About SEN at our school:
Stony Dean School is an outstanding school for pupils with communication and/or interaction difficulties. Most pupils have difficulty understanding or using language which affects their learning and confidence. Many pupils have other difficulties such as writing or organising themselves or their learning. Some pupils may show a more variable range of ability across areas of the curriculum but the level and/or complexity of their needs impacts on their overall level of attainment or functioning in school. Some pupils have medical conditions or physical limitations.
The school creates a “language-rich” environment, in which therapeutic strategies supporting Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) and Literacy development are fully integrated into the whole school day.
Our school is a calm and productive learning environment where the staff team seeks to maximise the potential of every student and to take advantage of every learning opportunity to enable and encourage life-long learning and a worthwhile place within school, their community and the workplace.
The school currently has 180 pupils aged 11-19, and follows a secondary mainstream school model, with pupils following courses taught by subject specialist staff in subject specialist rooms.
All pupils at Stony Dean have an Education, Health and Care Plan and a history of speech and language difficulties: 72% have complex and severe speech and language difficulties, as assessed on the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals assessment and 30% have a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The school was awarded the status of “Specialist SEN College for Communication and Interaction” in 2009 and OFSTED has judged it as outstanding since November 2014.
The school employs a range of professionals to support the learning in the classroom who all take part in an extensive CPD package. We employ ASD Specialists, behavior specialists, Speech and Language therapists. We also have access to CAMHS, OT (provided by the NHS) specialist teaching service support for children with sensory impairment, educational consultants, educational psychologists and Counselling. Teachers have a variety of different backgrounds and experiences. All of our main teachers have relevant under graduate degree and QTS.
Partnership with Parents
The school takes a holistic approach to supporting the pupils, and the partnership between home and school is seen as essential to enable the pupils to develop fully. Parents know their child best and provide information and approaches that are most effective for their child. We aspire to working together to ensure consistency of approach at home and at school – sharing knowledge and information to achieve the best outcomes for the pupils. Parents informed us that they wanted information and support on areas such as managing anxiety, encouraging social situations and challenges through adolescence and in response we are running a series of information sessions involving other professionals to provide this support. Many pupils find school a challenging place and the support of, and partnerships with, parents is crucial in overcoming these barriers.
The core areas of learning and the school’s focus are
- Communication and Interaction
The school follows the national curriculum based on a mainstream model which is differentiated to an appropriate level to meet the needs of the young people.
Most pupils follow a secondary school model with 6 lessons a day. Students will have access to English, Maths, Science, ICT, Learning for Life (PSHCE), Humanities, Art, D&T Resistant material and D&T Food technology, RE, PE, Work related Learning & a Social Communication Programme (SALT) delivered in therapy groups as part of the timetable. In these subject areas students have access to a range of qualifications that vary in level to meet the needs of the classes. These qualifications may include BTEC, GCSE & Entry level awards.
Teaching and learning is within class groups generally, but some areas stream by ability. The class teacher is responsible for the delivery of all curriculum content that is appropriate for that class. A small number of classes follow a 3 lesson per day timetable and a curriculum that is topic based with a life skills focus.
In the 6th form we offer a vocational curriculum to support students’ aspirations towards work or further study at college. This includes: travel training, work experience placements, courses studied with the local special school for girls, a transition course based on taster sessions at local colleges, as well as functional English and Maths. The Speech and Language Therapist specialising in working with the 6th form supports all work placements and delivers groups to facilitate good communication skills for work.
An integrated element of all learning is an emphasis on life skills, working towards skills that pupils need to function successfully in everyday life.
All pupils have an Education, Health and Care Plan which outlines all areas of need and expected outcomes for each individual pupil. Class teachers devise activities to develop skills to meet these outcomes with support from an extended team of professionals that include 4 Clinical Speech and Language therapists and 1 Manager who is part of the Senior Leadership Team of the school, Occupational Therapy (Provided by the NHS), Social and Emotional support team, Safeguarding team & Pastoral support team who have a close working relationship with the CAMHS NHS team.
