The inaugural National Special Educational Needs Awards were judged in the summer term of 2015. Here are the winning entries.
Best use of external special needs professional
The Lyndon School, Solihull
Judges comments: Well presented and clearly represented above and beyond practice for all schools. The entry showed good rigour and demonstrated the collaborative partnership approach the school have taken.
Lyndon is a happy, caring school with high expectations for all students. We want every child to become a success and to achieve their very best. We believe that success can be captured by hard work, perseverance and partnership. Lyndon is a Trust school, working together in partnership with higher education providers, as well as successful businesses and community partners. These partnerships provide students with a wealth of experiences and opportunities that are unique to Lyndon. Within school and through these partnerships we encourage our students to have high aspirations and to become positive, disciplined and respectful role models.
Over the last 12 months, Lyndon has been working hand in hand on a Speech and Language pilot with one particular Trust Partner, a local University. As a school we identified a gap in our provision and we were feeling some of the same difficulties other schools in the authority were feeling with regards to access to Speech and Language therapy. As a result, and with the support of our link Governor for SEN, we met with the University Speech and Language faculty to embark upon a joint project that would benefit both parties. In short, the Speech and Language faculty would provide us with Speech and Language therapy support to work with students, families and staff at Lyndon and we would provide placement opportunities for undergraduates training in this field who were hoping to fulfill a career within schools or supporting school aged clients.
Our initial aims:
For the University to provide speech and language therapy assessments of individual pupils identified by the school’s Special Educational Needs & Disabilities Coordinator (SENDCO) and teachers.
- A profile of the young person’s speech, language and communication need (SLCN) will be provided to parents and teaching staff.
- Advice for the pupil, parents and teachers to support the young person’s speech and language skills and learning within the classroom will be given following the appraisal process.
- Recommendations for individual/ group speech and language therapy as appropriate.
To commence speech and language therapy intervention with pupils with an identified SLCN.
- To increase pupil’s functional communication in order to improve their activity and participation within the school context. Individual short term aims will be set with SMART targets to achieve.
- Liaison with teaching staff re: strategies to support the young person in class.
To discuss/review current social skills for pupils at the school with the SENDCO and teaching assistants.
- To implement strategies to support the young people within the group
- To set up an additional social skills group for pupils if deemed appropriate.
- To develop inter-professional working – training and supporting teaching assistants.
To provide face to face training session(s) for teachers and assistants regarding a range of speech, language and communication needs.
- To increase teachers’ and teaching assistants’ knowledge and skills of SLCN in order for them to provide effective support for pupils with SLCN.
For Lyndon to support the trainee Speech and Language therapists whilst on placement to enable a true experience of work within the Secondary School environment.
- To increase trainee therapists understanding of the demands on staff and students within the Secondary school setting
- To enable the trainee therapists to assess and work with real clients.Outcome/impact:
SENDCO from Lyndon to deliver a lecture/workshop to the Speech and Language undergraduates at the University.
- Understanding of National curriculum requirements for Speaking and Listening and how it is assessed
- Understanding the identification of young people with SLCN in a Secondary setting
- Understanding of the wider role of the SENDCO
- An introduction to the SEND reforms
More than 10 students have been assessed and individual profiles of SLCNs have been provided to parents and staff.
Advice and training for students, parents and staff has been provided in various forms: telephone, email, face to face, 1:1 and during various staff training days.
Placements of trainee therapists has enabled more detailed assessments to be carried out including more than one lesson observation which in turn enables a more thorough explanation regarding advice and recommendations for all parties involved.
Individual Teaching assistants have been working closely with the Speech and Language therapists to develop their own knowledge and skills. This included attending individual therapy sessions with students and then further supporting the students to use various learned strategies in lessons across the curriculum.
Students have shown developments in their vocabulary particularly of high focus words such as those used in exam questions. Some students have become more independent in identifying new vocabulary in lessons and then learning it more effectively in therapy sessions. Staff have reported noticeably increased confidence amongst the students with regards to learning and their potential to succeed.
All in all, the Speech and Language partnership pilot has been a real success. We continue to work closely with the Speech and Language faculty and therapists. As a SENDCO I feel confident that we are effectively meeting the needs of our young people and that the Teaching and Support staff are continuing to develop professionally leading to a stronger, highly skilled future provision.
Most innovative special needs intervention
Pool Academy, Redruth
Judge comments: Well evidenced and made it obvious how the school go above and beyond, there was clear rigour and structure. It was clear from the start that they have a broad base of meeting different needs and are driven by a leader who understand and shows clear direction.
