Top ten tips for effective Student Support Group meetings

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Your child’s Student Support Group (or its equivalent in Catholic or independent schools) has a crucial role in planning and reviewing your child’s learning and support needs throughout their time at school.

Sometimes SSG meetings are run very effectively by school staff, planning works well and there is good follow-through on decisions made at meetings. At other times, for a variety of reasons, these processes can be less effective.

Here are our top ten tips for ensuring your child’s SSG meetings are reasonably effective.

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  1. The right people need to be present at each meeting. It is difficult to make and implement decisions if you don’t have the right people around the table. See Education planning for your child for a guide to who should be at SSG meetings.
  2. You have the right to bring a support person or advocate to all meetings with the school. They can assist you with the process in many ways; many parents and carers suggest that you always have an advocate or support person present.
  3. You are a crucial contributor to every meeting and every discussion. Your expertise and insight as your child’s parent or carer is critical to helping the school understand and meet your child’s learning and support needs. Don’t be afraid to share your knowledge and opinions, and to speak up if you have a concern or question.
  4. If you do have a concern, consider carefully how to raise it, and what outcome you want to achieve. Don’t be afraid to ‘speak up’ to the school; it is your role to advocate for your child. The section Raising a concern with school is full of tips and family stories that will help you do this effectively, to get the best outcome you can for your child.
  5. Agendas for meetings should be set in advance. The chair of the meeting should ideally email everyone with a draft agenda a few days before the meeting, and asking for any additional items for discussion.
  6. Good minutes should be taken, which summarise the key points of each discussion, decisions made, actions to be taken, who is responsible for taking those actions, and when they will be done by. It is also worth taking your own brief notes, so that when the minutes are sent to you, if your understanding of a decision made differs from that in the minutes, you can raise this with the school.
  7. At the end of each meeting, it is worth reviewing the main decisions made, actions, who is responsible and timelines. Follow up is a common issue. For most issues, the next discussion or review of progress on that issue will be at the following meeting. If an issue is more urgent, you might agree on an earlier process of review, such as an additional meeting or discussion with the teacher or principal. At the beginning of the next meeting, review the previous minutes to check on progress on all agreed actions, and any further actions that need to be taken.
  8. Talk about how communication will work in between meetings, particularly if issues arise. Good communication between school and home is very important even if no major issues arise. Indeed, regular communication can ensure that any potential problems are sorted out long before they become major issues. Often, waiting for the next SSG meeting is too long. If communication between school and home is an issue, trial different ways of communicating, and assess each approach at the next meeting.
  9. Your child’s Individual Learning and Support Plan is a central part of the process, and not an added extra or something that the school does only if major problems arise. It should be an accurate reflection of your child’s learning goals, support needs, and the strategies and resources needed to meet them. It should be a living document, that changes as your child’s needs change.
  10. It is really worth having an annual reflection on how well the SSG is working: how well everyone is communicating, including between meetings; how meeting organisation is working, including agendas and minutes, how well decisions are communicated to other school staff; how well your plan is working as a vehicle for documenting and reviewing your child’s learning and support needs.

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