Consider what you want to say, and how best to say it

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Plan how to get your message across, before talking with the school. It can help talk it over first with a support person or advocate.

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Be confident about advocating for your child

‘Advocating for your child’ means standing up for them (or supporting them to stand up for themselves), to address a problem and achieve a good outcome. You are probably used to advocating for your child in many situations, although you might not think about it that way.

As your child’s parent or carer, you have the best knowledge of about them and their needs. If you have a strong instinct that there is a problem, or about what could help improve your child’s situation, be firm and persistent. Remember – you are your child’s best advocate. You don’t have to apologise for speaking up for them.

You have to be prepared to negotiate. You have to be prepared to compromise on certain things. Not everything – on certain things.

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Consider how get your message across

There are many ways to express yourself, whether you are writing an email or letter, or having an chat or a formal meeting. How you express your concern can have a big impact on the school’s response, and the eventual outcome. Plan what you want to say, and consider the most effective way to get your message across, to maximise the likelihood that the school will understand and address your concerns. Before you meet with the school, also think about points that others in the meeting might raise, and how you might respond. A support person or advocate can help you do all this.

Before going to a meeting, write down what you want to achieve, and the points you wish to cover. Discussion often takes longer than planned, so consider numbering your points, to make sure you cover the most important ones.

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Know your rights and get support to advocate for your child

If you are going to make a formal complaint, be familiar the school’s complaints policy. Following the steps outlined there will increase your chance of success, and will help if you wish to take your complaint further. Be aware of your child’s rights, your rights and the proper process, including next steps if you are unhappy with the school’s response. A critical right you have is to seek help in dealing with the school, including having an advocate or support person at meetings.

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Try not to get discouraged

Advocating for your child is not easy, but your role is important and very valuable, and you can make a real difference. Speaking up for your child can also be very empowering. Throughout Learning Together, other families offer their stories of successful advocacy for their child. Remember that even the most successful advocates do not always achieve the perfect solution to every problem. However, if you get informed about your child’s rights, get support and speak up, you can often have the satisfaction of knowing you achieved the best possible outcome for your child, within the available options.

Remember too that no one can know everything they will need for the journey ahead. But it’s good to know where you can go, to get information and support when you need it.

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