Barnton Community Nursery and Primary School
What the Judges Said
We were impressed with the range of resources and provision despite challenging circumstances. It feels inclusion is embedded throughout and great to see clear community involvement.
As a school of opportunity, we deliver the best possible education and experiences for all of our children. Our aim is to inspire our children, to believe in themselves and to achieve their full potential. Our learning environment reflects our high standards. Learning inside and outside the classroom provides children with the knowledge, skills and understanding to ensure social and academic success.
Barnton Community Nursery and Primary School (BCNPS) is a two-form entry primary school with a resource provision for children with moderate to complex learning needs. We are the founding academy within Weaver Trust, and we welcome children of all ages and abilities.
19% of our children are Pupil premium and 21% of our children are on the SEND register.
In November 2018, Barnton became a flagship school for inclusion, and this is due to the inclusive ethos that has been adopted by the whole community. In the report, it states that,
‘The school continues its superb commitment to providing a highly inclusive teaching and learning environment for all pupils and staff. This is reinforced by their vision, ‘A school of opportunity: Inspire, Believe, Achieve,’ that are underpinned by their values of Innovative, Caring and Responsible and their mission, ‘to inspire every one of our children to believe in their own abilities to achieve their very best!’ absolutely superbly inclusive statements that every member of staff involved with the school believes in and works hard on a daily basis with the pupils to ensure happens. This is truly a school where every pupil really does matter and is made to feel special. This is a fact I can attest to from the evidence of the review and from discussions with stakeholders.’ P.1
The concluding paragraph in the report states that,
‘Having completed a rigorous and thorough review and having discussed and agreed the targets cited in the report and their involvement in and capacity to support and attend Cluster Group meetings and understanding that their involvement will form a significant part of their next annual Review I am of the opinion that BCNPS remains a school with the Inclusion agenda at the forefront of everything it provides for its pupils. The environment is superb providing an outstanding teaching and learning environment for teachers, support staff, pupils and the local community. They have proved their expertise over the years of IQM accreditation and I believe they have the drive and capacity to be a Flagship School. I recommend, without reservation, that the school moves to Flagship status and is reviewed again in one year’s time.’ P.5
The staff at Barnton, we feel, are truly second to none. They work relentlessly to ensure that the children are given the very best opportunities. Our children are respected and nurtured by all staff. We have very high expectations of all children for all aspects of their school life. Again, this is support by the IQM Flagship report,
‘In terms of inclusion BCNPS is an outstanding school in every sense. It’s clear that superb care, nurture and support, the foundation stones of inclusion, are at the heart of everything that happens on a daily basis at the school seen in all interactions between staff and pupils; between pupils and between staff; from discussions with all stakeholders and from evidence provided. Everyone involved with BCNPS including pupils and parents pull together to realise the school’s vision and understand that this is a superbly inclusive place to come to work and learn.’ P.2
Children at Barnton thrive due to the inclusive ethos that has been developed. Many children at risk of exclusion at other primary schools have had a managed move to Barnton, and have gone on to have a successful primary school education (16 children in the last 4 years).
Inclusion to us means that every child is given equal opportunities to thrive, and our job is to remove any barriers that stand in the way of this. Inclusion is so deeply embedded within our practice that is second nature. We firmly believe that inclusion isn’t about treating every children the same, but treating them how they need to be treated to access their learning. In the IQM Flagship report, it is stated that,
‘The school and staff are committed to providing the very highest standard of teaching and learning experiences which not only develop the pupils’ knowledge and skills, but develops their confidence to become innovative, independent learners, who take responsibility for their own learning and actions. The superbly caring, inclusive environment that BCNPS provide ensures each pupil receives the very best education possible, delivered by dedicated staff.’p.2
Within our school grounds, we have two goats, two pigs, chickens, geese, rabbits and a school dog. The animals give the children opportunity to nurture and care for them, and it gives the children a sense of responsibility. Many of the children use the animals as something to work towards. Small groups of children will go and take care of the animals in small nurture groups.
Our resource provision is for children with moderate to complex learning needs. It is a fluid provision that can be accessed by any child at any time, depending on their needs. The curriculum is fully differentiated and personalised to each child. It is a morning provision, and in the afternoon, children will access their mainstream classroom, where the curriculum will be differentiated to enable the children to participate.
Children with SEN make outstanding progress in our school. Our progress scores from last year’s Key Stage Two SATs results show that children with a SEN Support had a progress score of 9.8, compared to the national average of 0.3. Furthermore, EHCP had a progress score of 28.35, compared to the national average of 0.3.
Inclusive sporting opportunities are provided here to inspire all children to take part in sports, ensuring that many experiences are given to our children. In the IQM report it states,
‘ensures that all pupils are given a varied and suitable PE curriculum, working closely with Vale Royal Sports and ensuring that while the pupils participate in competitive sports as appropriate they are also involved in a wide variety of sports through celebratory festivals for years 1 to year 6; including programmes that are SEND specific. The school provide opportunities for activities such as Boccia, New Age Curling, Multi Skills as well as more traditional school sports.’
Our committed staff offer a wide range of after school clubs that can be accessed by all children every day of the school week. This varies from sporting clubs, mindfulness clubs and craft clubs. All children can access these clubs and some children that would not usually take the opportunities are invited and extra provision will be made. For example, the children who attend the resource provision and come to school in the taxi are taken home by a member of staff, so not to miss out.
Our children are also inclusive. We have developed this over a number of years. Buddying and mentoring opportunities have been put into place to encourage inclusion, and aim to eliminate prejudice. We have signed up to the Phys Kids programme, which trains Year 5 children to run games and activities at break and lunchtimes to encourage inclusive play.
We have worked tirelessly over the last couple of years to engage the parents of the children in our school. We listen and respond to the needs of the parents, most recently training our Family Support Worker in the 123 Magic Course, after a number of parents expressed interest in the course, but they felt uncomfortable seeking this from their GP. Further to this, as a school we bought into the Achievement for All programme, with a focus on structured conversations to engage some of our most vulnerable children with poor attendance. The IQM report highlights this perfectly,
‘The parents I spoke to were all highly positive about the way in which the school had not only supported their children but themselves as parents. They highlighted the fact that in their opinion and in the opinion of a lot of other parents the school was totally and naturally a very inclusive setting. They couldn’t fault the school and said that everyone involved in the school was highly empathetic and understood the needs of the children they taught and supported. What was clear was that as they articulated ‘There are no barriers in the school, everyone is included and looked after to the best of their ability’ a very powerful statement demonstrating the school’s inclusivity. In fact, during the review there were a large number of parents in school helping to get things ready for the school Halloween Disco that night as well as volunteers who were listening to pupils read.’ P.3
Barnton Nursery and Primary School is the hub of the community of Barnton. We host a number of events throughout the academic year to involve all members of the community. This includes yearly mothers’ day afternoon tea, soup kitchen, firework display, Christmas and Summer Fairs. This is supported by the IQM Flagship report,
‘This is a school that is clearly at the heart of its community where inclusion is a natural part of the everyday occurrence, where pupils are encouraged to reach their full potential, where everyone involved is committed to the inclusion of all, whatever it takes. It is a school that is constantly looking at ways to develop for the benefit of the pupils and families that it serves.’ P.2
On Tuesdays and Thursdays each week, a volunteer from our community comes into school to work with some of our most vulnerable children in our school allotment. These children find it difficult to engage in their lessons all of the time, and this break in their school day helps them to focus and gives them something to work towards. It also gives them experiences that they wouldn’t usually be exposed to. This has had a huge impact on these children. Particularly one child that was struggling to access any of his learning, is much happier at school and more willing to participate in lessons, knowing that if he does, he will have the opportunity to work in the allotment.
As previously mentioned, the staff are second to none. The commitment they show for going above and beyond to provide the very best for the children is exemplary. This is supported by the IQM Flagship report.
‘The staff are extremely positive about the school, and staff and pupils clearly show their love of the school and of learning. All staff employed or who volunteer naturally go the extra mile and beyond without thought, to ensure that the individuals and groups’ needs are met. They demonstrate a superb quality of support, care and nurture that enhances the provision throughout all areas of the school.’
As you can tell from this document, we are very proud of our school. I hope this reflects how our staff go above and beyond to provide all of our children with the opportunities they deserve. We strive to use innovative approaches to engaged and support all children to inspire them and make them believe, not only that they can achieve, but they deserve to achieve their ambitions. We have worked tirelessly over the last couple of years to achieve all we have here at Barnton, and will continue to do so to ensure that all our children receive the very best education.
Little Hill Primary School
What the Judges Said
Excellent partnership work fully embedded across the school, we can see the impact of parent partnership. We liked that the entry told us what they did with parent feedback. Impressed with the direct access to services for parents.
Little Hill Primary School is a very well thought of community primary school situated in Wigston, Leicester. It caters for a housing estate as well as a good proportion of pupils from outside of catchment. It has approximately 420 pupils on role.
Our key principles for supporting pupils with additional needs are:
o a commitment to inclusivity and a celebration of diversity
o Putting the child and family at the heart of all our processes
Our school has an excellent reputation in Leicestershire for inclusivity and has been praised by many members of Leicestershire County Councils’ children, family and education services for its outward looking attitude and the good relationships its fosters with parents and the community, as well as outside agencies. Due to the level of expertise at our school, and our inclusive attitude, we have a high proportion of children with complex needs receiving personalised and bespoke provision. Currently we have 3% of pupils with Education, Health and Care plans, or in the process of completing them. We consistently go above and beyond what many mainstream primary schools offer and take our commitment to ‘best endeavours’ very seriously. In our experience parents of pupils with high needs are very informed and good at discerning schools that are going to be able to provide the high quality education that their children need, and they have told us that our school stood out for them.
Our empathic and supportive attitude to parents of children with special, educational needs runs throughout all of our school staff. Our approach is always to involve families at every level, listen to their concerns and respect their knowledge and expertise.
Recognition for our work has come from NASEN, who asked the school to write an article for their magazine to highlight our outstanding and innovative practice in working in partnership with parents. We have also been recognised for the work we have been doing to support social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs in school. This year we were one of two schools asked to speak at the Leicestershire Primary Heads SEND conference to talk about the work we do to support inclusion and avoid exclusions. Last year we were funded to be involved in an inclusion project with our local authority, this has involved setting up an inclusion ‘hub’ classroom in our school and developing our partnership with parents work further. We will be showcasing this work to other schools at a forthcoming inclusion conference.
Our setting has also now been selected to have an inclusion unit for 10 children with SEMH needs with Education, Health and Care plans as part of the local authorities ‘hub and spoke’ education model. Again this was in recognition of the level of expertise at our school and our person and family centred approach.
Our parents are fully supportive in us making this entry and have contributed throughout to the evidence. They have also been quoted throughout the piece.
At our school we have worked hard at developing positive partnerships with parents and we know that this is particularly crucial for parents of children with special educational needs. Our parental engagement goes above and beyond expectations and has enabled us to move from an ‘open door’ school to a parent partnership one with a genuine culture of school, family, and services working together. For us what makes our school parent partnerships stand out are:
1. Our passion for inclusion and our welcoming culture.
2. Giving our families access to additional support in school.
3. Good communication and involving parents and families in developing our school policies.
4. Developing innovative and supportive practices for all SEND areas and celebrating diversity.
5. Engaging with parents at all stages so that they always feel valued and listened to.
6. Embracing person and family centred practice when reviewing and planning support.
Our passion for inclusion and our welcoming culture.
We pride ourselves on being a welcoming and supportive school with a passion for inclusion and a nurturing ethos. Our inclusive practices have become fully embedded over time and all of our staff are committed to this approach.
An example of our passion for inclusion can be seen in the way all staff and children have embraced signing across the school. We have trained over 20 members of teaching staff to a good level of Makaton, we run Makaton and BSL clubs and include Makaton signing routinely in all of our assesmblies and in the classroom. We have a British Sign Language expert in school who gives further support in signing for staff and children. During our awareness raising events such as autism and Down’s Syndrome awareness, staff and children have all learnt to sign to songs which they then performed to the school.
Genuine parental partnership happens when the school does everything in its power to overcome any barriers that there are to the child’s successful inclusion. Our school always works with parents to ensure their child is included, for instance when we organise our school trips and residentials each year we make sure that they are chosen with that cohorts’ additional
needs in mind. We select venues for instance that will be suitable for our pupils with cystic fibrosis.
Our inclusion hub classroom is an example of how we have provided a bespoke provision in response to listening to our families of pupils with more complex needs. We planned the programme with our parents to make the inclusion classroom a calm, natural environment (inspired for instance by Emilio Reggio and Elizabeth Jarman) The curriculum includes elements from forest schools, nurture provision and mindfulness practice. Interventions include Lego and play therapy, sensory circuits and tailored communication programmes.
