Built hundreds of website and helped countless schools realise their potential online. Ian should be called upon for straight-talking advice and to make a difference to the way you present your school through every outlet.
Since this article was originally published in November 2017 we have seen a bit of a shift. There have been a few amendments to SEN information required on your school website. But that's not what we're excited about. This piece was originally written to help you create the best possible school website SEN page.
I took my professional experience, having created hundreds of school websites. I also took my experience as a parent of a child with additional needs. The result is this article. The exciting part? That more and more schools are creating a rich experience and crafting beautiful website pages for families of children with additional needs.
Day to day, your school website is about three key audiences; parents/students, prospective parents/students and Ofsted inspectors. Ok, that last one is less day to day but they're always there, lurking in the shadows!
There are lots of nuances within those groups. For example, the needs of a primary school audience differ from that of a high school. There's also different groups within those. One of these is the families of children and young people with additional needs. In this post we'll look at one of the specific areas of your school website requirements and help you get it spot on!
How do you create the best website experience for those visitors? How do you create the best possible school website SEN page?
The answers to how to create the best possible SEN page also apply to every single page on your website.
If you're in the habit of putting together a rich picture of life in school, brilliant! Make sure you're doing it for families that need to know they'll be included fully too. By following just a few simple steps you can create the a brilliant page on your school website for families of children with additional needs.
Everything you'll read below is based on the following ideal; "how do we make sure that we are the best school we can be to care for and educate children with additional needs?" That's the motivator.
It's worth remembering that parents of children with additional needs have to fight for, literally everything. By taking the time to create a part of your website that makes life just a little bit easier for them when they're looking for a school, you will be making a big difference.
Firstly, and we see this over and over again when we're creating websites for schools, it's so important to do more than just provide policy information. If we're trying to convey the best possible message for families then we need to do more than just box-check.
A single page on your website is plenty, but it should contain at least the following information:
If you're simple linking to the local governments offer or you're just displaying policies. Please think about improving your site to be more inclusive.
We recently found through data from our School Website Compliance Software that many, many (many!) schools are not compliant. The requirements for your website from DfE state that you must include specific information on how your school complies with, amongst others, Section 69(2) of the Children and Families Act 2014. One of the latest amendments is that you must comply with "Regulation 51 and schedule 1 of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 where appropriate."
As an aside, read this page: The Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014. Do you know for sure that your policies comply with this part of the very latest legislation?
So, are you compliant? If you're not sure, take a look at the definitive guide to school website requirements. We'll keep you up to date with what's required but it's not something that can just be ignored. Nor should it be.
Your policies should include information relevant to this, but in reality, parents are looking for simple reassurance. Firstly, that their son or daughter will get the best possible chance at an education, whatever their abilities. Secondly, and certainly in our experience more importantly, they're looking to be reassured that their son or daughter will be part of your school family.
How will you make sure the child is included in your school fully? Demonstrate this in what you put on your SEN page.
Families are looking for a school they can partner with to care for and love their child. They need open doors and a place they can trust. Here's just a few questions that go through the minds of every parent of a child with additional needs:
How will you make sure that you do everything you can to encourage genuine inclusion?
What steps will you take to ensure the child makes friends and is a true part of life in school?
How will you make sure the school is a safe environment?
What training will you undertake to learn how to not offend the family?
What training will you undertake to make sure you know what questions to ask and what parents want to know when they come to look round?
In practice, parents often know that school staff at stuck in the middle of the medical professionals and the parents. The best relationships seem to be when everyone does everything they can to work together and communicate effectively. One of the best things can be a simple communication book. Staff write in how the day has gone, parents take it home at night and can respond and ask any questions, bringing it back into school the next day. It's a simple tactic but it works wonders.
Here's a few we like:
Think all this through, put a plan in place and put it on your website. Nicole just said to me, "Think. Plan. Post." That might be our new slogan!
The golden rule here is to treat this part of your website as importantly as you treat any other. If you need any help or support just drop us a line. Lots of schools have already taken this critical advice and acted upon it. If you haven't already and need help, do let us know. We appreciate that it isn't easy.
We would love to chat this through with you in more detail.
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