Small group teaching
Small teaching groups are established for pupils with similar learning styles and abilities. This enables curriculum delivery to be tailored to needs. Staff support pupils using “whole class” teaching and then monitor each pupil’s use of the specialist strategies to maximise their independence. This model offers the pupils discreet support coupled with timely intervention to maximise independent learning and minimise reliance on prompting and cueing. Small tutor-group based therapy groups support communication development within a “naturalistic” setting and provide the “real-life” context for developing social communication skills and friendships with peers.
Teaching groups are usually 8 – 11 pupils with one teacher and one LSA. In addition to this staffing, a therapist may attend a session to deliver or monitor the embedded therapy provision.
Specialist Teaching Strategies employed in the classroom to support learning and language development
The specialist teaching approach is based on Structured Teaching (TEACCH) and Language Development Therapy approaches. This ensures the whole day is highly structured and predictable with a consistent routine. Visual support is provided throughout the day and in all lessons to support understanding and reduce anxiety. Language strategies, such as visual based word-webs, pre-teaching of keywords/concepts and a colour coding approach to comprehension and extended writing are embedded within the delivery of the curriculum. This “universal” approach to highly specialist strategies enables all pupils to maximise their learning and language development. The model of service design and delivery is based on the evidence in the Position Paper from the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (Gascoigne, 2006: Supporting children with Speech, Language and Communication needs within integrated services) and is effective and efficient.
All teaching and support staff receive continuous training from the Speech and Language Therapy (SaLT) team to enable specialist strategies, usually employed with individual pupils in a withdrawal model of service provision, to be applied generally to lesson delivery and to pastoral care. Therapy is targeted at maximising language development and reducing barriers to learning across the school. Therapists are available immediately should any functional difficulties arise. This results in an holistic, integrated approach to the management of communication, interaction and learning difficulties.
The Speech and Language Therapists are employed by the school directly and therefore have a good understanding of Curriculum requirements, teaching and learning strategies and barriers to learning. They run and attend the in-house training programme with the teaching and support staff which further creates a collaborative approach.
Occupational Therapy (OT) provision is commissioned from the NHS and a specialist OT is based in school one day per week. The model of service provision mirrors that of Speech and Language Therapy. The OT delivers sessions in the staff training program and strategies to support sensory and motor processing difficulties are integrated into the school day. The OT is also available to respond to functional difficulties that arise in school, and advises on the development of the environment to make it supportive for pupils with sensory processing difficulties.
Taking a “whole child”, “whole school” approach with a focus on collaborative practice between a range of professionals working within the classroom or pastoral situation removes the frequently reported problem of generalising skills learnt in a separate situation across to another. This “universal” approach to specialist level provision across the whole school enables us to raise expectations and standards for pupils with complex educational needs.
The direct impact of this model of service delivery means that all staff have a deeper knowledge of the speech and language, social communication, emotional regulation, sensory and motor difficulties experienced by the pupils, and the approaches needed both to differentiate the curriculum and to remediate/reduce barriers to learning, so that pupils can participate fully and confidently in school activities and school life.
This model results in improved/better functional communication, interaction, emotional regulation, sensory regulation, motor skills in the classroom than is the case when therapeutic staff work in isolation with individuals. It also places the therapy in the context where the difficulties arise, and eliminates a professionally recognised difficulty that many individuals have in generalising skills learnt in the “therapy room” into real-life contexts.
The Physical environment of the school:
- Countryside environment
- Access to a range of different types of technology
- Strong rewards system to motivate pupils
- Low distraction environment: calm and highly structured
- Small classrooms: some have been adapted to have acoustic damping
- Space for each pupil to have their own work area within the group setting, if required
- The limited small quiet work spaces attempt to provide “break out” workspaces these are outside 5 classrooms which enable paired/very small group working whilst remaining “in touch with the lesson” in the classroom
- Consistent routines: daily timetables with minimal changes, and pupils prepared for changes in advance
- Sensory room and one TEACCH work room.