It is in its second year of running successfully to provide alternative provision for a number of children who need a bridge between mainstream classrooms. It was developed out of our passion for getting inclusion right and our culture of research and innovation. The area has been highly praised, for instance by our authorities’ autism and learning support teams. We researched the environment, curriculum and interventions we wanted to provide and consulted families, for instance during our person centred review process, this enabled us to provide a tailored provision. Pupils access learning and practice skills in more specialist, small group settings that they can then generalise back in the classroom. Movement between the classroom and the hub is fluid. It was important to us to also the improve quality of life at home as well and to be able to include sessions based around areas parents have said that their children are struggling with at home. We include life skills as part of it and develop pupil’s safety and awareness through for instance shopping and cooking, developing problem solving and independence.
‘Love the hub what a fantastic job you’ve done it’s amazing, different ways of learning, adaptable just wonderful. I just love the fact nothing is cut and dry it’s all about the child as an individual.’
‘I think the inclusion hub is fantastic and my daughter is really happy in the setting, she enjoys the different activities and things that they do. It works well because it is a small group that she can access well. She has made very
good progress in this environment. Her teacher is brilliant, I couldn’t imagine anybody else doing it so well, nothing is ever too much trouble and she communicates so well with parents and the children.’
‘My child has cystic fibrosis and the school have been great and always ensured that myself, all the teachers and teaching assistants have meetings prior to transfer with the CF nurse. Provision for her medication has always been well organised. Cleaning staff are all briefed about my child’s needs. The school have been fantastic and always gone that extra mile. They have talked to me before undertaking any activities and booking any school trips to make sure I can check they are suitable. If they haven’t been suitable then alternative trips have been put on. I am really pleased with how well my child’s needs are being met and have full confidence in the school in always contacting me before any decisions are made.’
‘My daughter has autism and an education, health and care plan. The school from day one has offered such a high standard of support, encouragement and have gone above and beyond in their assistance to help with my daughter. I have been able to go in to school attend forums with fellow peers and professionals in a friendly, informative environment and have been given lots of information and tools which I could use for my daughter at home. The inclusion team went above and beyond with the inclusion hub provision in the afternoon for my daughter to attend and it has totally altered my daughter’s behaviour. She is one hundred percent calmer, happier and she is no longer taking her frustrations out on me at home. Without the hub and all the help, I would be at my wits end. The school have always involved me around my daughter’s provision and take the time out to listen to me, support me personally with the needs of myself and my daughter. Without all the help from this school, my daughter would not have come on the leaps and bounds that she has.’
Giving our families access to additional support in school.
As a school we have very strong links with outside agencies and work with them in partnership alongside our parents.
We ensure that our parents are able to directly access agencies and voluntary organisations in the school itself. We have done this by providing a programme of parent and family forums and workshops. Our forums and additional support sessions give parents direct access to services, rather than just signposting them to these. Parents see that we work closely with other professionals to provide support around their child – whatever their support needs look like.
Parents tell us that our forums are welcoming and provide a safe and respectful environment where they feel validated and that their opinions matter. It was important to us that they attracted a range of parents and that parents initiated how they should be conducted and we found that concentrating on areas of need and providing both access to support services and opportunities for supportive group interactions worked well.
We organised forums focused on specific areas of need such as autism, dyslexia, mental health, ADHD, Sensory needs, non-verbal communication, etc. This also has enabled us to build up relationships with a wide group of SEND (and disadvantaged) pupils’ parents.
Our forums also draw on expertise from our parent community. For example, at a family forum on wellbeing we invited in parents who we knew worked in fields related to mental health. Parents and carers of LAC and adopted pupils were also used as a source of invaluable expertise to support others. The format of the forums allows us to set up positive and supportive interactions between parents in different roles, school staff and agencies. This helped to skill up our parents and also developed a resource that benefited the school more widely.
We feel strongly that parents and school staff should receive training together and we have for instance just had joint training for 1 to 1 LSAs and pupil’s parents on sensory difficulties.
‘Forums are very insightful and supportive. It’s really good speaking to other parents and knowing you are not alone’
‘They are definitely helpful and supportive and the staff are very caring and always willing to help’
It’s really good to talk to other parents going through similar issues’
‘They are very informative on what is available’
‘The help offered in school is brilliant and very supportive’
‘This is a very positive group and very welcome’
‘They are fantastic and really help me to focus and direct as to what services to access next’
‘It is always nice to have professionals to talk to at the forums’
‘It is very beneficial to meet other parents with SEND children and listen to other’s experiences.’
‘They are really helpful as you can talk openly about everything without the feeling of being judged.’
‘We feel listened to and that our opinions as parents matter’
‘The workshop was very engaging and well presented with interesting and informative presentations and knowledgeable professionals’
Involving parents and families in developing our school policies.
We are committed to having our SEND parents have their say in shaping policies and practice.
Responding to the challenge of the new code of practice for us meant not just paying lip service to the idea of parents being involved. We wanted to have a representative range of SEND parents engaged with us in reviewing, for instance our information report to parents. We also use time in forums to involve our parents in strategic review. Our SEND information report to parents is a useful and widely read document. Rather than thinking of information to parents as a shopping list of question responses to the send statutory requirements we returned to the spirit of the code and kept at the forefront our desire to make the information easily accessible and in clear, straightforward language. Our parents wanted guidelines for the areas that affected them. As an example our autism offer was produced by parents of children with autism or on the autism pathway, our local autistic society, our autism outreach officer, and some of our parents who work with children or adults with autism, all alongside relevant school staff.
Our co-produced school offers help reduce potential conflict and encourage joined-up thinking between home and school. Our dyslexia offer is clear about the stages of support and how and why we would identify or diagnosis dyslexia and has provided a useful framework for conversations with concerned parents. It enables us to focus on the specific needs of the child and how it impacts on learning – rather than just labelling them.
As part of our offers we have been able to also build up staff teams based on areas of need. Within the areas of autism, dyslexia, mental health and wellbeing, ADHD, as well as speech, language and communication needs we have skilled lead staff members (for instance some with post graduate qualifications and diplomas) and a further group of staff with additional qualifications in their areas. This means that parents have staff they can go to for support and advice beyond the school SENCo and family support roles.
Developing innovative and supportive practices for all SEND areas and celebrating diversity.
All members of our community, and families of our pupils are made to feel welcome at our school. Parents are also widely involved in school life and invited in as a matter of course for class curriculum events, assemblies and shows etc.
Individual difference is celebrated at our school from our school values such as ‘Daring to be different’ to our ‘Everyone’s Welcome’ culture. Diversity is seen as a positive feature in our school, and everyone is encouraged to appreciate the strengths and qualities in others. We are a rights respecting school and we have a strong culture of teaching children’s rights, developing resilience and character and preparing children for life beyond school. We teach these values across all aspects of school, including in our assemblies and in our planned provision.
An example of our commitment to celebrating difference can be seen by the number of awareness raising events that the school puts on throughout the school year. Last year we celebrated dyslexia, autism and deaf awareness week. We supported and put on events for Down’s syndrome awareness day, as well as cystic fibrosis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis fundraising and awareness raising events. We have also put on a number of events during child mental health week.
We always involve parents in these events and they have included our successful wellbeing week where we organised family breakfasts and events through the day for each day of the week based on the 5 ways to wellbeing. Parents were involved in school in sessions for instance with their children on yoga, keep fit, mindfulness, peer massage and developing friendship and social skills. Many different local and national agencies linked to health and wellbeing were involved.
‘The school always puts on a lot of events for like this for parents and we really enjoyed the family breakfasts and the different activities’
‘The yoga sessions were great and a welcome opportunity to take part in something with my child’
‘It was good to take part in the mental health and wellbeing events and that the school are doing important work in this area’
‘From the minute we stepped foot through the doors of Little Hill Primary School, we knew it was the right place for our daughter. The inclusion is amazing. Every child is different and every child is welcome and loved and taught to their own specific learning styles with excellent intervention strategies…
As parents we work jointly with the school and the staff, all working towards the best education for our daughter.
It is extremely important to us that our daughter is educated in a mainstream environment and is surrounded by positive role models. As a visual learner being in an inclusive mainstream environment is the right place for her and to remain in her community and be surrounded by classmates both in and out of school is fabulous.
The doors are always open, the teachers, head, inclusion manager and 1-1’s have and will always make time and are always very knowledgeable and keen to learn more.
They access the resources required and attend courses to support.
It is fantastic to attend assemblies and see the whole school greet in Makaton sign language and a member of staff who is trained in BSL translating the entire assembly.
We feel we won the lottery when we discovered Little Hill Primary school and know that our daughter will successfully spend her primary school days here in full.
Little Hill has the will do, want to and can do attitude that makes any parent of a child with SEN feel safe and secure knowing their child is having the best possible education in a safe, secure and inclusive environment.’
Engaging with parents at all stages so that they always feel valued and listened to.
We start our engagement with parents early on and work closely with our feeder nursery providers and our early year’s teams. Additional meetings are set up and visits to provision and/or to the home are organised. We take our time to get to know the families and all of the team involved around them. Many of our parents of high needs children have had experience of schools either putting barriers up around their needs or not preparing for them properly. We think holistically at our school and we plan carefully the provision and training required and never reduce children to just a list of needs that can or can’t be met.
Parents are supported well through all stages of school and we ensure that we put in additional support at transition times. This could include working alongside parents to look at things that would help in transfer such as social stories and photo books. We work closely with parents and other agencies to ensure the classroom provision is right, for instance comparing the acoustics in different classrooms for a hearing impaired child.
All of our staff engage with SEND parents at every stage of the graduated response. All of our SEND policies and procedures and the documentation we use has been written with parent’s views in mind rather than as documents to support staff. Our staff handbook for SEND also sets out how we can engage parents fully at each stage of the SEND process. Staff and parents produce pupil passports together identifying wider areas of need and thinking about likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses etc.
Parents all receive printed copies of our parent information book and for areas of need they receive our offers, e.g. on speech, language and
communication needs. This enables them to see what we have committed to provide, what training we have invested in and who the support team around their child’s need is.
Many of our pupils have home school books to help the daily engagement of parents. We also use secure social media sharing for high needs pupils that enables the school, family and professionals involved to all record areas of significance and progress and share these in a joined up approach.
‘We specifically sought a school that was inclusive and supportive of children with additional needs and over the past few months Little Hill has exceeded our expectations in many ways. We have found that Little Hill include us and communicate with us as part of a team to support our children to develop and reach their full potential. Not only have the school provided support for our children during normal school hours they have taken it one step further to enable our children to attend ‘After school’ clubs and school trips which are an invaluable element of their education’
‘My son has benefitted from having neuro-typical children as role models at Little Hill. He has had the opportunity to access a mainstream classroom, whilst still having his learning needs met. His 1 to 1 has a great understanding of him and ensures he is not over stimulated by high stress situations. He has regular exposure to other members of staff so he doesn’t become dependent. Little Hill has embraced his behaviour therapy and welcomed in ABA professionals. The school have really embraced Makaton and made it fun to ensure lots of children are signing so it becomes the norm. The school offer lots of support to the family. As parents we feel it is easy to access the teachers and there are educational sessions for families. We feel listened to. The school is also working hard to change the future generations attitudes to disability and difference and put on educational days for instance for autism and Down’s syndrome. I feel that Theo is an a safe and nurturing environment. Little Hill is helping him to fulfil his potential whatever that may be. As a SEN parent I am very aware of other SEN children’s experiences in school. I feel very fortunate that our experience for our son is so positive’
Embracing person and family centred practice when reviewing and planning support.
We approach this with the core belief that all parents know how to support their child and want the best for them.
Getting the person centred review process right was important to us as a school and we researched thoroughly the practice from its inception to those authorities that introduced it early on. We start preparing for the reviews early so that pupils can present them and have video stories and display boards to show what they have achieved. We use personal learning journeys to capture all of the views of those involved in the review process and we use a wide range of resources to support person centred reviews, these include social stories, and explanations leaflets of the process for parents. We also use progression of involvement grids to ensure that pupils are moving through the stages of being fully involved in planning and leading the process themselves.
Good quality person centred reviews have led to much more focused action planning around the child and meant that we centre support around the outcomes that the family have outlined themselves. This process has ensured the quality of provision for pupils with high needs and enabled the development of social and communication skills, independence and life skills to be fully valued alongside academic success.
Listening carefully to parent views, including at reviews, has impacted on other areas of provision that parents have asked for. This includes more support for pupils at lunchtime with our ‘Happy Lunchtimes’ scheme and zoned play areas. We have also provided drop boxes around the school and in the classrooms where children can request to speak to an adult or to our full time emotional literacy support assistant (ELSA). Children who struggle on the playground at lunchtime also have the opportunity to attend our ‘Time to Chill’ clubs or access quieter places and activities.
