For us as a school, one of the greatest learning journeys we have undertaken to date can be illustrated by the removal, or reduction of the barriers to learning and participation for all pupils who have Special Educational Needs. In order to achieve this it has been necessary to change and adapt the cultures, policies and practices of our school which has been possible due to the care and commitment of our staff.
We enthusiastically rose to the challenge 6 years ago by admitting a number of pupils with severe and complex life – long needs into our then Reception class. We now have 9 pupils with severe and complex life –long needs throughout the school for whom we receive some additional high needs funding. In addition to this we also have pupils with other needs including Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, ASD, ADHD, Visual Impairment to name a few.
Long recognised and praised within the LEA for our inclusive practice and ethos, we strive to ensure all our staff receive on-going support and training to deal with such a range of need; Signalong, Diabetes, Anaphylaxis, Stoma, Mickey Button, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy … and much more!
In the recent Ofsted inspection it confirmed that Summerhill shows;
‘A strong commitment to supporting pupils with a wide variety of sometimes complex disabilities and special educational needs. For some this limits their attainment but care is always taken to maximise progress, which is rapid and sustained. Additional support is provided by the effective Learning Partners which allows these pupils to narrow the gap between their attainment and that of other pupils. The most able pupils are also being challenged effectively and as a consequence they continue to make good progress from their higher starting points, better than that generally expected for pupils of their age.’ The average points of progress made 2013/14 was 6.63 for our SEND pupils.
This view is supported by our many external agencies with whom we have developed strong relationships. A recent visit from an Educational Psychologist stated that the planning and intervention for a child in Year 3 with severe and complex needs was ‘above and beyond’ expectations.
Our teacher’s know how teaching strategies, with the development of knowledge, understanding and skills at their heart, can be used to boost participation, active learning and, thus, achievement. Adapting a personalised curriculum for each child has certainly had a positive impact. An Inclusion Consultant stated that ‘I have never though that a child with these difficulties would be capable of making so much progress.’
Additional hygiene services and resources and the purchase of specialist ‘small scale’ equipment to enable full participation in daily activities is also funded through school. Resources include height adjustable tables to enable pupils to work alongside their peers, accessible dining tables, a wet room, accessible toilets located around the school, pathways have been established and surfaces modified to enable the safe driving of wheelchairs and a Therapy room which is used daily for pupils who have specific physiotherapy programmes.
Other children in school benefit a great deal from working with pupils with SEN and that inclusive education helps remove stereotypes and ignorance. As a school we have learnt to sign and have participated in the sign2sing world record for the last couple of years. Some of our pupils have also represented Sefton in the Primary Panathlon during the past couple of years and were successful in gaining first place.
Termly review meetings are held with parents, pupils and staff. Outside agency involvement feedback forms part of this discussion. Allocated weekly slots for staff collaboration are also timetabled throughout school in order to carefully monitor the effectiveness of interventions. During these meetings we seek pupil’s views and understand the need for flexible communication methods. Parent voice at these reviews is essential as the learning development and potential for future achievements is unknown for some pupils as they truly are unique children. The home / school diary in addition to regular update meetings ensures we have mutual exploration of each other’s opinions and assumptions on the basis of equality, honesty and trust.
In conclusion, our pupil’s with SEND bring so much to our school community in terms of citizenship, enrichment of all children and the importance of establishing a sense of community based on co-operation, respect and the celebration of difference with dignity. The partnerships that exist between the parents, pupils, Learning Partners, teachers and external agencies enrich and sustain our practice and knowledge. The care, commitment, passion and understanding of the pupil’s from our staff, makes Summerhill a very special place to work.