporated and the school embraces the support, children can learn to manage it and blossom,” says Tham. “When they come to us their self-esteem may be low, they may be being bullied and they’re struggling at school. Some parents are really well versed in the condition while others are devastated. Our job is to make it less of a minefield. If the child skips out of here accompanied by relieved parents, we have done our job.”

needs4The journey begins with the assessment, which takes just over two hours for a series of IQ tests made up of verbal, non-verbal memory and processing tests to check cognitive ability, followed by academic tests in literacy and numeracy to check attainment levels. This is followed by parental feedback the same day. “We don’t sit on the fence,” says Tham. “If there is a diagnosis of dyslexia we will tell you. There’s a benefit to having a label as then you can get the right help.”

The basic premise of Fairley House school is that it’s short term, a maximum of two to three years of daily, specialised learning, sitting in small classes to focus on reading, writing, spelling, maths, working memory, handwriting and concentration levels. It also offers a full curriculum and all the normal school events such as plays and sporting fixtures. The school spans two sites, the junior school for years 1 to 5 and senior for years 6 to 11.

“The earlier the problem is identified the better,” says Fairley House Registrar Patricia Snowdon. “In nearly all cases we can help them enormously. We can diagnose from year 1 but children may come at any age. When they leave us we have a thorough discussion with the head to decide if they need continued support.”

Another choice is The McLeod Centre for Learning in Pimlico. This independent morning school sourced SEN teachers for Thomas’s schools, for example, and other private schools such as Parkgate House, and Sussex House use the centre as their SEN provision. “It’s for children who have had learning support at school but who are not moving forwards,” explains Head Amanda McLeod. “Instead of going to a full-time specialist school, they come to us one to five mornings each week for three hours of individual support. They will have an individual programme written for them and be taught here in groups of up to three, for two or three terms, allowing them to catch up.”

The school has four strands to its  business. Aside from the school, it specialises in handwriting, runs a general tutorial centre, which can help with anything from study skills for A levels to phonics, and it also runs touch-typing courses. The centre has eight highly qualified dyslexia teachers and its aim is to get children back into mainstream education. “Our literacy and numeracy lessons are targeted at what the child needs in order to access the regular curriculum,” says McLeod. “This avoids an hour’s lesson after school, missing lessons within school and breaking up their friendship groups. It means that they can really enjoy childhood.” It’s reassuring to know that help is at hand to ensure that children receive the right support and can thrive during their educational journey.


Details of services for children with special needs and disabilities can be found in the Wandsworth Local Offer through the following web link: fis.wandsworth.gov.uk

Wandsworth Council publishes booklets each year to help parents who are looking for a school place in the borough. The booklets include information about support in schools for pupils with special educational needs: www.wandsworth.gov.uk

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