We use current research findings and recognised best practice models to design our environment, the curriculum, teaching and assessment strategies and practices in order to provide the best support for all of our pupils. These are practised throughout the school, in all lessons and by all staff.
The school employs a fully inclusive approach. Strategies are used consistently across the school in all lessons in order to support the rage of needs, some examples of these include the use of Visual timetables, Widgit symbols, Word Aware strategies and Visual Phonics. The Incredible 5 Point Scale is also used throughout the School in all classes to monitor noise in lessons and to gauge how everyone is feeling. If a particular approach or strategy is recommended for an individual our aim is to introduce this for all pupils unless it is very specific. For pupils in KS2-y8 OT recommendations and targets are incorporated into COSMo sessions which pupils take part in and are discussed further below.
As a small specialist provision, all of our staff have the opportunity to get to know each individual child, and their needs, whether directly teaching or not. Teaching Assistants remain consistent within each group, rather than being subject specific, which enable a relationship of trust to be built. This is invaluable for our learners, who often have little to no confidence in educators when they join the school.
We carefully manage transitions for those coming from mainstream settings.
As such we provide a holistic programme for each individual’s specific needs in addition to providing outreach to international and national bodies.
We offer a maximum class size of 10 children, but in practice some classes are smaller. All literacy lessons are taken by a specialist teacher holding or undertaking a postgraduate qualification in special needs. Classes do not have general teaching assistants. However, learning support assistants are allocated to pupils with as required by their EHC Plans.
Holme Court School provides a differentiated curriculum modified to suit the individual needs and next steps in learning of the individual pupils. The curriculum is adapted from the National Curriculum to give appropriate access to learning. Each activity is multisensory and broken down into small cumulative steps to ensure there would be breadth and balance to learning.
Teaching reflects the best practice for pupils with specific learning difficulties and is fully informed by current research. A broad range of teaching methods are employed in each teaching session, according to the needs of the pupil and the objective of the lesson. All teaching is multisensory, structured and cumulative using a range of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic styles. Pupils are taught in whole class, group work, 1:1, independent learning and family groupings. All adult support is designed to encourage independent learning and self-monitoring.
Pupils each have an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) wherein targets are set as a result of diagnostic testing, PIVATS assessments, book scrutiny and class observation. Targets are incorporated in the pupil’s learning ladders which are addressed during and after all work in Literacy and Mathematics and are also used where appropriate in the broader curriculum. The Learning Support Assistants are trained to deliver a range of interventions.
Our high staff to pupil ratio enables us to give pupils as much adult support as necessary for them to be successful, with all such support designed to encourage independent learning, self-monitoring and metacognition.
All students at Holme Court are given the opportunity to use a scribe; and assistive technology is integrated into day-to-day activities at every opportunity. Pupils in years 10 and 11 complete most of their work using laptops and work is stored online on TEAMS.
A range of verbal and visual cues are used to prompt pupils to support their understanding of what is expected of them. Pupils are given examples, modelled actions and encouraged to identify how other children are starting and initiating tasks. They are praised for following instructions.
Adjustable height tables, anti-tip chairs are provided in classrooms. All pupils have access to chunky pencils, spring loaded scissors, wobble cushions, weighted lap blankets and writing slopes.
All pupils at Holme Court School have recognised Special Educational Needs- many have severe, long standing and complex needs. All have experienced a number of interventions- which most often has involved being withdrawn from class for short periods throughout the week.
For many pupils in mainstream schools such interventions are effective.
However, for many of our pupils this has not been beneficial. Many report that this impacted on their self-esteem as they were made to feel stupid- others resented missing out on the lessons that they enjoyed and were good at. Others comment that this affected their relationships with peers.
At Holme Court School, we have tried to incorporate many of the strategies and intervention skills that would have been taught as an intervention in mainstream- and have incorporated them into all lessons. This means that all pupils benefit- not just for 20mins/day but all day. Examples of this include phonological awareness, pre-teaching of vocabulary and Colourful Semantics.
In addition to this other more specific intervention such as precision teaching of high frequency words, touch typing, spelling and social skills are carried out. However, by including time within the timetable for the whole class to be involved at the same time, all pupils in the School have the same access and none are removed from other lessons. Within these interventions, activities are individualised – ongoing assessments are made, and targets adjusted in accordance with EHCP targets.