We have chosen to put forward our Academy’s Unique Disability Sport Intervention programme. Due to our locality and limited local resources we have found that sporting opportunities for SEN and Disability students is very limited. We also felt that the sporting programme within our own Academy was geared more towards able bodied students and this needed to adapt due to the current cohort of SEN students.
When taking part in competitions we have had to travel vast distances to facilitate our students being able to fulfill their potential. We strongly felt that the students with SEN would benefit from the ethos of competition, social inclusion and self-confidence building.
This intervention was started in January 2009 after a discussion with one of our students who had a diagnosis of ADHD. He told us that he was having problems settling in class and was really struggling with concentration. The idea of having students taking part in physical activity before start of class was born. One of our male teaching assistants (Mark Fuller) was very interested in setting up a small group. Mark himself has ADHD and was able to empathise with the students.
ADHD students are normally categorised by two sets of behavioural problems, inattentiveness and hyperactivity and can underachieve at school due to poor social interaction with peers and adults they can also have problems with discipline. We found that our students had improved their concentration in lessons. Use of sanctions for behaviour showed a vast improvement.
The first session involved 6 students, each with their own individual SEN difficulties ranging from ADHD, physical difficulty, Autism and behavioural issues. Sessions started at 8.00am. Students were offered breakfast and then took part in football skills until the start of lessons at 8.50am.
The numbers quickly grew with more SEN students joining the group. Lunch time sessions were added due to the popularity of the morning sessions. This meant that students would be able to access further physical activity.
The group had strict rules for behaviour and group interaction. Many of the students had been isolating themselves during free time. The group started to bond, spending free time together, this had a very positive effect on their social and emotional wellbeing. Parents reported that students were calmer at home and their home life had changed for the better.
We soon had enough students to enter the Cornwall Ability Counts School League. Students would compete once a month at our local College. I have never seen such excitement as they made their way to the first game.
Pool Academy has gone on to win for the last three years both in the league and Championship levels. We also compete in the Cornwall School Games and have won that for the past two years.
One of our ADHD students has been very successful in competing in the under 18 English ‘LD’ trials and represents our College at mainstream level.
Another of our hearing impaired students has just been accepted on to Plymouth Argyle ‘futsal’ programme for next year.
Disability Basketball was started as we felt we needed to offer a competitive sport for wheelchair bound and physical difficulties students. Again Mr Fuller stepped in to run a newly formed team. He applied for the lease of 15 basketball wheelchairs from Cornwall Sports partnership and was successful.
We completed in the first ever South West Inclusive Zone basketball competition. This type of format of the game allows for able-bodied students to assist wheelchair users in a game that is played across three zones. Each team must consist of one wheelchair user. One of our students had osteogenesis imperfecter (brittle bone) and curvature of the spine. He was wheelchair bound but was very keen to participate in the game. The whole team was based around him and he was a big part of the team which then won a Bronze medal at regional level. Based on the success of the team he was selected to attend a Sainsbury’s school games talent identification weekend. He has since joined Cornwall Cougars.
Disability Boccia was a sport that one of our wheelchair bound students had seen at the Paralympics and felt that he would like to try. We set up an extra curriculum timetable within the PE department to enable him to partake in this sport. The student had full support after school and practised regularly. Within a year he and three other disabled students were entered into the County competition. The students came second and qualified for the South West Championship, quite an achievement in such a short team.
Last year the students achieved first place in the County finals.
We are very proud of our SEN students accomplishments both team and individual.
They have been a credit to our Academy by the way they have conducted themselves and in the way they have supported each other. They have left or are ready to leave our Academy as young adults who have developed the life skills needed to succeed in our Community.
Most inclusive practice across a school
Foxwood School, Hythe
Judges comments: Well evidenced and made it clear how the school go above and beyond. It was clear from the start that the school encourage individuality and recognise achievement for the individual, not just evidencing the impact for the children, but also guiding outreach too.
Foxwood is an all age school (3-19 years) for pupils with Profound and Severe Learning Difficulties, based in Hythe, Kent. Our Federated partner school, Highview has a designation for Complex needs and is based in Folkestone, Kent. Our pupils have a wide range of disabilities, including, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Physical and Sensory impairments.
Learning is personalised to meet the needs of individual pupils with an emphasis on Communication, Independence and Social skills. The school forms part of a “hard” federation with another special school, Highview in Folkestone, and there is a joint Governing Body. We are currently waiting a new build.
The School has an outreach team of 17 teaching staff who provide advice and support for pupils who have difficulties with cognition and learning, communication and interaction, behaviour and visual and hearing impairment. Thirty five primary schools, six secondary schools and two pupil referral units benefit from this specialist advice.
The school is a centre of excellence for Early Years Foundation Stage education. Pupils at post 16 are not usually entered for GCSE, but take other accredited courses, such as OCR Life and Living Skills, that will prepare them for post school life.