‘My daughter has William’s syndrome, which means she needs a good deal of additional support. Our person centred review was brilliant. The way it was done, how all the people involved were there and the fact our daughter was involved throughout and little video clips were played. I always think that our concerns are listened too and we feel very much involved as parents around the planning around her needs. School SENCo is very approachable, nothing is ever too much trouble and she always listen to our concerns. We always get any information that we need. My daughter has made brilliant progress and it is all down to the school. We don’t want her to leave.’
What the Judges Said
Amazing use of outdoor learning environment to meet needs. A creative programme making the full use of the grounds and evidencing the impact.
Rowdeford is a secondary (11 – 16 years), co-educational, Special School for students with complex learning difficulties. Some have additional sensory impairment, physical difficulties or medical needs.
Rowdeford School is committed to providing for the needs of each individual pupil through a values-based curriculum delivered by an expert, experienced and dedicated team of staff. The pupils are grouped in small, well-staffed classes and provided with high quality learning and teaching opportunities, including Learning Outside the Classroom (LOTC). The positive atmosphere at the school is part of Rowdeford’s belief that we need to nurture pupils’ self-confidence and self-esteem as well as helping pupils to develop their independence. We are a specialist school for pupils with Communication and Interaction difficulties, with all the additional resources, staffing and expertise required to support this. We pride ourselves on our caring, supportive and happy atmosphere.
Rowdeford school has a programme that clearly meets the criteria of both the most innovative intervention and excellence in a special school. The attached documentation details why we feel the programme illustrates how the school has gone ‘above and beyond’ the expectations for a special school, by the creation of this alternative provision programme for students in mainstream schools in Wiltshire. The attached documentation illustrates why this programme should be considered for the ‘Most Innovative Special Needs Intervention’ Award Category. We also believe that the Plus Programme demonstrates Excellence in a Special School, although note that only one category can be entered. The documentation includes a full description of the Plus Programme, along with 4 of the most recent newsletters (extracted from the whole school newsletter).
Rowdeford school has a programme that clearly meets the criteria of both the most innovative intervention and excellence in a special school. The Rowdeford Plus Programme lives up to the title by offering a unique alternative provision programme. The Programme supports mainstream schools in Wiltshire, providing placement opportunities for vulnerable students with special educational needs and/or social and communication difficulties including Autism. These students, who are disengaged with or let down by the conventional educational system, are thriving within the outdoor learning environment offered at Rowdeford School. Rowdeford is exceeding their duties, by enabling the interposition of these students to access the amazing opportunities and thrive in the exceptional environment. The Plus Programme is not only about building confidence, social skills and improving mental health of these students, it offers tacit learning opportunities for children who are often totally divorced from the outside world.
The Rowdeford mission is to be at the forefront of specialist education; providing excellent learning in inspirational environments and developing core values, communication and independence. The mainstream support Plus Programme is part of this mission; it recognizes the need for smooth, calm and secure transition between educational environments, in addition to supporting pupils in their mainstream school life and as they prepare for college. Our Plus Programme is a fully staffed suite of outdoor courses designed to offer learning experiences and qualifications that emphasize the development of social communication, alongside functional skills, better preparing pupils for the challenge of change and the diversity of the community in which they live and learn.
Rowdeford House and grounds was purchased by Wiltshire County Council in the early 1960’s, then established as a special school for girls from 1963. By the 1990s it had become a mixed special school serving the whole county. The school has always benefited from 22 acres of amazing grounds, which include the parkland associated with the manor house, the Victorian walled gardens, extensive mixed woodland and numerous outdoor classroom spaces. Over time the school has evolved and improved these outdoor spaces, from the renovation of the walled gardens and Victorian greenhouse, addition of farm animals in a purpose-built animal area, a Yurt and the most recent conversion of an old dairy building to provide the Ingrid Sidmouth outdoor learning centre.
With the introduction and subsequent overhauls of the National Curriculum, opportunities for learning outside the classroom (LOtC) were effectively sidelined. However, the Leadership Team at Rowdeford have always been aware of the benefits that SEND children gain from LOtC, seeking ways of incorporating outdoor learning into the curriculum whilst still meeting the Government’s rigid requirements for subject-based learning. The School has recently received a Gold Award LOtC (Learning Outside the Classroom) – a first for a UK Special School recognizing the extremely high quality of this particular aspect of the school’s work. Furthermore, there is now international recognition and proven research that LOtC opens doors to young people with special needs, providing rewarding and sustainable futures both in the community and workplaces.
A 2010 study from the University of Rochester found that spending time outdoors not only makes you happier, it can lead to an increased sense of vitality. It has also been found to have a calming effect on the mind, ease depression, spark creativity and improve attention and focus. A five-year study, which examined 500 children from 14 primary schools across Melbourne, Australia, found that those children who spend break times in more natural playgrounds as opposed to asphalt ones feel better rested and therefore more able to concentrate back in the classroom. The researchers discovered that had a direct correlation to exam results and attainment. But despite these findings, a recent survey of parents revealed that three-quarters of UK children spend less time outside than prison inmates. This means schools have an opportunity to make a huge difference to young people’s mental health by increasing time spent outdoors. This is where the facilities at Rowdeford provide a crucial opportunity to meet the needs of young people who are struggling in mainstream schools.
A further study in 2010 to examine the benefits of outdoor experiences for children with autism was conducted by interviewing teachers, parents and volunteer workers as to how they perceived the benefits of taking a child with autism outside to learn. The main benefits that they reported were improved physical activity, better social interactions and communication, and in some cases that child specific sensitivities decreased when the child spent more time outdoors. Outdoor learning helps to manage difficult behaviour so that children are in a much better, happier and calmer place mentally, and so more ready and open to learning.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is common in children with autism. Research on the physical benefits of exposure to nature has highlighted that time spent outdoors can help fight ADHD, and psychologists have linked contact with nature to restored attention, recovery from mental fatigue and enhanced mental focus. A greater ability to focus immediately after spending time outdoors in nature and shorter recovery periods for stress and anxiety have also been recorded.
It is not just direct contact with nature that makes the difference, but also having a view of and access to more natural settings which has been shown to benefit children’s cognitive functioning. While not all autistic children suffer with ADHD, the message here is entirely clear. More time spent engaged in outdoor learning and play has tremendous benefit for autistic children in terms of their behaviour.
Ofsted has produced a range of documents and case studies to demonstrate the importance of LOtC, and to support schools to develop LOtC opportunities for their pupils. A key document is the 2008 report Learning outside the classroom: How far should you go? This is a survey of a range of schools and educational establishments which examines LOtC in practice, and highlights what schools are doing well and where there is room for improvement. Key findings of the report include the following, all of which are being achieved at Rowdeford:
• When planned and implemented well, learning outside the classroom contributed significantly to raising standards & improving pupils’ personal, social and emotional development.
• Learning outside the classroom was most successful when it was an integral element of long-term curriculum planning and closely linked to classroom activities.
• The success of learning outside the classroom depended very much on the leadership of the schools and colleges.
The existence of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom (CLOtC) is another example of the growing importance of LOtC. It is a registered charity existing to champion learning outside the classroom. They believe that every child should be given the opportunity to experience life and lessons beyond the classroom walls as a regular part of growing up. The CLOtC ensure that more young people have access to these life-changing educational experiences by providing support on the ground, facilitating the sharing of best practice and promoting the benefits of LOtC in raising attainment and aspirations, reducing truancy and re-motivating those who are disengaged from their education.
There is another organization called Learning Through Landscapes (LTL), which states that learning outdoors brings teaching alive. LTL has built up a comprehensive library of research into the benefits of outdoor learning and play for children. This research builds a substantiated case for increased outdoor learning and play in education. This includes a RSPB report that states: “The consequence of removing nature from children can be likened to a malnourished child whose development is slowed and possibly damaged. How permanent this damage may be is for future generations to research but as discussed earlier the negative attitudes to nature of adults who did not have access to nature as a child are worrying…… For childhood development access to nature should be as important as a good diet, education and activity. In fact, as we have seen, nature is a vital ingredient to help all these areas to develop.”
There have been many recent news articles and research papers detailing the problems that the digital age is creating for the current generation of young people. As children are exposed to gaming and electronic devices, they are leading an ever more sedentary lifestyle. This can result in a “nature deficit disorder,” which is a way to describe the psychological, physical and cognitive costs of human alienation from nature. Whilst not yet proven, it is suggested that “nature deficit disorder” in any child may lead to obesity and possible psychological and academic issues.
“Xbox detox”, is something that researchers have observed repeatedly when studying the effect of nature on the brain. Outdoor learning allows students to put their focus back on nature. Consistent exposure to nature decreases stress and anxiety, helps elevate mood, and helps with emotion. It is therefore vitally important that the Council seek to build learning opportunities that take pupils out of the classroom. This may be mathematics lessons, in which challenges are measuring tasks around the school or counting in the garden, hunting for different types of mini-beasts or a tree survey. All of this is available at Rowdeford.
Much of this above research has been published in the last three years. Back in 2012, the success of the LOtC opportunities at Rowdeford was clearly evident, resulting in the appointment of a team solely responsible for the outdoor learning opportunities. With this appointment came the inspiration, experience and motivation to open the LOtC opportunities for other SEND children in mainstream schools. The team proposed alternative placements for BTEC awards in subjects such as Land Based Studies/Sustainability for KS4 students, with provision for KS3 based on The John Muir Award Scheme and Rowdeford’s own Tree Awards.
The Rowdeford School Tree Awards recognize student achievements in practical outdoor skills as well as in the areas of co-operation, communication, resilience, independence and problem solving. They link directly to national curriculum levels in English, Maths and Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) and closely to other curriculum areas. The Tree Awards operate across the school, linking to the values-based education; they give the students universal positive values to take with them into the world, making for a better world.
The young people who attend Rowdeford as an outreach resource base are typically divorced from all forms of outdoor activities and disengaged from learning. The facilities at Rowdeford, in addition to the high caliber staff team that manage them, allow these students to experience the natural world, to understand how to care for it, to learn life skills in terms of horticulture and animal care, to develop an interest in their natural surroundings and so many other invaluable skills. Their well-being, self-confidence, communication and teamwork improves as they begin to embrace the outdoor environment that often initially seems almost foreign to them. By using the John Muir award scheme, we have encouraged many of our plus programme students to get involved in outdoor activities. Since its inception, we have also enabled students to gain BTECs in Sustainability and Land Based Studies, with the Primary Programme and Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award added this year for the first time.
In Summary, the Plus Programme aims to:
1: Encourage the holistic development of each child so they believe in their own ability, can the best they can and achieve their full potential.
2: Enable young people to be inspired, have the opportunity to understand the natural world and experience success.
3: Improve self-esteem by giving each child a voice, allowing them to be heard, be treated and valued as an individual.
4: Allow each child to have a sense of belonging, feel safe and confident.
5: Provide new transferrable and valuable skills that will lead to a better future.
The outdoor learning approach ensures that the students can:
• develop reflective and inquisitive thinking along with problem-solving approaches in ‘real’ situations;
• develop resilience and adaptability;
• identify hazards and risks;
• develop a love, appreciation and respect for nature and all that is living;
• develop an understanding of how we can look after our environment;
• develop collaborative-working and communication skills;
• benefit from positive health benefits – both physically and mentally – and assist gross and fine-motor development;
• develop a lifelong love of the outdoors.
To measure the progress of each student that enters the Plus Programme, each child has three defined goals, primarily relating to social skills but also to academic factors such as communication, listening and following instructions. So many of the Plus Students have very poor self-esteem and confidence. They struggle within their mainstream schools, either becoming introverted or disruptive. There are students that are initially hesitant to be fully engaged with the activities on offer, although Rowdeford offers them the ability to take themselves off to a ‘calm zone’ or sit away from the rest of their peers. We also find that many have had issues with bullying or with isolation for poor choices made at their mainstream school. Over the weeks of attending the Plus Programme, the more challenging learnt behaviours become less prevalent. There are students who return to full-time education after a year on the Plus Programme, others enter with the primary programme or KS3 John Muir days and stay with the outreach to achieve the KS4 qualifications. The drop-out rate is extremely low, with only one child out of 40 leaving after the trial day in the 2018/19 academic year.