This means that in effect Holme Court School is itself an intervention. For all of our pupils this is important to them as in general because everyone is involved, they are not made to feel different.
Having said that, pupils attending Holme Court School are increasingly having specific interventions named within their EHCPs which are additional to that offered by Holme Court School. If this is the case, pupils receive additional support in class where possible eg individual work with a LSA for 10mins/day may take place at the beginning of the day as pupils are arriving or at the end of a lesson when the class is packing away etc.
If pupils do need to be withdrawn eg for individual OT/SALT care is taken to ensure that days/times of withdrawal is varied from one week to the next to reduce avoid a situation whereby a particular subject is regularly missed.
The lessons at Holme Court School are structured and delivered in such a way as to support those with working memory, processing challenges ,attention challenges and to promote self-efficacy. The lessons are shorter than average, being 45 minutes in duration.
As all of the pupils at Home Court have difficulties with phonological awareness and as that is the foundation upon which literacy skills develop, the children are assesed regularly against an informal phonological/phonemic awareness assessment. The outcomes of these assessments are used to produce a gap analysis for all classes so that skills taught and practised at the beginnings of lessons can be tailored to suit the needs of the individuals within the group. All lessons include word level activities which address phonological awareness and vocabulary extension. As part of this, the Word Aware strategy using vocabulary presented with Widgit symbols has been employed. Additionally, new vocabulary is also practised using visual phonics which supports accurate phonological representations.
The main part of the lesson is 30 minutes in duration and the plenary reinforces new learning.
Throughout the curriculum lessons are multi-sensory which supports memory, processing and engagement. All new learning is presented in small steps with frequent opportunities for over learning. The information is chunked in order to avoid over load and the children are provided with visual and verbal prompts.
Literacy activities, eg ‘writing a letter’, are typically addressed as a small group wherein an example text is read as a group and analysed. Following this a shared model is generated. This model then provides a point of reference and visual prompt to support the next step towards independent work. Throughout this process graphic organisers and mindmaps are used to help generate and organise ideas bot for the group and individually. The use of writing frames is modelled prior to pupils using these independently either in pairs or individually.
Within literacy, the pupils are taught to use ‘learning ladders’ with which to self assess and edit their work. These are highly individualised and summarise the specific areas which have been agreed for pupils to work on to improve their work. The targets on the learning ladders are taken from school assessments, PIVATS level descriptors and ongoing formative assessment of free writing books as compared with work completed in the highly structured setting of the English lessons. Pupils check their learning ladder before starting their work to ensure that they understand the expectations. Once completed they then evaluate their work against the learning ladder-using one colour to check off what has been included. Further to this, they use any unchecked targets to edit their work in order to extend their work.
When marking work, staff mark according to the pupil’s individual learning ladder- and the lesson success criteria. Anything negative that is not identified on these Is not brought to the pupil’s attention- although anything positive that the pupil has done beyond that expected is identified and praised.
For all of our pupils spelling is a big cause of anxiety. Pupils are encouraged to make their best effort when writing spellings- but the point is made very clearly that it is the content that is the most important. When pupils have completed recording their rides they are encouraged to underline at least two spellings that do not look correct right. They are then encouraged to have another go- or to use an ACE dictionary when able to to self correct where possible. Staff will only ‘mark’ incorrect spellings if they are unrecognisable- in which case the correct spelling is written in pencil above the incorrect word. Any letters that have been correctly recorded (even if in the correct place) are ticked and what has been correctly included is brought to pupils ‘attention. In this way individuals are encouraged to experiment with vocabulary even when they do not think that they can spell it.
All classrooms throughout the school are set out in the same manner. All are designed to avoid overstimulation and cater for the needs of pupils with sensory processing difficulties.
All have neutral-coloured walls, dimmer switches on lights and completely clear walls (there is 1 neutrally backed display board at the back of the classroom). All rooms have a sound insulating surface on at least one wall.
Tables are usually arranged in a horseshoe formation to support speaking and listening and to ensure that all pupils are able to see the teacher and vice versa.
The school adopts a re clutter free policy with all surfaces maintained as clear as possible. There is a separate area outside of the classroom for coats and bags.
The aim is very much to create a calm, quiet working environment for all learners.
All classrooms are equipped with wobble cushions, weighted lap blankets, writing slopes, fidget toys, adapted pens/pencils, and spring-loaded scissors.