Special Educational Needs
Rachel Meehan SENCo firstname.lastname@example.org
At Woodpecker Court we support the special educational needs of our students by providing a calm but purposeful environment for learning. We focus on our three Rs:
Routine – We follow the same routine every day. We start the day with a breakfast under our parachute. We introduce the day by pre-teaching the programme for the day. Students return to the parachute for a cooked lunch, before we pre-teach the afternoon. At the end of the day we return to over-teach the day, by reflecting back on the content of the day. The day starts and ends with our “thought for the day”, which we discuss, to support the delivery of SMSC. The parachute is a symbol of shelter over our community of learners. It is a powerful statement, and a routine that supports students with ASD particularly well. We follow this routine the same in January and July – whatever the weather. This time is also used to deliver individual interventions and informal mentoring.
Relationships – Young people often arrive with us with very low self-esteem and confidence, perhaps through previous negative experiences with education. A key to challenging this is the development of key relationships. Our culture is that staff are known by their first names – respect has to be earned on both sides of the staff/student relationship. We often set key relationships and the numbers of people that relationships develop with the student as a target. Interventions are aimed at achieving this, especially in the first term with us. We see strong, trusting relationships as the key to developing successful lifelong outcomes.
Resilience – Low self-esteem and confidence means low resilience. Young people arrive with us often feeling that they cannot achieve. Baseline assessments early in the programme often reveal a shortfall in actual ability, because many young people feel at the start of term one that they can’t do it. There are many interventions and team building programmes that we deliver to challenge this, but the key to developing resilience at Woodpecker Court is the outdoors. The early part of the year sees tame conditions in early autumn. However, autumn turns to winter. As mentioned above, we follow the same outdoor routines all year round. Therefore breakfast and lunch is eaten outdoors in January. We work with the animals in wind, rain and snow. This enables young people to develop self-worth and resilience.
Intervention at Woodpecker Court takes the form of individual SEN defined programmes, but it goes way beyond this.
Group intervention is delivered half an hour per day after lunch. The focus changes through the academic year as needs develop. Term one focuses on understanding, tolerance, team building and relationship development. As the year develops we work on a sense of community and social responsibility by focusing on charity work. We also deliver programmes of life skills development, with skills for self-sufficiency. These include cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, budgeting and shopping, and even putting together flat pack furniture!
We focus on building and creation, linking this to the growth and development of the individual. We have a module “all about me”, where we focus on self-identity, what makes us as individuals, and how to feel proud about it. We teach students to touch type – a real life skill. We focus on Zones of Regulation, a tool that allows students to be able to identify emotions and group them, to enable the student to understand why they feel how they do. Where appropriate we provide student counselling with our qualified therapist.
Finally, we focus on transition. Weather this is for a further year with us or on to further education of employment, we ensure that young people are ready to face their life’s journey.
The Student Passport is the document that tracks the journey of the student throughout the academic year, across every area of the provision. It is mentoring, but very thoroughly done, with a clear focus on the student.
In a weekly session, the mentors work with their small group to look at attendance, behaviour, rewards, progress, attainment, personal goals, their SEN provision plans and targets, and most importantly, a clear plan, with steps to attain, their destination beyond their time at Woodpecker Court. No stone is left unturned. Every success is celebrated, every problem addressed. This is how we truly know our students and how they genuinely own their journey with us. The sessions are also delivered with an activity designed to provoke thought about the future.
From time to time things go well, but sometimes not so well. We have an excellent, sector leading, pastoral care structure in place to ensure needs are met. From simply someone to talk to, or the response to a crisis, we have a team on hand with professional links to manage any situation calmly, compassionately and consistently. We work very closely with our families to ensure students are supported throughout their lives, not just in the provision. Ad hoc interventions are delivered quickly, we are flexible in our delivery to meet sometimes immediate needs that our students have.