The outstanding outdoor facilities for the Plus Programme at Rowdeford ensures that students learn more about themselves. We have seen that as they grow in confidence, learn to set goals and tackle challenges calmly, they become more positive. From being hesitant to even get dirty, we have witnessed students gaining the self-confidence to jump ditches, climb trees, study mini-beasts and clear woodland. They learn how to look after themselves and stay safe as they tackle fire-lighting, use loppers and learn how to prune trees. The more academic elements of the course are differentiated, with the detail tailored to the individual’s interests. This often requires the staff going above and beyond, by offering breaktimes
Inclusion of the Plus Programme within our main school carries many benefits. These not only include effective and efficient support with the gardens/woodland, but also extended peer group and social interaction opportunities at break and lunch; opportunities for joint sports activities; behaviour support back up; additional experienced and trained staff to maximise student success. There are also opportunities for students from the main school to be extended academically and socially by joining the Plus Programme and completing the BTEC.
The Plus Programme Today
All Plus Programme days start with ‘Catch-up’, where the students indicate where they are on the ‘Thumb Thermometer’. They are given a chance to say why they have chosen the up, to the side or down stance of their thumb. Each student is also encouraged to identify a highlight and lowlight of their week, although they often need to settle into the Plus Programme before they are prepared to offer this information. For those with communication and self-esteem difficulties, this catch-up time is an ideal progress indicator; when a student begins to actively partake with their own experiences, whether encouraged by the supporting staff or of their own volition, it is extremely rewarding. Catch-up is also used to discuss a topic of the day; this may be a statement like ‘what would the world be like if there was no colour’, or a debate on a subject like ‘should social media be banned?’. By the Spring term, every student has something to offer to these discussions.
The primary group and KS3 students then head outdoors for Session 2, where they are divided into two groups. On a typical day, one group undertakes animal care and horticultural/ woodland jobs, whilst the other starts the first planned activity. The recent studies of the impact of animals in educational settings confirm they are beneficial for the wellbeing of SEND children. Research has proven that interacting with animals can act as a buffer against social stress, combat feelings of loneliness, reduce anxiety, depression, and fear that many of the Plus Students experience. Furthermore, formal studies indicate that behavioral problems decrease while positive social interactions and a desire to participate are gained through animal-assisted therapy. The farm animals on the site are not just an educational resource, but an unquantifiable benefit for the pupils. Once some initial reticence is overcome from some individuals who have never come in contact with farm animals, the access has a definitive calming effect. Many Plus Students demonstrate positive behaviour characteristics as soon as they are around the sheep, pigs and hens. Recently, working with baby chicks captivated and calmed the groups interacting with them, with the students listening to instructions and taking it in turns to hold the chicks gently.
Rowdeford has formed a partnership with a local farmer, which also benefits the Plus Programme. The farmer has built up his stock of therapy animals, which include rabbits, guinea pigs, sheep, Shetland ponies, alpaca and cattle which he regularly brings to the school. The Plus Programme Students also visit his farm, where they undertake further animal care activities.
Session 2 ends with breaktime along with the main school, then in Session 3 the groups will undertake two more activities before lunch. They then have lunch and break with the main school, with the option of enjoying a home-cooked meal from the Rowdeford Kitchens. Many positive friendships have been formed between the students of Rowdeford and the Plus Students, with preconceived ideas about Rowdeford being for ‘special’ children extinguished.
Session 4 allows for the students to fill in their Journals (see below), comprising a sheet with pre-printed boxes for recording what they have done, what they enjoyed, who they enjoyed working with and any ideas for what they would like to do in the future on the Plus Programme. Recently, the students have requested more cooking and pond dipping, although ideas have ranged from building rafts, working more with Di the Gardener to doing more art work.
The students then head outside, what ever the weather, for a team game and then ‘reward’ time. The team game session utilizes traditional games like ‘man hunt’ and ‘capture the flag’, or ball games such as dodgeball or endball. There have also been Woodland Olympics, where the students were encourages to build their own events in the woods and timed trials on the trim trail. Reward time allows the students to continue playing the team game, use the go-carts, bicycles and scooters, chill with the animals or just sit and chat.
The KS4 BTEC sessions and DoE group have to be more structured, with the paperwork/skills element undertaken after catch-up in Session 2. There is considerable flexibility in the schedule and timings, so if there are students who are particularly anxious or inattentive, the practical elements of both courses can be moved around. The success of the Plus Programme is this flexibility and the ability to split the group between the staff. The students are generally on a 2:12 ratio, although where there are specific needs from individuals, the staff will vary the groupings to ensure the welfare of each young person is prioritized.
Another aspect of the Plus Programme that goes above and beyond expectations is the feedback to the main schools. Regular email contact is maintained with the SENCO leaders/Deputies, along with a termly report for each student. The Plus Programme Leader will also attend Annual Reviews wherever possible. By being able to observe the students in smaller groups, the feedback to the Annual Reviews is invaluable; the Leader has been able to direct the way the most vulnerable students are being treated at their main schools, given direction for goals and aspirations, or ensured that other alternative provision is sort to secure more vocational courses in local colleges. The uniqueness of the Plus Programme has enabled the strengths and attributes of the students to be recognized, giving them aspirations for the future. By liaising on such a regular basis with the main schools, many of these aspirations can be met in some way. Even by changing the way that a student enters their main school in the morning has allowed them to access more mainstream education. By raising self-esteem and aspirations, we have seen students re-enter the mainstream system to achieve GCSE courses. It is so easy to be lost in a class of 30+ and under achieve.
The Duke of Edinburgh Bronze and Silver award courses began in 2018. The Plus Programme offers the additional support to students to ensure the maximum potential for success. It is run alongside the DofE program at Rowdeford School, which has averaged a 95% completion rate for the award over the last three years.
Working with the DofE values and international recognition, we are opening opportunities to students who would normally not be able to access such schemes and qualifications. We use the DofE award scheme to help students identify their strengths, at the same time allowing them to be more self-reliant and personally assured. The recent practice expedition ensured that the current cohort succeeded beyond their own expectations. Teenagers who had no experience prior to coming on the Plus Programme marched through hailstorms, up hills and camped in sub-zero temperatures – life experiences that their normal technology-driven and sedentary lives would never have provided. The elation when they completed was palpable. These positive, life-changing experiences is what the Plus Programme provides.
The past 4 newsletters have also been attached to this document to provide some additional detail. These opportunities are simply not available to those who would benefit the most unless they have access to innovative interventions such as the Plus Programme.
This snapshot of the Plus Programme reflects the potential it has in the future. It is an ever-evolving service to young people who are flailing in the mainstream system. For the next academic year, a WJEC entitled Healthy Living and Fitness will be integral to the DofE course forming part of the Physical element. The students will develop an understanding of factors which contribute to their own and others healthy living and fitness, gaining both DofE award and WJEC qualifications by the end of the course.
We will also be offering the WJEC ‘Pathways to Work’. This course will offer an Award, Certificate or Diploma following the Preparing for Work with Personal and Social Development Pathways. With the facilities and expertise on offer at Rowdeford, there are an extensive number of units that can be covered, including:
• horticulture, woodland and grounds maintenance;
• animal care (rare breed pigs, sheep and chickens);
• team work and communication;
• hospitality and catering;
• design technology;
• personal and social development;
• communication and social Interaction.
In summary, the 2019/2020 Plus Programme will offer the following alternative placements:
|Qualification and Level
|Course Specific Content
|Primary Tree Award Scheme
|A mainstream support programme that recognises the need for smooth, calm and secure transition from primary to secondary environments. Our curriculum is influenced by Forest Schools and John Muir, with a Tree Award scheme to incentivise progress.
|KS3 Programme A 3 year programme –
Discover (Yr1 in the
(Yr2 in the cycle)
(Yr3 in the cycle)
|John Muir Discover Award
Rowdeford Tree Award
|Forest-Schools themed activities, classroom based communication and social interaction programme, conservation work.
|John Muir Explorer Award
Rowdeford Tree Award
Certification (Oak / Yew)
|Programme develops communication skills alongside woodland and gardening activities.
|John Muir Conserver Award
Rowdeford Tree Award
Certification (Beech / Apple)
|Permaculture themed activities and projects focusing on understanding the world from a different perspective. This is done both using the outdoors and classroom based activities.
|Preparing for Work
|WJEC Entry Level 3 Award = 1 year or
Certificate = 2nd Year students
|Horticulture, woodland and grounds maintenance, animal care (rare breed pigs, sheep and chickens), team work and communication, personal and social development.
|Duke of Edinburgh
Healthy Living and
|Year 1 – Bronze Award, year 2 – Silver Award.
WJEC Entry Level 3 Award = 1 year or Certificate = 2nd Year students This will be integral to the D of E course and form part of the Physical element. With the students gaining both D of E award and WJEC qualifications.
|Volunteering, Skills, Physical Challenges and an Expedition section to develop self-assurance and resilience. Candidates can complete a Silver award without the need to complete a bronze award. Additional hours and support will be required.
The aim of this qualification is to give learners the opportunity to participate in a variety of sporting and health and fitness activities. Learners will develop an understanding of factors which contribute to their own and others healthy living and fitness.
The Plus Programme will continue to thrive within the uniqueness and value of Rowdeford’s learning environment, combined with the expertise and compassion of all the staff. The Programme clearly showcases excellence and ‘going above and beyond’. There are a wide range of future opportunities to open up the vital outdoor learning facilities to other local mainstream schools, including ‘Forest School’ days. Rowdeford could offer this specialized learning approach, as it already compliments the wider context of outdoor and woodland education that is currently offered by the Plus Programme. Furthermore, the boarding facilities still exist, opening the opportunity to expand into residential courses, particularly the Duke of Edinburgh Award. The Plus Programme will continue to develop to enable the lives of their outreach students so positively. Securing recognition from the SEND award scheme would really assist in the promotion of this amazing additional provision.
Woodbridge High School
What the Judges Said
Great to see a professional being used holistically, having an impact across the board, not just a few pupils.
Woodbridge High School is a mainstream secondary school in the London Borough of Redbridge. There are 1720 students on roll. In ACORN terms it has one of highest percentages within the Borough of most ‘‘hard-pressed’ profiles. There are 32 students with EHCPs and another 200 students on SEN Support. 27% of the students qualify for Free School Meals. The school supports some of the most disadvanted students in the Borough.
In a recent audit (February 2019) the Redbridge School Improvement Advisors described the Inclusion department as ‘exemplary’ in terms of its support structures, policies and practice. The school was highly commended by the LA advisors and they closely identified the detail of our quality assured and effective interventions.
At the heart of our school ethos is open communication and collaborative team partnerships. As identified in the recent audit, our committed team of staff work tirelessly to ensure ‘that the key principles of partnership working such as openness, trust and honesty, agreed shared goals and values and regular communication between partners are upheld.’ (Redbridge School Improvement Advisory Audit, Feb 2019)
Outside Agency working
We have invested time and effort over many years in building effective relationships with outside agencies. The impact of these effective partnerships benefits our students and their families, as acknowledged in the audit. The process of collaborative working has been highly effective and we have provided many successful outcomes for students and disadvantaged families.
We have particularly strong links and effective longstanding relationships with New Rush Hall School (NRHS). In addition, we have received support over many years from the NRH Outreach Service, an external agency which facilitates us with weekly support visits from a specialist outreach teacher for one day a week.
We work closely with the current outreach professional who has supported staff and parents over the past 2 years to identify ways to manage students’ specific and complex behavioural needs. In this way we are able to provide our more vulnerable and high needs students with specialist bespoke strategies both in and out of class.
One of the positive features of our inclusive practice is how we succeed to early-identify our students’ needs. We work proactively with our outreach professional, to refer students to the Outreach Service via an online referral service for time-bound interventions.
Our outreach teacher has assisted us to devise a Behaviour Support Plan to assist staff in identifying students’ needs. This policy document has now become an integral part of our school preventative approach and needs-identification process. (evidence – BSP form)
The teacher provides support in both KS3 and KS4 settings who exhibit Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) and behavioural needs. We benefit from the service in many ways as it provides a consistent range of interventions that are tailored to the needs of our students and their families, and also for our staff. (evidence – KS3/4 plans)
We are continually striving to maintain high standards in our inclusive approach for our students with Special Education Needs. We work closely with the Outreach professional to achieve this. Woodbridge teams around the child and families go ‘over and beyond’ to support the social and emotional development of children as well as their educational attainment (School Improvement Audit, Feb, 2019) (evidence – exerts from audit)
EHCP/Transition plans to NRH
Through our close partnership working of students with more extreme needs we have assisted families through the statutory assessment process to facilitate students with an EHCP. Some of our students with complex behavioural needs have required more specialist provision. We have worked together to secure placements for students at New Rush Hall School, our local specialist SEN school for students with SMEH and behavioural issues.
The outreach professional has assisted us to transition some of our deserving students into special provision placements, as well as to provide support (post-transition) at NRHS. This has been a supportive intervention for students and their families who find the transitory process from mainstream to special school a challenging and emotionally demanding time.
