The Teacher-Parent / Carer Team: Working together for our children by Carrie Grant

Carrie Grant MBE, SEND parent, advocate, and media personality is back to talk about her new book, "Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) in UK schools: A parent’s perspective," -- and we have two to give away!

Teachers are incredible and first up, I would like to thank you for choosing such an important job. The work you will do with our children is vital to every aspect of our children’s lives.

Of course, as parents, we have the lion’s share of input into their lives, but for about 1,200 hours a year, you will help our children to understand the world they live in, how to live among others, and help them to understand the contribution they can make to their world. You may be the teacher who helps the child to discover their inner gifts or identity, you may be the inspiration that makes a child want to change the world, and, for some, you may be the teacher who helps the child to survive. Never underestimate your influence or how much we appreciate you.

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Understanding learning styles

In your class, you will meet all kinds of children with a whole heap of learning styles. Your training will help you to understand some of those learning styles. It will gear you towards helping the children to get through exams. This target-setting will follow the children all the way through school and, to achieve good results in their targets, you will also be set targets. This will often feel cumbersome and pressured. Sometimes you may question why the children and you are being measured in this way, and sometimes you will look at certain children in your cohort and wonder why it’s not working for them.

Dr Carrie Grant (hc)

Every child is different

Some children will struggle with school. It can be for all kinds of reasons. Some may have neuro-developmental challenges, poor mental health, or physical challenges for example. Some will be neurodivergent. There will probably be very little training for you in how to best approach learning with these children.

You’ll maybe get a couple of days in total in which you’ll try to cover every condition. A mere couple of days to cover everything from self-harm to eating disorders, adoption to cerebral palsy, autism to having English as a second language or diversity in sexuality and gender. Understandably, when you enter the classroom to be met by a self-harming, autistic trans child, with so little input, you may feel ill-equipped.

When you struggle to help or work with this child, you will be expected to face their parent or carer, who likely knows an awful lot about their child. In the hierarchical school setting that you inhabit and are expected to represent, you may suddenly find yourself on the back foot and may feel out of your depth.

In your training, you may have been told not to worry, that the SENDCo will sort things out, or that the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) will cover this stuff. Even putting aside that you may one day choose to be that SENCo or be promoted to the SLT, the parent/carer-teacher relationship is vitally important. It’s especially critical these days, as you are expected to be involved across so many areas of a child’s life. The more we can foster good communication between us, the better the outcome will be for our children. The more we learn to collaborate, think outside the box, get creative and listen to one another, the better the school experience will be for our children. (And who knows – making school better for the “outliers” might well end up making school better for all children!).

We are a team - not adversaries

You may be told that parents/carers are hard to engage. You may also be told that parents/carers are too warrior-like. Perhaps you’ll hear the mum of the child with ADHD and dyslexia referred to as “a Karen”, or be warned by your colleagues that a “problem child” means “problem parents”. While there are always rude people in every walk of life, the truth is that some of us parents and carers are struggling too. We are struggling to get our child to school, finding it hard to navigate the systems in place, juggling between two or three children with different needs, or finding it hard to keep our child alive with little or no support. You want the best for our child – and so do we. Maybe you don’t know how best to get that best – perhaps we don’t either, but if we work together with our child we can discover the best, what works and what doesn’t.

One thing I do know: an us-and-them attitude is never the route to the best for our children. As parents and carers, we are longing to collaborate, to share our expertise, to create with you, and if we fail, to keep trying until we find something that works for our child. We positively and intentionally invite you to work with us. If we do this together, we can make a difference to our children. Together we can build a positive future for our children.

One final cheeky request. Please be a rule breaker – by that I mean please be the person who says, “We don’t normally do this but……” You are the teacher we long to meet. You are the teacher we value and appreciate. You are the teacher we treasure.

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Also read:


  • SEND Community Alliance Join us
  • Books SNJ recommends
  • Neurodiversity Celebration Week
  • SNJ FLOW CHARTS

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Dr Carrie Grant (hc)
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