Switching to an alternative school is a choice many parents are making but how do you know if they are right for your child?

A concerned mum has taken to Mumsnet to ask if she should consider sending her son to an alternative school. The mum says that her son is due to start primary school in the next couple of years but has a number of additional needs that she is concerned won’t be met in a formal school setting.

“(My son) is 3.5 years old. Diagnosed with ASD in December. He is completely non-verbal, but more frustratingly doesn’t seem to have basic levels of understanding,” she wrote.

“Not toilet trained and I can’t see it happening anytime soon, again not really talking related but more understanding.”

The mum went on to acknowledge that while she wants to choose a school environment that caters to her son’s additional needs, she is concerned about him missing some important experiences.

“I’m just wondering how you know a special school is really right for them?” she asked.

“Sometimes I wonder will (he) not benefit more from being around just average, school children in a mainstream setting? Like the real world has most of and expects you to conform to? Or will a special school be better really?”

While there are a number of schools specifically designed to support the diverse physical and emotional needs of their students, it appears that it’s not just children with additional needs whose parents are considering alternative educational settings. A growing number of parents are opting to send their children to a range of independent alternative schools, offering alternative learning methods outside of the structured school system.

A paper from the Australian Association for Research in Education suggests that alternative schools can offer a host of benefits for students who require a more personalised learning experience.

“Too-often alternative schools are pushed to the margins of our education systems. However, research shows that they can do much to re-engage those young people who have dropped out or disengaged from their education,” Professor Stewart Riddle said.

“Young people thrive when presented with the opportunity to engage in meaningful and productive work; schooling is no different. As long as we try to treat mass schooling with a cookie-cutter approach, we are going to continue to see young people disengaging and becoming disaffected with schooling.”

Would you consider sending your child to an alternative school? Do they already attend one? SHARE your experience in the comments!

  • Mine is only 7 months so still a long way off but depending on her personality and interests I would consider sending her to an alternative school if I felt that would meet her needs best.


  • My kids are only 2.5 so it’s hard to know but I would be open to it


  • I think you will know when the time comes which one is the right fit.


  • If my son had needs that required more attention I would definitely consider a special needs school or a mainstream school that has a special education unit.


  • Mainstream is not for every child so it is good to have an alternative.


  • 100% would consider and am considering it. We have a school local to us that has farming as apart of their Curriculum and all their lessons are more aimed at individual needs and learning. All kids learn different there is no blanket way to teach kids effectively


  • Have not considered it but would if I thought my child would benefit.


  • Our son has a disability, so we considered it – but concluded it would actually disadvantage him when it came to preparing him for the world outside school.


  • If it was me I would definitely consider it.
    They are able to care cater to your child’s specific needs as that is what they do.
    Plus I think they won’t be singled out. I think there is a lot of hate the l these days so I wouldn’t want my child being picked on by bullies just because they are different and haven’t learned things at the same capacity.


  • I think that there are children that would definitely benefit from going to alternative school, it’s great to have the option for families who feel like an alternative school is suitable for their little one.


  • An alternative school is necessary for many children and should definitely be considered by some families.


  • You would need to make sure that the alternative bus definitely better, it’s like childcare centres, you might think there’s a better one but they could in fact be just as bad. It would involve a thorough check of the school, meeting teachers and finding out if they truly cater for a diversity of students


  • I would do what would I thought would be best for my child and for my family.
    Mainstream schooling even with the best attempt can not not cater for all individuals. While there are some great teachers they are all overworked and when in a class setting of 25 students reality is that not all of their needs are going to be met. You are going to have top end students who are losing interest because they are not challenged enough or the bottom end who can not keep up with the demand. Staff will be aware of students with additional needs but to what degree they can cater for is a question mark. Regardless of what happens parents need to be open and see what work if mainstream is not working than they need to also accept and try alternate. Either way they go the child will miss something but also gain something else.


  • Choosing a school is a hard discussion to make but follow your gut and do what is right for your child and family.


  • This is a difficult choice for parents. Choose the school that has the best feel for you. You can always change later if it doesn’t work out.


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