We engage with our outreach professional in a cyclical process of planning, reviewing and evaluating programmes of work. Our students, staff and parents benefit significantly from the range of interventions and ongoing support that we are able to provide. (evidence – plans)
All members of our team appreciate regular open dialogue and effective liaison with our outreach professional. We incorporate the teacher into our work and practice and regard her as an integral member of our inclusion team.
Best use of external Special Needs Professional Jan – Dec 2018
Redbridge School Improvement Safeguarding Audit
Over many years it has been our mission to work mindfully with all our external agencies to help us provide the fundamental emotional building blocks needed to underpin our students’ educational attainment. Our partnerships have been commended because we enjoy regular joined up thinking around referred students. This was acknowledged in our recent School Improvement Audit … ‘The process of partnership working is effective because the school has developed and maintained a clear link between external organisations in which opportunities to partner on activities that address shared objectives such as reducing the risk to disadvantaged children and their families is in place.’ (Evidence – exerts from audit)
During the last two years in particular we acknowledge many areas of good practice where we have made the very best use of our New Rush Hall Outreach professional. At the centre of our excellent working partnership is open effective communication and collaborative working.
Our external SEN specialist provides us with a range of interventions on a weekly basis. We deploy the member of staff to lead both half termly and termly support programmes for a range of students with specific and complex behavioural needs.
Staff training materials
Together we have planned and delivered a number of interventions, including individual and group work programmes. We regularly refer individuals and groups of students on a rolling termly cycle. In addition we have been able to work together to deliver CPD joint training sessions on Managing Calm in the Classroom as well as Mentors training resources (evidence – inset training materials for NQTs)
Schemes of work
We work consciously with our outreach professional to draw up joint plans with smart targets and inclusive strategies for students, staff and parents. These plans are shared at staff inclusion meetings and briefings and are circulated to staff via email as well as uploaded to our school systems. The outreach professional has delivered a number of pastoral support programmes including anger management, emotional regulation, self-esteem and resiliency skills training for students. (evidence – examples of Schemes of work)
Individual student plans
Our teaching staff benefit from the strategies outlined in the termly plans as these opportunities help to provide insights into effective teaching styles and approaches. The behavioural strategies drawn up by the Outreach professional assist staff to make informed decisions about their differentiated teaching and learning methods. (evidence – plans/reviews)
Our teams of staff (including heads of year, counsellors, psychotherapist, mentors) regularly meet with the outreach professional to review and tailor strategies to help students facilitate progress (evidence – list of behaviour/inclusion meetings)
We work with our external SEN teacher to provide a highly effective and holistic approach. Positive relationships are always key to our successful working. Our partnership working was commended in the recent audit. We have been able to build a dynamic culture into our inclusion team, infused with inspiration and determination to succeed. (evidence – exerts from audit)
Resilience Group Skills workshop
At the heart of our school ethos is the importance of supporting students’ self-esteem and ensuring their wellbeing. Deploying our outreach professional to deliver interventions tailored to individual and group needs is key to our success in assisting our students to reach their potential. We have facilitated a number of students in this way, by providing group workshops and as well as lunch time interventions for our most vulnerable students with social and emotional needs.
Working with School Therapy Dog
The outreach teacher has combined work with the school therapy dog. This has proved effective for many students with emotional dysfunction especially anger issues, ADHD, anxiety and depression. Students have reported …‘Jeeves, our school dog has helped me through my exam stress, I don’t know how I would have coped without being able to talk to him every week’. The dog has also escorted students (with school refusing issues) into school and assisted them to talk openly and thus build confidence. This innovative intervention has been effective and hugely popular among our students.
Staff have also commented that the presence of a school dog has helped in supporting their wellbeing … ‘having the therapy dog in school makes me feel happy and brings a positive vibe’. There have been many suggestions that it helps bring a sense of calm and nurture to the school environment. In support sessions the dog is able to help facilitate the outreach professional to provide an open and trusting space where students can communicate their feelings openly in group work.
The external professional along with the therapy dog has worked closely with the school counsellors in setting up a weekly lunchtime club for our younger and more vulnerable students. This popular club for Y7, Y8 and Y9 provides a calm and containing space to relax and spend reflective time. (evidence – poster / photos)
Lunchtime mindfulness Club
We have organised that the outreach professional introduces mindfulness sessions to the lunchtime club. It has become an integral part of the session and is well attended. Incorporating a relaxation interval / mindfulness session in the middle of the school day is now well received by many students. The feedback is positive in terms of the restorative impact and management it has on student stress levels. We are in the stages of developing this to provide an after school extra-curricula club. (evidence – photos)
As detailed, we feel we benefit from a range of SEMH interventions that our outreach teacher delivers, in partnership with our inclusion staff and wider teaching and support staff.
We are committed in providing our students with the foundations they need for successful learning, enhanced confidence, responsible citizenship and effective communication.
We believe we deploy our outreach professional in many resourceful ways, and it is through our consistent efforts that we are able to provide the best care and attention to our SEN community. It enables our most vulnerable and high needs students to benefit from the supportive and inclusive experiences that we provide.
We highly regard our agency-partnership working in school, as we believe we make the very best use of our outreach professionals.
We nominate this example, which we believe is worthy of recognition and details many aspects and evidence of our good practice.
Avalon School and Meadow View Farm School
What the Judges Said
We were impressed by the raising of funds, unintentionally at first, through clubs and projects. Very impressive approach, well done.
Avalon School is a small Special School in Street, Somerset. We have 51 students across KS3,4 and 5 with a wide range of abilities and needs. We employ 9 teachers and 58 support staff.
Ofsted (January 2018) tells us we are a warm and welcoming school where pupils enjoy their school experience. They also tell us we are a Good school.
Avalon Special School is focused on ensuring our young people are prepared for adulthood. We do this through the development of academic, personal and social, communication and independence skills. Working to ensure, where appropriate, students move towards achieving achieve paid employment, independent living, good health, friendships, relationships and inclusion in their community.
Our partnership with parent/carers, together with a flexible, personalised approach, are key to enabling our pupils to achieve as highly as they do. We have been working with parents /carers helping them to describe what a good life looks like for their child/young person and identifying steps towards this.
This work has included the advancement of careers strategies and further development of very exciting programmes for students, offering a diverse range of opportunities, including increasing work experience opportunities and increased engagement with businesses, as well as the development of enterprise activity for students.
Our pupils tell us that they are happy at school, and they enjoy their learning.
Our parents regularly tell us this too.
‘My daughter’ is settling in to the sixth form and has much ambition.
‘My daughter’ loved going to the pop up shop and always came home telling me how much she enjoyed it.
‘My daughter’ is very enthusiastic and keen to come to school.
‘My daughter’ loves school and the activities she is doing.
I have been aware of her confidence growing, and her attempts to start and complete tasks independently improving.
‘My daughter’ clearly enjoys the interaction with everyone around her at school. She is happy coming to school, which is important to us. Since arriving at Avalon, ‘my daughter’ has improved her interaction and interest with others.
‘My son’ is coming on leaps and bounds in his work at school – he has learnt more at this school.
‘My son is’ very enthusiastic about all his learning and keen to join in.
‘My son’ is more resilient now
His speech has definitely improved
‘My son’ has made a huge improvement in understanding English without rephrasing and learning from his peers. He is starting to interact with his peers and likes Avalon school.
He enjoys the practical aspects of school and the community based learning.
‘My son’ was very enthusiastic about the STEM workshop – he was able to recount the activity.
‘My son’ looks forward to going to school and appears to be engaging well in a wide range of activities. He has done some lovely art work and there is good communication between school and home.
‘My son’ enjoys school. I think it works well that he has a room to go to where he feels safe.
We are proud of our school and proud of all of our pupils’ achievements.
To enable our students to realise their potential, it is important we are outward facing, providing each student with personalised opportunities to be active members of their community. By using, and improving, local services and facilities.
Work experience placements are varied and range from working in a bakery, elderly persons home, farm, café and supermarket. Where many skills have been learned, together with specific skills relevant to the range of businesses and work place routines.
We have developed the Lunch Bunch pop up Café, in three village halls in local rural communities with no shop or café facilities, providing residents with an affordable meal and a social activity within their local community. The café serves meals baked by pupils.
Volunteering, included working to improve a local nature reserve, the overhaul of a local community garden, litter picking in the local community.
These opportunities have had considerable impact on developing young people’s confidence, independence and aspirations for adulthood. Their communication and customer service skills, applied in these real life/work place contexts, are, continuing to develop through these valuable opportunities.
Enterprise is a key part of the curriculum, where students are involved from design to development of high quality products. Our enterprise curriculum and products have been held up as leading the way across Somerset Special Schools.
“The design, quality and range of products being created by Avalon School is absolutely stunning and hugely popular with a wide range of customers. The work the pupils are producing has been absolutely instrumental in changing perceptions about what our young people are capable of and is proof of what is possible when the support and belief is in place.” Dr Julie Young
A lunchtime art enterprise club has had unexpected results! The paintings produced were so outstanding that staff began commissioning paintings from them. It soon became clear that the students could not keep up with demand! The result is now an extensive product range from original artwork, Limited Edition canvasses, post card size prints, tote bags to mugs.
The students’ art has been exhibited in various settings across the county. In one week there was an order of over £1,000 from an exhibition ranging from the sale of an original at £300 to framed prints at £10.
The feedback has included:
“The paintings give so much pleasure and every time I look at them I see something else, but always something incredibly beautiful. They bring a peace and tranquillity too…..truly incredible”
“Thank you again and what a pleasure it is to have the opportunity to now own one of these prints. The back story is truly amazing and shows just what you can do with support, ambition, pride, and talent!”
Profits from sales of the prints are contributing towards the school’s hydrotherapy pool, which we believe is a very positive example of those with SEND, raising money to fund provision and not just being in receipt of Charity.
The most recent sales venue had been in pop up shop in Taunton which was an amazing achievement of partnership working. It included: Young Somerset, Taunton Dean Borough Council and Somerset County Council, Humberts letting agents, Castle Building & Construction Ltd, sen.se schools and parent/carers. The shop called Sen.se-SATIONAL! As a school we sold £2,210.80 of products made by students. This was 45% of the overall sales totals
The range of high-quality products made by our students from across the school demonstrated a greater range than our other special schools and included: soaps, bath bombs, potpourri, dog biscuits, bird feeders all which received positive consumer feedback
We are now supporting fellow Special Schools in the development of their product ranges.
As a school we have been very active in our marketing of our products and explore range of sales opportunities. Most recently we have seized the opportunity to display eight originals of our Art Work in an exhibition and art auction. The organisation running the exhibition have used an image of our student’s art work on the official invitation.
We are now further investing in equipment to enable our students to be more hands on in production and enable greater profit, beginning with a mug printing press. The purchase will enable students to get more involved with the whole business from ordering, design, production, marketing and sales. This is a fantastic way for skills they need to be learning to be learnt in a real-world environment which prepares our students better for their adult life.
• Our turnover for this financial year is £8,265.58.
• Last financial year our turnover was £709.68 = 1,164 % increase from last financial year
• Profit this year = £3949.63
• Last year’s profit = £279.03 = 1,415% increase from last financial year
Manor View Farm School
What the Judges Said
The use of emotional intelligence to replace a traditional behaviour approach we felt was innovative. A well evidenced entry.
Meadow View Farm School caters for 36 pupils. Each child has an EHCP with the primary needs being SEMH or Communication and Interaction. One third of our children are LAC or post-adoption. The school structure comprises of four ‘mainstream’ style classes that follow the National Curriculum alongside the outdoor opportunities of the farm and forest school with integral structured and incidental opportunities to develop social, emotional and mental health strategies. We have created a Bespoke Learning Provision (BLP) which was established to meet the needs of some children with very complex needs. These children were unable to access the ‘mainstream’ learning environments successfully after a sustained period of time given to enable them to ‘settle in’. The BLP’s primary function is to help the children to learn the skills they need to manage their high levels of anxieties and enable them to begin to trust in the adults to help them to co-regulate. The school has a system for success rather than a traditional behaviour policy, a system that is built on high expectations and trust-where staff, children and their families work alongside each other to anticipate and prepare the children for day to day life; we recognise all elements of mental health and how they can impact on a person’s success and remove all the pressures seen in standard systems of consequence and rewards and the benefits are outstanding. Meadow View Farm School has worked tirelessly to refine and develop a model that can be, and has been, adopted by mainstream schools, and the Success Model has been celebrated nationally and internationally. This year, two national publications ran articles outlining how any school could make the leap and remove reward systems which are proven to impact on the mental health and wellbeing of all stake holders in schools by taking onboard the system we use. The importance of what we do has gathered international recognition with visits from professionals in education and healthcare from Australia and Turkey. We, as a school, support local state funded mainstream schools directly and indirectly and have ran whole school training; a week-long, highly-intensive school development intervention; and we support children from a secondary school directly. The success of the system can be seen in the academic progress we make with our pupils. In English, Maths and Science we make outstanding progress closing the considerable gap which some of our pupils arrive with as a result of long periods out of education. Our children not only make accelerated academic progress but learn to self regulate and manage many of the behaviours which led to them being excluded or being placed with MVFS in the first place. One headline figure in connection to this is the success of one of our current Year 6 pupils who in his first year at MVFS was involved in 46 interventions to manage his crisis behaviours. Over the four years this has reduced this and this year he has not required an intervention as a result of negative behaviour.