The environment provides:
- Structured teaching strategies (TEACCH work schedules and visual timetables)
- Concise, clear, step-by step instructions
- Keyword vocabulary pre-teaching (semantic word web approach)
- Objects/pictures/keyword symbol (visual) support across the curriculum
- Visual support for sentence and narrative structure
- Visual support for language comprehension
- Social communication groups delivered by Speech and Language Therapists as part of the curriculum
- Small group teaching, with socially compatible peers and opportunities for experiential and independent learning
- Specialist strategies to support social understanding and emotional regulation
- Structured, staffed activities during breaks and lunchtimes
- Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) approaches to self-advocacy and decision making (Talking Mats)
- Support strategies to assist with identifying and managing stress and anxiety
- Structured activities outside timetabled lesson time with a choice of small group activities at lunch and break times in KS3 and some limited choice of “free time” in KS4 and post-16 provision
Specialist strategies to support Pastoral Care and Emotional Regulation
The “Hub” is a centre for supporting pastoral care and emotional regulation where highly trained, specialist staff are available to pupils.
- a quiet, supported working area during lesson time
- a “Positive Language” approach
- Person Centered Planning to support pupils focus on positive, achievable outcomes if required
- 1:1 interventions at the start of the day, at registration times or in transition times during the school day.
- The use of specialist strategies e.g. social stories, social scripts, stress management techniques
Within the Hub all staff who work with pupils on specialist interventions are trained in understanding and remediating emotional regulation difficulties. The staff in the Hub track, monitor, analyse and implement specialist strategies to engage with the pupils and settle them back into the classroom environment. A small number of pupils may need a personalised timetable and this is identified and monitored through the Hub.
Staff who the pupils know well and can trust are available to talk through issues and misunderstandings and suggest possible solutions/resolutions to problems. The “Hub” team deliver the in-house training programme to support and develop skills for all staff in utilising positive language.
The school has a nominated CAMHS Link Worker who has regular planning meetings with a senior CAMHS clinical psychologist.
Stony Dean recognises that there is a growing number of young people who struggle to attend school. We feel it is important that as a school we offer options to help parents ensure that their child’s educational needs are being met but for these young people it is difficult to achieve this inside the school environment as it is the school environment that triggers the pupils’ anxiety.
Some parents of autistic children feel forced to withdraw their children from school and home educate but frequently they tell us this is not what they really want, as it leads to social isolation and sometimes results in their young person being unable to leave the home.
Flexi-schooling is an innovative intervention to provide an alternative approach to access to education. It is an approach that has been used successfully for a number of young people who have had a prolonged history of school refusing, and for pupils who have been highly anxious about transition into a new setting or provision like Stony Dean School.
We work with parents to provide a programme of education that is fully personalised and delivered across a range of alternative settings through joint professional working with CAMHS, Social Care and other agencies to support the child to engage with meaningful pursuits to that child outside the home environment. Access to accredited qualifications is embedded within the delivery of the programme across the range of abilities.
This programme gives parents access to specialist teachers, opportunities for learning outside the classroom, and the possibility of managing the pupils back into the school environment or other learning environments depending upon the pupils and their needs.
This programme may also include a reduced timetable to manage points of high anxiety and is likely to vary over a period of time depending on the circumstances for each young person. Key outcomes are for each young person to identify and manage their anxiety, and develop their independence and life-balance.
An example of Flexi-schooling is described in the paper published by the Autism Education Trust (Autism and Flexi schooling – a shared Classroom and Home-schooling approach – publisher Jessica Kingsley) and highlights a timetable including ‘at home’ time. The view of the parent was that “Sam’s education was very much spent with me as a parent. It gave us time to interact, to learn to build back and forth conversations and to develop our relationship. It enabled us to practice skills like queueing, choosing, cooking and shopping. It gave us the chance to work on projects, to share his interests, and sometimes to move him on from those interests to develop new ones. It gave us an opportunity to work with his teachers to sort out some of the things he found confusing at school, put them right and enable him to access education from a position of strength and calm. And it gave Sam time to recharge, and to come to understand, accept and value his autism.”