We offer a wide range of educational experiences promoting the spiritual, moral, cultural, social, emotional and physical development within a broad, balanced and stimulating curriculum framework, in accordance with the National Curriculum; which maximises achievement within a safe and appropriate learning environment and provides pupils with an education relevant to their personal needs and appropriate to the world outside of the classroom.
We encourage personal autonomy, a sense of responsibility and the ability to make informed choices and decisions which leads to a more independent lifestyle. We develop self-esteem and personal worth in order to become a confident contributing member of the community. The recent Ofsted report (June 2014) noted that “It also recognises that the school work to promote equality of opportunity and diminish and discrimination is outstanding.”
The school has Inclusion and Equal Opportunity Policies which are in place. Differentiation according to individual needs is at the heart of our provision; Individual achievements are shared at awards/ certificates events including awards evenings, music sport and art events etc.
We have a wide variety of Quality Marks the most recent being the Inclusion Quality Mark and the Gold award for Continuing Professional Learning Development.
Where pupils have specific medical/ health needs they may be placed in a class where these needs can be best met (e.g. availability of hoist and /or specific physiotherapy equipment). There are opportunities for internal inclusion and pupils from different classes join together for music, creative, physical and social activities.
Pupils have access to a wide range of resources across the school and staff work closely with other professionals such as OT’s, SALT and Physiotherapists to ensure a truly personalised curriculum which is based on individual need.
All achievement is valued and opportunities to celebrate achievement are normal practice in the school. Communication, oral and written, is effective in inclusive learning and teaching including parent needs for translation and interpretation, we use different systems around school – Braille, Makaton, Objects of reference, Eye gaze systems, PECS etc. ICT effectively supports communication with its computers, IWB, iPads, touchscreen ‘tables’, laptops, eye gaze technology, variety of voice output communication devices and the use of a variety of connective switches. Classes and certain public spaces have signs (including symbols) advising pupils who they can ask for help/support. All pupils have keyworkers within their class team to support them, ‘be their voice’ and facilitate their personal care and ensure their wellbeing, as necessary.
Bi-termly newsletters for parents; school website; displays of pupils’ work in each class and in general areas of the school; press reports of pupil achievements, awards, presentations and special occasions all reflect diversity of needs and abilities of pupils. .
The behaviour of pupils is outstanding. Pupils contribute positively to their school. They take part in gardening, collective fund raising, and perform plays and choir concerts. More recently they have celebrated India day with art, cooking and displays, and have been excited that one of their teachers is going to India to support pupils like themselves.
Considering the required high ratio of staff to pupils, pupil medical requirements and the necessary home-school-home travel arrangements, the provision of out of class activities is difficult to maintain. However, there is a popular football team, choir and film club representing a wide range. We do however offer Residential trips, Theatre trips and School plays
Learners are regularly consulted about school issues, with outcomes considered and addressed. The School Council Meets regularly, with varying agendas (e.g. to set/consider school rules, to discuss wishes for new build, to take part in interviewing potential new TAs/teachers)
All pupils are extremely well supported to fulfil their potential; progress from their starting point is outstanding. Pupils eligible for additional funding make excellent progress in both English and Mathematics. They do as well as their classmates in Key Stages 3 to 5, and better than their classmates in Key Stages 1 and 2. As a result, they love coming to school and being part of the school community. Consequently, the school’s work to promote equality of opportunity and diminish any discrimination is outstanding.
Pupils at post-16 make outstanding progress in their programmes that prepare them well for life after school. They visit local shops, take part in enterprise projects and are encouraged to do everyday activities on their own.
Children in the Early Years Foundation Stage make excellent progress from their very low starting points because of the expertise and understanding of the children’s needs.
Learning and Teaching plans and schemes of work are adapted to local (individual) needs. Effective planning leads to clear outcomes for each pupil in every lesson. Learner progress is monitored within each lesson and lessons are modified to developing needs, with learners contributing positively in lessons according to their ability.
The school have recently appointed a new multi-agency team to support learners and their parents. The Achievement for All has increased parental engagement through the use of structured conversations. Regular parent information/consultation meetings have taken place on a frequent basis regarding the new build. EYFS – parents are invited to weekly “Stay and Play” sessions where they can get to know their child’s environment and staff in an informal way.
The school is a member of the Kent Association of Special Schools. This group engages in school to school support, including leadership development, governance and pupil progress. The aim is to strengthen our ability to work collaboratively and co-operatively to enable our schools to grow, develop and improve together. The school works exceptionally well with other professionals and the wider community through its outreach work. It provides training and expertise for teachers across the local authority as well as working directly with pupils who have specific behavioural, profound and multiple needs.