Case Study 1
Our journey to becoming an Attachment and Trauma informed school was recognised and shared nationally in a publication in NASEN magazine as detailed below.
Following the whole school implementation of Emotion Coaching two years ago, the well-being of staff members, pupils and their families have improved, “it is as if the staff and children feel more relaxed and the behaviour in the school has improved beyond recognition” reported one staff member.
The impact has been far reaching, not only has the use of physical interventions with pupils been reduced, but academic progress has improved and staff confidence has increased. Parents have reported that a less stressful family life has had far-reaching consequences for individual families. Ryan Kilby, notes simply “the children have been much happier, the challenge now is not how we manage behaviour but how we continue to increase progress and close the gap.”
The Senior Leadership Team at Meadow View Farm School were keen to make a difference to the life and education of the children attending their school. Whilst they were following standard practices advocated for specialist SEMH settings e.g. consistency, rewards and sanctions, and were doing a “good enough” job in supporting their pupils, the school felt that
they could be doing more to promote the social and emotional skills of their pupils: difficulties with these skills lay at the root of the barriers their pupils faced with learning.
Senior Leadership Team (SLT) attended an Attachment and Trauma training course. This course followed what has since been published as NICE Guidelines (2015) on Children’s Attachment where it is advocated that all school staff receive training in:
• how attachment difficulties affect learning, education and social development
• understanding the consequences of maltreatment, including trauma
• how they can support children and young people with attachment difficulties.
Emotion Coaching was one of the specific interventions advocated by the training. Emotion Coaching derives from John Gottman’s work with families in the USA and supports the relationship between children and key adults, with the goal of improving children’s abilities to manage difficult feelings. It is now being developed for use in schools in the UK as a relational approach to promoting emotional regulation and positive behaviour.
In-house training was delivered by the SLT. Initially staff were encouraged to focus upon Emotion Coaching one particular child. A variety of on-going support for staff was built into the implementation of the project: including SLT modelling Emotion Coaching and noticing when other staff members did so, group discussions and personal supervision.
Benefits for staff
Staff felt that the on-going support and training on Attachment, Trauma and Emotion Coaching was really important to developing their own ability to manage children’s behaviour. The staff felt that they were “all working towards the same outcome and were a united team”. Staff morale and feelings of effectiveness improved, and staff felt that following the introduction of Emotion Coaching they were “calmer”, “more in control when a child was in “crisis” and “more confident in dealing with children”. Staff absences in the year following the introduction of Emotion Coaching were noticeably fewer.
Benefits for Pupils
Emotion Coaching promotes positive relationships between staff members and pupils. This has allowed pupils to trust the staff members and from this trust, children were empowered to regulate their emotions.
Children in Meadow View Farm School became better able to understand their emotions, started to verbalise their feelings through speech rather than actions, calmed much quicker and started to tackle problems positively. One pupil reflected upon what happened for him when a staff member used Emotion Coaching with him: the adult “helps me think about things, helps me calm, helps me understand why I am feeling the way I am”. Within one term of using Emotion Coaching the number of instances of physical interventions used by staff reduced by 49%. This lower level has become the new norm.
As a result of being emotionally regulated more often and therefore emotionally ready to learn in the classroom, pupil’s rate of academic progress has accelerated. In the two years following the introduction of Emotion Coaching, average pupil progress in Reading Attainment has increased 110% compared to that expected by an average pupil in a mainstream school; progress in Numeracy was 67% higher than that expected. Even Writing progress, which is often notoriously difficult for children with social, emotional and mental health difficulties, saw an average increase of 27% compared to that expected for non-statemented pupils in a mainstream school. Children are aware that after being helped to regulate their emotions they are able “to go back to work”. One pupil said that he was able to do “loads of things….writing, walking and lessons – Science and Maths. I’m really good at Maths now.” See chart 1 for details of children’s academic progress.
Benefits for families
Constant calls from mainstream schools asking parents to collect their children had previously had a significant impact on family life. For some families, Meadow View Farm School’s no exclusion policy and the staff’s ability to understand and deal with behaviours in the moment can be quite life-changing; their children start to develop their ability to understand and regulate their emotions, and school staff feel confident and secure in their ability to support the children. For some families the fact that their child was able to remain in school all day was significant. One father recounted that since his child began attending Meadow View Farm School his business was saved as he didn’t need to keep coming to school to collect his son in the middle of a day because of an ‘incident’. A mother also feels that life has changed: the lack of phone calls from school during the day means that she been able to start a college course and will soon have a new qualification.
Families also notice that life at home is different. “Life was just so different as to how it is now. He didn’t sleep at night and was always on the go – we both couldn’t function”. A mother has noticed the difference in her son’s ability to regulate his emotions “although he does get frustrated and still shouts he never now physically attacks me when it used to be a daily occurrence…..I am no longer concerned that anyone will get seriously hurt [in altercations with siblings]”. In this family “we can now play quite complicated games as a family and he doesn’t even mind when he doesn’t win”.
The OFSTED inspection reported that “a major strength of the school is in the understanding shown by staff about the conditions affecting individual pupils and the continuous support and sensitive encouragement for pupils to self-regulate behaviour.” Children at Meadow View Farm School are being supported to master their emotions and as a result are succeeding in school and life.
Comments from a parent of a Warwickshire child May 2018
“Prior to this, L was attending a mainstream school setting but had not been in an actual classroom setting for several months and required 2 to 1 support in a room with a lock as he was a flight risk. He displayed daily physical and controlling behaviour which resulted in him being excluded on a number of occasions and also placed on significantly reduced days. This all played into the downfall of his emotional wellbeing.
L’s needs are primarily emotional, and he does not have any academic difficulties in that he is an intelligent and capable child.
L has had the benefit of a psychologist identifying that he has significant attachment difficulties and sensory processing difficulties and at that time his emotional development had regressed to that of a 2 year old because of the significant anxiety he was experiencing in a classroom setting. L has attended play therapy, occupational therapy and additionally we have the ability of the PASF resource as L is adopted.
L requires a strict routine, consistency and struggles with any form of transition. His behaviour when he perceives a risk / threat to himself can escalate quite rapidly and he does require significant support.
As parents, my husband and I were unable to see a way through so far as a school setting was concerned for since the end of reception through to the January of Year 2, when matters had escalated to such an extent that L was unable to cope at all in school.
We successfully applied for an EHCP for L. The Local Authority Liaison put me in touch with MVFS and we arranged a visit and met with Ryan (Head) and Katie (Deputy Head). It was almost instantaneous in terms of their ability (having had sight of relevant reports and assessments in respect of L) to put us at ease and speak to what L needed in order to be successful in a classroom setting and the ability of MVFS to meet those needs. Further they were able to assure us of his emotional wellbeing and addressing those concerns and working with L to develop coping strategies in terms of anxiety or indeed strategies to self-regulate in times of distress/ crisis.
This all sounds very clinical, but our son was in a really negative place in the run up to his transition to MVFS and it was having a profound effect on us all.
The sea change in L has been absolutely tremendous. He is accessing and more significantly loving learning and being in a classroom setting. There is a warm and welcoming staff at MVFS from the reception through to Jane the dinner lady.
There is a holistic approach throughout the school which promotes not only the children but supports the family as a unit if there are any issues which do arise. L has struggled on occasion emotionally at school and at home for one reason or another and this is accompanied by physical and verbal outbursts which he will on these occasions display challenging behaviour which sometimes contain no warning or explanation as to their trigger. However, Ryan and his team are on top of it immediately and they foster a really strong and positive home school link where consistency is key, which is vital for L. We are all on the same page. L does not feel the deep shame that he used to feel in his old classroom setting which enables him, with the support of the staff, to quickly repair and work through any shame and lack of confidence he feels after such incidents.
L has developed friends and come from a place where he trusted nobody but himself to keep himself safe. The school have worked really hard on this and the outcome has been absolutely wonderful. L is happy and confident and funny and settled in an educational environment, a prospect which seemed completely out of reach for us some 15 months ago. As parents, we were exhausted and very distressed about the complete lack of hope so far as L attending a school setting. MVFS has given us the ability to feel safe in the knowledge that between 9 and 3 pm each day L is happy and safe.
Ryan and Katie and all of the teaching and support staff are tireless in their efforts for the children to achieve their very best. I have seen first-hand the lengths they go to in what can be challenging circumstances.
I also know that as parents, Stuart and I have very much landed on our feet with MVFS. The farm setting, the various additional activities, the classroom setting, the presence of Meadow (the school dog), these all add to the success of the school and enable, in my view the children to succeed. They have set term targets so far as behaviours are concerned which L has responded to really well, and the consequence has been that he recognises and challenges himself to work on these targets even outside of the school setting.
Academically L is thriving and is where he should be. He is learning through doing and is enjoying it. He is challenged on a daily basis but given the support to enable him to step up to those challenges.
MVFS gave us our son back and also gave us hope for his future and that he would be able to achieve to his ability and further that he can just be accepted and cherished despite the difficulties that can arise.
The positive impact of MVFS has had a domino effect, enabling him to succeed at external activities because of the increased acceptance of his own self-worth and confidence. He successfully attends a number of external activities.
I should add they also listen to what we have to say and constantly strive to work together through any issues.
I can honestly say I do not know how we would have coped if L was not at MVFS. I am incredibly grateful to them all. There should be more schools out there like it.”
Case Study 3
James (name changed for purpose of anonymity) joined Meadow View Farm School when he was in Year 2. He has a diagnosis of attachment disorder and ADHD. James has experienced early trauma when his mum was diagnosed with cancer and after a year of intense treatment, died. He then experienced a sustained period of instability- travelling to numerous different locations around the country with his father- attending up to 5 different schools before joining Meadow View Farm School.
He now resides with his grandmother in kinship care. She is also diagnosed with a mental illness.
James’ ADHD and impulsivity plus learnt behaviours meant that his Grandmother found it increasingly challenging to keep him safe. He would abscond and be verbally and physically aggressive. He is subject to a Child Protection Plan to support his grandmother with keeping him safe and meeting his needs long-term.
James was unable to access any medical appointments due to his behaviour during appointments; as James had been verbally and physically aggressive towards health professionals, they had refused to see him. This meant that James’ ADHD symptoms could not be treated in the way professionals thought they needed to.
Experienced school staff supported James and his Grandmother at future appointments in order to manage his behaviours resulting in medical staff working with him.
James’ unsafe behaviours impacted on Grandmother’s mental health, and her deteriorating mental health impacted on his insecurity and need to display controlling behaviours.
The impact of facilitating these positive CAMHs meetings (and other medical appointments) has had an astounding impact on James’ progress- emotionally, socially and academically.
He is now able to access his class of 8 children and 4 adults (with gently decreasing 1:1 adult support), he regulates his emotions and rationalises his responses in a calmer and safer way. Grandmother’s mental health and anxieties around James’ disruptive behaviours have decreased significantly, therefore creating a positive cycle of responses. Everyone around James can see first-hand the progress he is making and that there is no longer the need for him to remain on the Child Protection Plan.
The commitment towards developing the whole child and meeting all of his needs, within and outside of school, have paid dividends towards his future outcomes.
Evidence of National recognition of the work we are doing can be seen below in an article that was published in SecED magazine and Headteacher Update.
