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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!

  • Especially for a child with additional needs, I think it’s important to choose a school very carefully. I think it’s wise to visit numerous schools in your area’s and weigth the pros and cons. Mainstream schools should make reasonable adjustments and the law encourages all kids to have access to mainstream school. However there’s still a lot of difference how schools support kids with additional needs and may need fighting and advocating for your child.

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  • One of my children goes to a flexible school. It is wonderful. She didn’t fit in with mainstream and refused to go. She is thriving and loving her new school :)

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  • Interesting article. I think this is a choice you make on what is convenient to you and based on what suits your child best.

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  • I grew up rurally, there was 1 local school, we had no choice. It was the same for my kids. If they wanted to go to a different school, it meant a bus trip of over and hour, leaving home by 6am and getting home after 6pm. No one was keen for that

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  • Picking a school for your child is always a hard decisions to make. I personally wouldn’t send my child to an alternative school, but thats just me. I’m sure they are perfect for some kids and parents. I did have a friend who sent her child to one and ended up pulling them out. It just wasn’t right for their child.

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  • I wish I knew about these schools when my son was younger.


    • They do seem to be multiplying and giving people more choice these days

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  • I want to send my son to a Steiner school, but there aren’t any local to us. Contemplating moving to make it happen because I love the philosophy behind their approach to education.


    • Yes, I believe there are only between 40 and 50 Steiner schools in Australia. Did you end up moving for this ?

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  • I feel you will know if a school is a right fit for you and it definitely should be all about the child

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  • We can give you all the advice in the world but ultimately you are the only one that can decide and knows your child the best. I had a daughter with mild Cerebral Palsy and I sent her to mainstream schooling for the first 3 years and then put her in a Catholic School which seemed to help her better. i understand the tough choice you need to make. You say your child is non verbal and not toilet trained which would make it so much harder in mainstream schooling then a special school. Tough decision..

    Reply

  • We have 2 kids with special needs. My youngest went for half a year to a support class, then we decided for her to go to fully mainstream, which I don’t regret


    • Btw, she does have an Individual Learning Plan and 1 on 1 support at school.

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  • This is interesting.

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  • My son is 9, and I am
    Considering changing. He is not getting the educational support the needs, however my 6 year old son is thriving at the same school. It’s a hard one

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  • Structured and supportive mainstream school is my choice

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  • This is so hard!!! I would probably try send my child to a regular school first and see how they went. If I didn’t see any progress I would probably reconsider and chance schools.

    Reply

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