Flexi-schooling – shared education – is a legal option, but not a legal right. It is undertaken at the discretion of the head teacher and to make it work parents, the Head Teacher, class teachers and all professionals involved need to work together. Experience has shown us that there is a need to be patient, to be respectful of each other’s perspective and to keep an open mind to create an individualised, personalised and joined-up programme which puts the ever-changing needs of that child at its core.
We establish a clear rationale on a case by case basis as to why this option is appropriate for each individual pupil and obtain clear evidence that the approach is working for that pupil.
This process is led in our school by a specialist ASC teacher who has experience of multi-disciplinary work and has established especially close support from CAMHS.
The Deputy Head with responsibility for Teaching and Learning takes the lead in tracking and monitoring the use of key classroom strategies and works with the senior leadership team and middle leaders to identify staff training needs. In collaboration with the Head of Therapy and the therapy team, the Head of Teaching and Learning will identify appropriate therapeutic approaches that can be adapted or applied to the classroom setting to further develop communication, interaction and academic skills.
The Deputy Head with responsibility for Safeguarding and other vulnerable pupils such as those with Pupil Premium Grant, being a Looked After Child or the child of service personnel takes the lead in tracking and monitoring the progress of those pupils and works closely with the Deputy Head with responsibility for Teaching and Learning and the Head of Therapy to ensure that all the needs of these pupils are met with appropriate provision and the can make excellent progress. The in-house training programme facilitates staff knowledge and skills in understanding how best to support pupils and to ensure they can achieve to their potential.
Teaching Expertise and Training. The school employs and has access to a range of professionals to support the learning in the classroom. We have numerous qualified classroom teachers, who all have had and continue to have access to an extensive CPD package. We employ ASD Specialists, Speech and Language therapists and counsellors. We also have access to CAMHS, OT (provided by the NHS) specialist teaching service (including support for children, with visual impairment hearing impairment) educational consultants and educational psychologists. Teachers have a variety of different backgrounds and experiences. All of our main teachers have relevant under graduate degree and QTS. Learning support assistants have a variety of qualifications that match their relevant job descriptions.
Consistency of approach
The approaches used create a very consistent routine to the school day and community. This in turn reduces anxiety about the unknown, about what might happen, and about what is required of a pupil. Reducing anxiety levels maximizes learning opportunities.
Staff approach pupils in a consistent, informed way. A consistent, supportive, positive, predictable approach to social interaction and to difficulties with social interaction reduces anxiety, and in turn defuses challenging behaviours.
The use of specialist strategies such as written or verbal social stories ensures events/interactions/challenging situations are explained and it provides actions/solutions in an objective manner which develops positive responses.
From September 2016 a new system of tracking progress has been implemented. The process takes a “whole child” focus and tracks progress against:
- Communication and Interaction skills
- Employability and Independence skills
- Education, Health and Care Plan Outcomes
Outcomes are set against each area and are reviewed as follows:
- Communication and Interaction – reviewed twice yearly (October and July) and reported at Annual Review
- Employability and Independence – yearly at annual review
- Education, Health and Care Plan expected outcomes – at the end of each Key Stage and interim progress reported at yearly annual review.
Form Tutors, Therapy staff, Teaching and support staff and Pastoral staff all contribute to the progress of each pupil and are passionate about ensuring each young person can meet their potential. Regular meetings are held to facilitate assessment of the whole child.
Heads of Year take the lead for the annual review meetings for their year group and chair as many meetings as can be facilitated within their teaching timetables. They work closely with the Head of Therapy and the Deputy Head with responsibility for Teaching and Learning to ensure that the needs of all pupils are meet and any changing needs are identified appropriately.
Manager in charge: Rona Wignall, Head of Therapy. Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist, BSC (Hons) Speech and Language Therapy Reg MRCSLT, MHCPC
Rose Taunt, Deputy Head
Neil Strain Head Teacher
Date compiled: March 2020
Date of Review: January 2021