After years of battling with and reshaping behaviour systems and reward charts, I believe I am in a position to say that traditional behaviour systems are limiting and make the assumption that all young people can conform and follow the same systems and achieve the same outcomes as their peers. And with this in mind I am confident to say that I believe the negatives outweigh the positives for the majority of young people. As a headteacher in a independent specialist provision for children with social, emotional and mental health needs, I regularly see the fallout and result of pupils not having the ability, capacity and support to reach unachievable requirements in what are very unrealistic behaviour systems. What does this fallout look like? Exclusions, low self-esteem, trauma and attachment issues. What do we do about this? We have a system for success that looks at nurturing, supporting and developing independence and self-regulation, all of which go to better the life chances of the children we work with. However, sanctions and rewards continue to be seen as the answer to improving and ensuring positive behaviour in schools. The advice from the Department for Education (DfE) in January 2016 states that schools should have sanctions and rewards: “Schools should have in place a range of options and rewards to reinforce and praise good behaviour, and clear sanctions for those who do not comply with the school’s behaviour policy.” (Behaviour and Discipline in Schools: Advice for headteachers and school staff, DfE, January 2016). But do such systems really ensure that we are developing well-rounded, intrinsically driven individuals whose life chances have been improved as a result of such interventions – for example star of the week, rain clouds and sunshine charts and table points? Personally I can make reference to my experience as a parent: my daughter’s anxieties around rewards such as “Star of the Week” outweigh the positives and therefore I struggle to see the value in persistent use. So what should schools be doing to eradicate the harm that is caused by the outdated requirements to have sanctions and rewards? Heads need to be brave and think about the drivers for the behaviours which their systems are trying to eradicate. My pet hate is the sunshine and rain cloud example, often found in the early phases of education. If you are a sunshine child, where do you go next? What motivation is there for you to behave other than the intrinsic motivation that I would guess nine out of 10 such children had long before the first ray of light or drop of rain was placed on the behaviour display board?
Our school – Meadow View Farm School – has worked hard to create a system that is forward-thinking and recognises that all behaviours are driven by emotions. With this in mind the school has a behaviour system that has high expectations, anticipates and prepares the children and focuses on the children as individuals (See Image) Consequences and rewards are replaced with high expectations and outcomes to actions. We strive to develop emotional intelligence and intrinsically motivated individuals who will achieve the best possible outcomes in life. The school tries to create an environment that is proactive rather than reactive and the staff work tirelessly to ensure moments of crisis are reduced by using our bespoke system to ensure success. The success system in action is relentless and exhausting but the outcomes for all stakeholders can be life-changing. The three key elements are constantly revolving with no one area taking permanent prevalence, they just move with fluidity and flexibility, working to meet the requirements of the pupils and staff at any given time. Our work has been supported by, among others, the Attachment Research Community (ARC) and Emotion Coaching UK.
The basis of everything relies on high expectations and this reduces the need for school rules. Why do we have high expectations rather than rules? Rules are necessary in games, but in relationships they are counterproductive. Dr William Glasser, the developer of Choice Theory, states: “Traditional education often produces problems that stem from poorly conceived and poorly administrated rules.” Rules foster obedience rather than intrinsic motivation, and can not always be applied inclusively. A child with Tourette Syndrome many shout out in class as their tics are heightened by the pressure not to do so, the same theory applies to a child with social, emotional and mental health needs. The stress of conforming to unrealistic rules and expectations will often heighten and increase the behaviours the “rules” have been applied to eradicate. High expectations if managed appropriately can be as powerful and bring about greater success than the strict list of rules that many schools feel forced to adopt. Our system around high expectations enables transferability between home and school – families can adopt the system and use this to improve home life with great success. When applied successfully the consistency between home and school reduces stress/anxiety and leads to improved outcomes for all. The high expectations are clear, explained and future-focused. They are underpinned by a vision of creating well-rounded and regulated individuals who have the greatest chance of success in society.
Preparation and anticipation
This element of the success model is exhausting and requires 100 per cent investment by staff and senior leaders. Everyone needs to ensure staff wellbeing and resilience is considered and supported to gain the best outcomes for all. Stress is natural and when regulated can be good for us, it can inspire us and bring out the best in us. The issue comes with unregulated stress – this can be toxic and lead to life-long neurological damage. We reduce the risk of unregulated stress caused by the pressures of the education system by knowing our children so well that we are able to redirect their thinking, label their emotions and regulate their responses. If we anticipate difficulties, crises and triggers for negative behaviours then we can prepare and put systems in place to reduce the impact.
Attachment and trauma awareness
This is where we use emotion coaching and a consistent script around the school. The script labels the emotions, it validates them, limits the negative behaviours associated with them and looks for alternatives. One thing that is imperative is that the emotions are not dismissed. To know how a child is feeling we need to have relationships that are trusting,
nurturing and respectful. Staff ensure that they learn about the children we work with, that they know what life is like for them, and this enables us to be there for them, no matter what: “Show them you care, always be there.” For many of our children staff act as a sea defence in a coastal storm. Staff brace themselves for what is thrown at them knowing that in time things will settle. The children need to feel valued, develop a sense of worth, confidence and self-esteem. Only when they have this can they begin to think about self-regulation and developing a repertoire of approaches to deal with the challenges life will throw at them.
It is a journey
If a child struggles with writing, as professionals we differentiate the work to ensure their success. So why are we reluctant to make such adjustments to avoid negative behaviours? Knowing what we know about children who have had challenging early life experiences leading to decision-making pathways being damaged, we need to be equipped to support and develop the life-long skills of emotional intelligence and self-regulation. Leaders need to embrace the change within their schools and empower their staff to think about more than ensuring conformity and think about the mental health of all the young people we work with. What inspires one can excite another, what is a positive for one person can be a negative for the next. By preparing and anticipating and knowing the whole child we are much more equipped move children forward in every way possible and better their futures.
What the Judges Said
We felt that this was a well-evidenced entry with data and supporting documentation backing up every point. The approach is college-wide, not just a focus on SEND or additional needs.
Oldham College is an ambitious and inclusive college, which is proud to be a unique provider of technical and professional education in Oldham.
We are in an area with more challenges than many other regional and national areas in terms of deprivation (56% across Oldham) and education and skills levels (only 56% at Level 2 or above in Oldham). The levels of deprivation across the borough are ranked among the highest in the country.
The College has students from over 50 countries, speaking over 50 different languages with almost half of the College population coming from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.
The number of learners in Oldham’s schools achieving five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4, including maths and English, although improving, is below the national rate.
Just under half of all learners enter the college without having achieved any qualifications in English and mathematics.
The College has historically played an important role in Oldham around community cohesion, through the environment which it fosters on the campus and in terms of its wider community work. This work is part of the role that the College sees itself as being an “anchor institution” within the locality, which is developed through its participation in the Oldham Leadership Board and a range of other partnerships. This role is all the more important given the extremely high proportion of learners who are disadvantaged.
The linkages between deprivation, social mobility and educational attainment in Oldham are currently the focus of a Department of Education Opportunity Area initiative. They include the prevalence of low skills, low prior achievement and the interconnection between these and other complex issues, such as mental health, drug and alcohol misuse, worklessness and similar challenges. The disproportionate levels of deprivation associated with Oldham College learners are accompanied by disproportionate levels of the issues attached to this: including a full range of safeguarding and support issues, forced marriage, domestic violence, crime, drug and alcohol misuse, mental health and self-harm, lack of confidence, language, social isolation and poverty.
In a town of low opportunity and high disadvantage, the College works with those who experience this most acutely.
For all of these reasons, the College is a unique provision within the town.
It is the only genuinely inclusive post-16 provider, willing to provide “second chance” and new opportunities for both young and adult learners. It is also the only provider with a curriculum closely aligned with the main employment and growth sectors in the Greater Manchester labour market. The College has also worked hard to ensure that it can offer an “escalator” curriculum, which provides the right mix of pathways for learners to start in one place but arrive at the outcome they need to enter the labour market in their chosen field.
‘Leaders and managers have developed highly effective partnerships with employers, the local authority, schools and the community. They work with partners to plan and develop courses that are responsive to local needs and skills priorities for Oldham, as well as opportunities within the wider region of Greater Manchester. For example, they have worked recently with the local council to provide apprenticeships in horticulture to meet identified skills gaps.’ Ofsted, 2018
In December 2018, Ofsted graded the College ‘good’ overall and “good” in all nine categories. Learner behaviour was described as “exemplary” and staff were praised for their professional expertise, the quality of teaching, learning and assessment and the excellent support provided for individuals.
The College is able to show many examples of success for learners during the last two years. Last year alone we supported a group of 29 high risks learners who we worked with prior to enrolment to ensure that their time with us would be successful, through to strong outcomes for over 1,000 apprentices, 600 undergraduates, 2,000 16-18 year olds and 1,000 adults. The College delivers a very wide range of provision, from degrees to entry level provision, English for Speakers of Other languages and a range of technical and professional pathways aligned with the economy.
Student satisfaction is very high and learners report feeling extremely safe at the College.
The College has a very good “high needs” provision and excellent special needs support.
Oldham College is an inclusive organisation, which works with learners of all abilities and backgrounds, and provides a set of pathways to improve life and work skills and prepare students for the labour market or further study.
As one of our parents said, in response to the publication of our Ofsted report: “My daughter has attended Oldham College since September (school leaver) and in my opinion the College is outstanding. The ethos of the College is about so much more than just obtaining the qualifications. We see a much more confident and happy girl every day.”
Oldham College has developed a culture where `every Leader is a Leader of SEND` and `every Teacher is a Teacher of SEND`. An innovative Additional Learning Support (ALS) Handbook (Evidence 1) has been developed to ensure that every member of staff across College understands and takes responsibility for supporting students with special educational needs. Monthly training sessions for staff take place to ensure each department understands their obligations towards working with SEND students. As a result of this training refectory staff understand the need to pre-plan and promote meal choices ahead of the day and have changed their service times to enable students with mobility difficulties to access the food counter and make their own food choices; the IT department prioritise IT requests from the ALS team as they now understand that learning can be restricted for SEND students unless the appropriate assistive technology is in place; SEND students have an active voice across College and become involved with participating in a vast array of activities; students studying Hair and Beauty and Barbering, are developing skills in how to work with customers that may have anxieties around having their hair cut – they attend monthly sessions with SEND students and offer them beauty and pampering sessions with the eventual aim of encouraging students to have their hair cut. These are a few examples of how the College has raised the bar with their inclusive ethos, and how students and staff across College now work together to support students with SEND.
‘Staff and learners embrace and promote equality of opportunity and celebrate diversity. Staff are highly qualified and experienced in working with learners with high needs. They have specific subject knowledge and behaviour support skills that ensure that learners participate fully in lessons and make good progress. Tutors and support staff benefit from a range of training and resources to enable them to effectively support the learning, social and healthcare needs of learners with high needs.’ Ofsted, 2018
Detailed formal/informal and assessment processes are in place to ensure that the correct CEIAG and level of programme is offered to each individual. Potential students are invited into college for taster assessment sessions as often as is deemed necessary to ensure a smooth transition. As part of this transition they visit the classrooms and specialist areas they will visit when at College and meet with key staff which helps reduce any anxieties around transition. Some students attend weekly sessions for a number of weeks prior to joining the College. ‘Highly effective transition arrangements’ were noted as a key strength by Ofsted in December 2018.
“Sophie attended Oldham College weekly for a few months, to get her prepared for moving to College and reduce her anxieties; this has made the transition much easier. Sophie still has times where she feels anxious, but the College know how to support her to reduce the anxieties to a manageable level, she`s growing in confidence every single day which is delightful to see” (Sophie H`s mum, December 18)
The College works closely with external partners to support parents and students including collaboration work with POINT (charity based in Oldham who support children and young people with additional needs and their families) and Positive Steps (careers advice service). POINT recently awarded the ALS Management team an award for `Passion for Parents` at their Annual Awards Ceremony. The College works collaboratively with many specialist external agencies such as Henshaw`s Society for Blind People to ensure that we go beyond expectations to support those affected by sight loss and other disabilities.
“Working with Oldham College to support their visually-impaired students has felt like a real privilege. I love spending time with the students and working in partnership with them as well as the College staff to plan and facilitate activities and experiences that they might not get to try at home.
The College is always flexible and communicative, which is essential when working with people with disabilities. Their needs are understood and provided for even on activities that take the students out into the community. Henshaws’ collaboration with Oldham College is one that I will be keen to continue. We share a passion for inclusion and while Henshaws’ objective is to go Beyond Expectations, Oldham College absolutely does this as well”.
Katy Whitwell, Children and Young People`s Enablement Officer, Henshaws Charity for Visually Impaired people.
Introduction of the Independent Living Flat and Café to allow students to develop the skills they will need for independence and work. Adaptations in a specialist Kitchen/Café include greater accessibility for wheel chairs (rise and fall tables and hob; counter dimensions) and a VI Specialist has installed adaptations for VI students (buttons on the appliances and oven). There is also a specially adapted Office (designated real life working environment) and specialist Construction Unit – for those that have career aspirations to work within these sectors, this gives them the perfect opportunity to practice their skills in a technical setting and build up their confidence to develop these skills. Staff are aspirational and encourage students to also develop Team Management or supervisory skills during these opportunities.
“it`s really good because you can cook and it`s cosy like home! I have done ironing and washing and have learnt about how to be independent – it`s like a real house!” (Hamza J, student)
The College has a team of highly specialised Communication Support Workers (CSWs) who work with deaf students across College, but also collaborate with external specialists such as Teachers of the Deaf and audiologists who carry out regular checks on students and equipment. The College also recently (October 2018) hosted a visit from the National Deaf Children`s Society bus which was attended by both deaf/hearing impaired students at the College and external visitors such as year 11 students from schools (Evidence 10).
