Whole school approach
High quality teaching and all of our additional interventions are vital in order to get the absolute best outcomes for our pupils. We regularly review and record what we offer EVERY child or young person in our care and what we offer additionally. These discussions also serve to embed our high expectations among staff about quality first teaching and the application of a differentiated and personalised approach to teaching and learning. We make it a point to discuss aspirations with ALL our learners.
The school environment and ethos is one which promotes rich aided language throughout the school day, this includes trained communication partners able to model AAC language and develop the pupils receptive and expressive language during natural conversations. One of the main communication tools that we offer is PODD (Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display). 'An ongoing challenge for people supporting children who are learning to communicate using aided symbols (pictographs, graphic symbols, whole written words) is the need to predict and provide sufficient vocabulary to both meet their present communication requirements and to stimulate the further development of their communication and language skills.' We feel that PODD can do this.
Cognition and learning
Most of our young people have some form of learning disability. The staff’s in-depth understanding of need supports carefully planned differentiation and scaffolding in lessons. More than half of our students are working below level one of the national curriculum, with many working at the very earliest P levels.
Social, emotional and mental health
In order to support the emotional wellbeing of some of our young people we offer weekly counselling through a charity called RESPOND. Where appropriate, secondary students take part in a Mindfulness programme, aimed at building their resilience. The school, its families and young people also benefit from the support of the CAMHS Service, through advice and guidance from the educational psychologist. We use PIVATS to track students’ personal & social skills development.
Sensory and/or physical needs
All of our students have physical disabilities, many with one or more additional sensory impairments. Islington’s outreach service for sensory impairment is based at our school and is able to provide staff, students and their families with a high level of support, including one to one support from specialist teachers where appropriate. Across the school we have a multi-sensory approach to curriculum delivery, that includes considerations around vestibular and proprioceptive needs, including use of our sensory rooms. We have occupational therapists and physiotherapists based at the school, who work with our school staff to support the students’ physical needs, including following postural & stretching management programmes, walking, use of standing frames, hydrotherapy, and Rebound therapy.
(Reference: SEN Policy - January 2014)
Considerable thought, planning and preparation goes into utilising our support staff to ensure children achieve the best outcomes, gain independence and are prepared for adulthood from the earliest possible age.
We have four classes in primary, four in secondary and two in our sixth form. Classes are mixed ability with 8 pupils. Each class has a core of two teaching assistants, with additional teaching assistants allocated to groups depending on pupil needs.
Each class has a Lead TA who oversees the communication needs of the pupils and works with the teacher on planning and lesson preparation. Each department has a Senior (Higher Level) Teaching Assistant who helps lead the TA team and covers teachers for up to two days at a time in any class.
School partnerships and transitions
Our academic assessment for children and young people with special educational needs is moderated with the other special needs schools in the borough as well as our mainstream partners. We are also part of the Point 5 and Challenge Partner communities of schools. We have also been part of a network of South London Schools, working on developing assessment systems for young people with complex needs.
Both our primary and secondary departments are co-located with mainstream schools. Primary share a building with Prior Weston School, and secondary is on the same site as City of London Academy - Islington. We are working with both partners to develop inclusion links. We also have pupils attend Samuel Rhodes, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Oasis Academy on inclusion programmes.
Our students tend to leave when they are nineteen years old. Most go on to college or a training provider, for example Westminster Kingsway College or John Dewey Specialist College. We have our own Information, Advice and Guidance Specialist who works very closely with young people and their families to support the transition.
Therapy and health services are not employed directly by the school - but are commissioned through Whittington Health, to provide health services for children registered with an Islington GP.
There are many children who attend our school from other boroughs, and in these cases health and therapy services are arranged separately from the school. Students attending from other boroughs will be entitled to a basic offer including an annual review, general training for staff, and assessment for equipment to meet essential needs. Any health or therapy needed in addition to this is arranged by our PCT in conjunction with the home borough. More information can be found by clicking on this link.
Our policy is to deal with parents’ concerns and complaints as quickly as possible. Matters will be resolved mostly by the class teacher or assistant head of the primary or secondary department.
Parents are advised to contact the headteacher or complete a complaint form if they wish to make a formal complaint. The headteacher will work swiftly to resolve matters in the best interests of the child and family. Our full complaints policy is available on our website.
Challenges this year
In response to feedback from families and the a review of our curriculum we have moved towards having more mixed ability classes. In secondary we then stream for the core subjects. This brings huge benefits in terms of creating greater opportunities for communication and relationship building for students, but creates new challenge for some staff.
The increased freedom for schools around assessment has enabled us to develop a bespoke assessment toolkit for each child. Last year the focus was on research that would shape our toolkit, and this year we are working hard to apply what we have learned to create out HAT. (Holistic Assessment Toolkit)
Attendance for young people with complex medical conditions is always a challenge, but it is one that we are embracing and see as a key priority for the school. We are working closely with families and a whole range of professionals on improving pupil attendance.