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From The Principal…

posted 5 Jun 2017, 07:12 by James Dorey

Columbus - Onwards and Upwards!

As we enter the final half term of the academic year, our team’s pace and focus for school improvement does not let up!

We have all enjoyed a training day on the 5th June where we have focussed upon building communication support approaches for our young people. We have re-visited the importance of individually designed communication support tools and our class teams are now populating an updated version of the Columbus Communication Passport to ensure that every child and young person with a communication need is fully understood. This document will also ensure that staff (established team members and those new to the team) take time to reflect upon specific communication needs and approaches and ensure that we are providing targeted and relevant support. It is also important to remind ourselves of how communication opportunities and resources that help our young people to tell us what they need or share how they are felling, aids their wellbeing.

This half term will see time invested in the development of the communication environment itself. We aim to enrich the displays, rooms and corridors across the School and the College campuses to aid the process of “way-finding” for our young people and to promote their understanding of the place in which they learn and grow in independence.

Watch out for our new signs!

I was very excited to meet with our PMLD Development project team just before the half term break, to share and celebrate the curriculum review they have been working on. For some time now, I, and the rest of the PMLD teachers, have been reflecting upon how we can best provide relevant and meaningful learning and social interaction experiences for our young people based in the PMLD classes.

This half term will see a pilot project where our three PMLD class teachers in Key Stages 1, 3 and 4 will trial a PMLD targeted timetable focussing intently upon cognition (understanding and awareness), sensory, communication, physical development and social interaction across every learning session. Instead of labelling learning time according to a subject, the learning session will be named, structured, resourced and delivered according to the SEND specific support focus. While the children and young people will still access the full range of relevant curriculum subjects and opportunities, the planning, resourcing and learning experience will be more intently directed towards the individuality of these learners, their communication, sensory and physical needs and the promotion of their social inclusion and development.

The team will also be trialling a new tracking format which will form a part of the young person’s Learning Progress Report. The tracker will focus upon the level of the young person’s engagement, attention and participation in a lesson or activity.

Over the course of this half term, the team will also be dovetailing our Key Skills Curriculum with key areas of focus from the SEND Code of Practice 2014 to include learning sessions of Communication (Interaction with peers and adults, sensory stories, speaking and listening, Community-Based Learning, Cognition development (Science, Numeracy, ICT etc.), Physical Development (individual therapy programmes, Swimming, PE, Fine Motor Skills practice), Sensory exploration (visual skills, Food Tech) and Social and Emotional Development (inclusion).

If successful, this will be rolled out School and College-wide from September. Further updates to follow!

The Columbus ABA project continues to go from strength to strength across the School and the College campuses. Recent data analysis has taken place and has been independently verified by experts at Bangor University.

It is wonderful to see how our fundraising efforts to enable this work to continue have benefitted the young people across Columbus. It has been heartwarming to hear of our successes transferring into the home setting too with children and young people on the programme beginning to talk for the first time, families being able to widen their social experiences because of the calming effect the programme has had on the young people and indeed the day to day successes of the young people on the programme as they become more ready to “learn to learn”, communicate and interact.

I am currently in the process of constructing a further training event for ABA staff to share their successful teaching and support techniques with colleagues across School and College. This will widen the impact of this initiative further as we share impactful techniques that all will be able to transfer into their own classrooms and learning activities. This will continue to build upon the recent Learning Support Assistant training I have delivered in the area of “Advancing Learning” – a series of training sessions for LSAs to hone and develop their professional skills.

Assessments and programmes will be updated over the course of this half term ready for the start of the new academic year. A plan for the partnership with the ABA consultant to continue working with Columbus into the academic year 2017-2018 is currently being created so that these successes can continue into the future.

And finally…

It has been wonderful to work closely with our Governors recently to report to them on the progress made in key areas of the school, to help them to develop their own comprehensive training and development programmes and to share with them, aims and focus areas for further ongoing School and College improvement. Recent events have included, learning walks, safeguarding panel reviews and standards reporting by key stage. In the coming half term, Governors will be visiting to observe the effect of our teaching and therapy interventions on pupil progress and to learn about our assessment and reporting procedures.

I look forward to updating you all in this area in my next blog.

With regards to you all,

Ginny Bellard