A carousel programme of `An Introduction to Sign Language` is delivered across College for staff and students to participate in and learn basic skills and raise awareness on how to support students with hearing impairments/deafness. From January 2018 to December 2018 42 students and 18 Oldham College staff members have successfully completed the course.
“Last term I took up the opportunity to attend the basic British Sign Language course run by our ALS Team. This was a lovely experience. Attending for an hour a week over six weeks I got to know a number of students as we had a lot of fun whilst we were learning, both how to do sign language but also about each other as we spoke about our families and where we lived. It has had the effect also of being able to say hello and chat to a wider range of students whilst going about my daily business in my role”.
Pam Cowen, Learning and Development Manager, Oldham College
A number of enrichment workshops for students with SEND run weekly, specifically tailored to suit their individual needs; students learn about Equality and Diversity issues and participate in different celebrations for example making their own Easter Eggs and decorating them at Easter. One workshop is around promoting independence for visually impaired students, where students learn life skills such as domestic tasks in and around the flat, or cooking basic meals. Another workshop encourages those with difficulties with social skills to interact with others and develop their communication and confidence of working with others – this is well attended by students with autistic traits who struggle with these skills. (Evidence 7.0, 7.1).
In November 2018 Oldham College held its Annual Awards Celebration, celebrating the achievements and progress of learners. 54% of the overall Faculty prize winners were students with special educational needs, indicating that aspirations for SEND students are very high. As part of the celebration, the students from our discrete high needs provision closed the ceremony with a special `sing and sign` performance, and then enjoyed sharing their experiences with others. This amazing event / grand finale ‘brought the house down’. Please watch the video here https://vimeo.com/303680444 and here https://vimeo.com/303680615
In 2018, a Learning Resource Coordinator was employed to work in the Learning Resource Centre (LRC). He is part of the Additional Learning Support (ALS) Team and is a qualified Tutor, enabling him to give differentiated support to individuals if they need it. The LRC Coordinator has developed an Employability Handbook which supports SEND students with how to disclose their SEND to a potential employer and what their legal rights are around this (Evidence 4).
Oldham College has rolled out a highly creative `Supporting for Distinction` approach in parallel to the highly effective ‘Teaching for Distinction’ (TfD) programme. (Recently featured in TES). Staff encourage positive behaviour across campus, and have some agreed practice for students to adhere to such as not using mobile phones. There is a process in place to ensure this is inclusive for SEND students, some students may be exempt from such practice if they are `working towards TfD` to ensure that participation is phased and does not cause unnecessary anxiety. Tutors and Support Staff liaise with students to ensure that they time the transition to this approach right. A document has been provided which explains how this concept is used in more detail (Evidence 9).
The introduction of a specialist Dyslexia Tutor in 2018, has enabled liaison with other teaching colleagues to ensure learners are set targets that add value, enable the achievement of stretching learning goals; students are provided with the necessary support to assist them in successfully completing their programmes. The Dyslexia Tutor has developed innovative and stimulating teaching, learning and assessment materials for use in a range of delivery modes. She works collaboratively with a consortium of students who are `Assist Ambassadors` and explores the most up-to-date assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices as part of researching and developing a full assistive technology strategy. These students then develop several project management skills which are then weaved into their Curriculum Vitae`s and enables the students to demonstrate to future employers, their transferable skills (Evidence 5).
Oldham College works hard to ensure that SEND student`s progress onto positive destinations. In 17/18, 100% of students on discrete high needs provision progressed positively, and 92% of the overall SEND cohort also went on to positive progressions. This was achieved by staff and students understanding their aspirations, working towards the progression goal from day one and also ensuring that opportunities to develop key employability skills are taken. The College has an excellent reputation within the local community and has supported students with transition to external sites, such as voluntary opportunities over a phased period of time.
‘Learners access highly effective, meaningful and purposeful work experience.
Employers value highly the support they receive from staff to offer and sustain good-quality work experience for learners on programmes specifically designed for learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities.’
Supported Internships are particularly effective. Employers report that learners’ work is of a high standard and makes a positive contribution to their business. Staff are ambitious about learners’ ability to access work, particularly paid employment, and most do. Job coaches and employers set relevant targets for work placements that are relevant and help learners gain the skills they need for adulthood. Learners speak highly of their experiences and recognise how they help them to find employment when they leave the college.’ Ofsted, 2018
We have doubled the number of Supported Internships in the last year and will do so again in 2019/20! The progression rate was 100% in the last academic year and is on target to reach that level again this academic year!
‘I have always wanted to have a job as a Gardener. Supported Internship and Oldham College have helped make this dream come true’
(Callum L, student, on placement at Alexander Park as a Grounds Maintenance worker).
Our 17/18 achievement data is 87%, which matches the overall College achievement rate of 87%. Some students were unable to achieve / complete their main aims due to complex pastoral issues, however College is still able to demonstrate that they developed progress in terms of their cognition and learning and social and emotional development areas.
Retention is very high at 97% and has increased 4% in two years. Students feel that their needs are being met and they want to stay at Oldham College and succeed.
‘Managers and the wider staff team carry out thorough and accurate assessments of learners’ starting points at the start of their programmes. These inform the planning of learners’ courses and ensure that they are on the right course for their needs and aspirations.
The multidisciplinary approach to target setting and monitoring is highly effective. All staff work together to plan learning and additional support requirements that learners need so that they achieve their aspirational targets both academically and personally.’
Oldham College is not stopping here and has recently launched a five year strategic plan to continue our improvement journey even further. Inclusion is the heartbeat of Oldham College and this features throughout the strategic plan and is related ten developmental projects. This document has been consulted on and shared widely with all our local and national stakeholders. We remain ambitious for our future students and look forward to ending this current academic year on a high with the best results ever.
What the Judges Said
So touching to read these stories – the difference this college is making to the lives of students and their families is immense. The support being offered to get their students into employment is inspirational.
Derwen College, in Oswestry, is a national specialist college for young people aged from 16 to 25 with learning difficulties and disabilities. The college focus is on employability and development of independent living and social skills. There are more than 180 people enrolled on programmes from local authorities spanning the UK, including nearly 100 residential students. Students are based at the college’s main site near Oswestry, in Shropshire, and at three smaller satellite sites. Learners follow vocational pathways in Hospitality and Housekeeping, Horticulture, Retail and Creative Arts with work experience opportunities and relevant qualifications delivered by expert teaching staff.
Derwen College offers on-site work placements for students in its commercial areas which are open to the public. These include a restaurant, café, print shop, garden centre and shop. The college also runs a three-bedroom training hotel supported by hotel chain Premier Inn.
Derwen College has received three consecutive ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted gradings and has been shortlisted in the Times Education Supplement Awards prestigious Specialist FE Provider of the Year category for 2018 and 2019.
As testament to their hard work, Derwen College’s Work Experience and Transition Team are pleased to have received the nationally respected Fair Train Work Experience Quality Standard at the highest Gold level for the third consecutive time.
“I like helping and doing work. I like working with everyone and being busy doing jobs.”
Retail student, Jack
“Being employed at Premier Inn has taught me important skills: to be punctual, time keeping and to have a smart appearance and make a good first impression; how to deal with all sorts of people and visitors to the hotel. This has been a great scheme for me and I’m really glad that I had the opportunity to do it.”
Former Hospitality and Housekeeping student Mary, who now works at Premier Inn
“I do stock-taking, checking dates, keeping things tidy. I do this in the Garden Centre and now I do it at Spar. I like working in Spar every Tuesday, stacking shelves and talking to customers. When I leave Derwen I would like to work in a supermarket and earn my own money.”
Retail student, Tom
These are just some of many quotes from students at Derwen College, in Shropshire, who aspire to take their part in their community through work and supported independent living.
Adults with a learning disability are under-represented in paid employment; figures suggest that only 6% of adults with a learning disability known to their local authority in England are in paid work (Mencap/HSCIC 2015). Derwen College is working to buck this trend through on-site vocational training and innovative collaboration and partnerships with local and national employers.
Derwen’s Work Experience and Transition Team work hard to build partnership links with businesses and organisations throughout the country. At present we work with 24 employers including national chains. To try to combat the low national employment rate, the college invests in a comprehensive and up-to-date programme of training and development of college staff and the provision of industry standard facilities and equipment.
The college has also launched an innovative ‘industry champion’ initiative, working with employers who share their expertise and support our programme areas in working to the most current industry practice and standards.
Our sustained partnership with Premier Inn exemplifies our Inclusion in Employment model.
In 2013 we began work with Premier Inn to support a student with a work experience placement in a Premier Inn hotel site. Proving a success, Premier Inn realised the incredible potential of our students and saw an opportunity to facilitate more work experience placements. In 2014, a branded training room on-site at the college was developed to enable learners to develop industry standard skills with staff who had received industry standard training. Links were developed to work with the national hotel chain to create work experience opportunities at Premier Inn hotels as students progressed.
In 2017 the training facility at Derwen developed to ‘Hotel 751’, Premier Inn working alongside Novus Property Solutions, built a Premier Inn training centre complete with a reception, three bedrooms and laundry room on site.
By the end of summer term 2018, from 36 students who participated in training since the beginning of the partnership in 2013, 16 had achieved paid employment with Premier Inn. With an employment rate of 44%, this course beats the 6% national average by 38%.
As part of this successful partnership, Derwen College hosted a Disability Awareness Day for Premier Inn staff so they feel supported and confident when working with learners and staff with learning difficulties and disabilities.
The college is also working with and providing a direct service to employers as part of the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (match funded by The Midlands Engine) ‘Investing in our Future Workforce’ project. The project at Derwen will develop a series of web and mobile applications to support students into work and equip them with life-skills for independent assisted living. Part of this project will be to work with and provide a direct service to employers supporting them to overcome the barriers and potential misconceptions in employing a person with special educational needs. The project is exploring the use of apps in supporting traditional learning, starting with the launch of a Premier Inn app providing a step-by-step guide to making up hotel room at Derwen College’s Training Hotel and off-site hotels.
Simon Ewins, Managing Director, Premier Inn:
“Premier Inn couldn’t be prouder to work in partnership with this life-changing educational establishment and it’s a joy to see the young people learn new skills and flourish under the guidance of the college and our hard-working teams. We’re absolutely committed to giving back to the communities in which we serve so we’re delighted to have Derwen students in employment with us across the country. The partnership is about more than simply ‘giving back’ though – we get so much ourselves. We think business excellence is cemented by diversity and this partnership in particular not only enables a pipeline of employees but inspires and motivates our teams.”
Don’t just take our word for it …
Mary, former Derwen College student and Premier Inn employee:
“I have been employed as a receptionist at Premier Inn, Greenwich, in south east London since November 2016.
“Through a scheme that was devised by the college in conjunction with Premier Inn, I was able to gain work experience and, with that, the confidence and skills to make the transition from being a student to paid employment..
“When I started at Premier Inn, Chester, initially I had some support with travelling the and so on, but after a few months I was able to gain enough confidence to get to work independently. Initially I started doing morning shifts and progressed to evening shifts.
“In 2016, I graduated from Derwen College and I moved back home to the Greenwich area. I was enjoying my work experience at Premier Inn located in Chester and was able to continue my work experience at Premier Inn, located in Greenwich. After a few months on work experience, they offered me paid employment.
“My work on reception involves greeting the guests when they arrive and either I enter all their details on the computer or I assist the guests in the Kiosk where they can enter their own details. I’m pretty talkative and I enjoy chatting to the visitors when they arrive.
“Being employed at Premier Inn has taught me important skills: to be punctual, time keeping and to have a smart appearance and make a good first impression; how to deal with all sorts of people and visitors to the hotel. Overall this has been a great scheme for me and I’m really glad that I had the opportunity to do it.”
Angela, Mum to former student Olivia says that Derwen College helped her to secure paid employment.
After leaving Derwen in 2014 Olivia’s journey has taken her back to her home area of Derbyshire where she is now working for The Moon Inn, Stoney Middleton. With the support of Derbyshire County Council Community Connectors Olivia has found paid employment as a kitchen porter. She also volunteers for a local café and has an annual role in her village pantomime.
Staff at The Moon describe Olivia as ‘an asset to their team and a pleasure to work with.’ They are amazed at Olivia’s work ethic and ability to focus on her job. Olivia’s mum feels that this is down to the excellent vocational training that Olivia received during her three years at Derwen College. The fact that training is daily really establishes an understanding of what it is to work in catering.
“Liv loved her time at Derwen and it really did teach her how kitchens and cafes work and how to work in a team and get the job done. It made her employable.”