6. A Small Group of S1 Pupils with Significant Learning Needs

Background A group of four vulnerable pupils with significant additional support needs were identified during the P7 transition process, and a needs assessment determined that their educational requirements would be best met in a Specialist provision. With no spaces available in the locality, the pupils were placed at a mainstream Secondary school located in an area of multiple deprivation. All four children had yet to attain Level A (5-14) and could not therefore access the mainstream Sl curriculum and so an alternative curricular pathway had to be defined that would allow the class to learn at a pace suited to their needs, but with the same level of opportunities open to all other pupils. Solution Focused Approach In collaboration with the Authority Senior Managers, the school designated a classroom as the main base for the group and equipped it with furnishings to accommodate a range of small learning environments. The pupils gave their class a name they were happy with and were initially taught all of their lessons in this room with a limited number of teachers moving to them rather than vice versa. The long-term aim was that, after a period of initiation and consolidation, the class would broaden their experiences of the school by moving more extensively throughout the school and eventually into the community beyond. Strategies • The first phase of the long-term plan for the class was for each pupil to develop a sense of security in the school and a trusting relationship with a small number of key members of staff. • A broad curriculum based on Curriculum for Excellence principles aimed to build the four capacities in each pupil and to enhance their resilience and willingness to take learning ‘risks’. • Core literacy and numeracy learning was embedded in all areas of the curriculum with a consistency of approach in terms of methodology and terminology. • Teachers adopted a ‘can-do’ approach to problem-solving and persuaded each pupil to not only develop a confidence in their own capacity to /earn, but a willingness to step outside their comfort zones info more challenging territories. • By S2, pupils were following Access 1 /2 courses and gaining certification in PE, art & design, music, science, social subjects and enterprise. • The base classroom provided learning experiences for around 1 5 other pupils who need enhanced levels of academic or emotional support in certain areas of the curriculum. • The base class planned and established a cafe which served refreshments to employees and visitors at a local community centre. In doing so, they acquired vocational and enterprising skills in food preparation and hygiene, customer services and money management and budgeting. • By S4, all four pupils had established links with the local college, had participated in an extended work experience and were in the final stages of completing both their ASDAN Award and their Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Awards • Pupils in this class have raised over £1,000 for charities such as Concern and Save the Children through their cafe enterprise and by other initiatives such as selling recipe books. Range of Strategies to Promote Positive Behaviour and Improve Learning • Long and thorough transition process founded on strong links with the two primary schools. • Establishment of a ‘safe learning environment’ in which occasional ‘failure’ was regarded as a stage on the route to success. • Realistic expectations in target-setting and management of daily routine – varied curriculum to sustain learning interest. • Heavy emphasis on co-operative learning and problem-solving and on celebrating success. • Recognition of entitlement to participate in the full range of school activities including sports events, work experience and school visits. • Long-term focus on life skills and resilience-building in preparation for post-school life. • Flexible approach to teaching with staff developing courses in areas suited to pupil needs rather than teacher experience. • Support from Senior Managers in developing the curriculum outwith the Support for Learning department and co-operation from key mainstream departments, eg PE, Home Economics and Technology. Individualised Planning Although each pupil shared certain learning difficulties, at the planning and delivery stages they were considered individuals with their own learning needs. Success was built less upon defining deficits than on enhancing existing competencies and emphasising strengths. Staff ensured that each pupil was made aware not only of the progress that they were making and of their own successes, but of their importance within the group. Group success was celebrated alongside individual achievement. Pupils working at different levels within the same class shared similar learning experiences albeit with different outcomes. A Flexible Curriculum in Line with Curriculum for Excellence The curricular framework followed by young people in the base classroom was formed on a long-term plan to prepare them for the transition from school to the world of further learning, independent living and work. Course content was designed to build the four capacities with an emphasis on skills and knowledge that would have long-term relevance. Abstract concepts were taught within real-life contexts with points of reference that linked to experiences familiar to each pupil. A conscious effort was made to extend learning beyond the classroom to the school grounds, the local cafe, college and a range of work places. Partnership Working • Each pupil was allocated a caseload teacher/lead person who kept in contact with parents/ carers at home. • Very strong links were formed with the local specialist provision for advice on specialised areas of the curriculum, eg sex education. • The school established links with the local college and with local work placements sympathetic to the high level of need of these pupils and arranged for carefully planned visits. • The regional Duke of Edinburgh Award office provided enhanced support and flexible assessment arrangements to assist with completion of the Bronze Award. Successful Outcomes included:
  • pupils who were initially frightened of unfamiliar teachers visiting their classroom can now move freely around school and with confidence in their work placement;
  • very significant improvements have been recorded in the quality of speech and communication in one boy with autism;
  • all four pupils have achieved certification at Access 1 and 2, ASDAN and Duke of Edinburgh Award;
  • attendance levels have remained high;
  • all pupils have a clear transition plan to college;
  • the class has been accepted by their peer group and ore fully included within their registration class;
  • one pupil with a significant stammer participates in a Disability Awareness course delivered to all S 7 pupils and speaks about his difficulties to the classes;
  • the successes achieved by the class have changed opinions amongst staff within the school by demonstrating how well planned inclusion can work.