“As a parent you want to know that your child is doing well and it is a joy to see how happy my child is every morning when she goes to school”.
At Downs View our fundamental aim is the provision of a high quality of education for the pupils in our care, but education in a positive, secure and caring environment. Our absolute commitment to quality has been demonstrated through our outstanding inspection judgments in 2009, 2012 and 2016 attaining SEN Specialist Schools Status in Communication & Interaction (September 2009), and the Research Charter Mark in 2011.
At the heart of our success is the high quality of our staff relationships with the broader family not just the child.
The needs of the individual pupil are paramount and thanks to the generous staff/pupil ratio, they can be planned and catered for.
Class sizes vary but an average class would compromise, one teacher plus three teaching assistants with seven or eight pupils.
Staff are experts in relation to our population and their needs in terms of education. We use all recognised approaches for the teaching of pupils with severe learning difficulties (SLD), profound/multiple learning difficulties (PMLD), autism associated with SLD & sometimes combined with challenging behaviour. Such approaches include classes with high staff ratios, TEACCH, PECS, sensory diets, intensive interaction, low stimulation environments, positive behaviour management & support techniques, etc. Pupils follow a very individualised/personalised curriculum tailored to their unique needs. Their programme is planned, delivered & evaluated by the class teacher, supported by a team of teaching assistants in the class and in conjunction with the relevant therapists. Senior leaders monitor the work of teachers and progress of pupils through observation, data analysis and discussion. If a parent is concerned about the level of support they can speak directly to a senior leader.
We take the dignified & respectful treatment of all pupils very seriously. Safeguarding takes the highest priority. Staff training on this subject is fundamental to our success as is the behaviour management training undertaken.
Staff are happy and confident to undertake all aspects of personal or intimate or medical care throughout the day (using the toilet, changing, sickness, naso-gastric feeds or gastrostomy feeds, diabetes monitoring, blood testing and injections, etc). All such care or interventions are undertaken in a discrete environment by trained staff known to the pupil.
Pupils are supported by all relevant therapies (SALT, physio, OT, music) and have specific programmes delivered by those professionals and/or by the class based staff under the direction of the professionals. This information also informs planning (eg IEP) for the pupil in conjunction with the family who will also get copies of such documents as the individual behaviour support plan, communication profile and so on.
There is a specialist school nurse attached to the school. We hold paediatrician clinics on site so that pupils and families do not have to go to the hospital, can be supported by staff and the pupil misses only limited teaching time.
Other services provide support and advice to the school and pupils (visiting teachers from the sensory needs service – HI/VI, CAMHS). Effective multi-disciplinary working is fundamental to our work
The school employs 5 ‘lead teachers’ with discrete specialisms which are deployed to support class teachers to maximise pupil learning. These lead teachers also provide training and support to parents and other schools. The 5 lead teacher roles are for: autism; communication; research, innovation & pupil progress; PSHCE; literacy & numeracy. They also work in situations where an individual pupil has been identified as underachieving through our data analysis.
The school operates an ‘open door’ policy for parents. We communicate daily via the home-school books or telephone or email where necessary. We hold regular workshop and support group sessions, and encourage parents to come to Friends of Downs View social and fundraising events. Importantly we arrange some events not for fundraising but solely to bring parents together.
Parents are involved termly in IEP planning and evaluation, annually through the Annual Review meeting. Parents can speak to the teacher or a member of the senior team at any point. Where parents phone to speak to a member or the senior team (headteacher or deputy) about an issue we will call back that day if we are not available at the time of the call.
The curriculum offered at Downs View is related both to the needs and entitlement of the pupil and the requirements of the National Curriculum. We offer a diverse, challenging and interesting curriculum to all pupils.
It is thereby intended that the children learn those things which:
- are within their understanding
- are useful to them individually
- give them the best opportunity of adapting to the society in which they live.
It is also important to us that learning is fun!
Our curriculum is designed to support wellbeing. PSHCE is at the core of our curriculum to support their emotional & social wellbeing and development. By supporting parents and carers well (through training and workshops) we therefore secure pupil wellbeing.
We have recently re-written our curriculum which includes the National Curriculum to focus on the core skills we feel our pupils need for a happy and fulfilling life beyond school in later years.
Particular emphasis is placed upon the development of personal, social and health education, self-help skills and upon language and communication development. We try to encourage, at a level appropriate to individual pupils, the skills of decision making, responsibility for self and others, social awareness and social competence.
Fundamentally the skills fall in to ten key areas:
- Collaborative work
- Making connections and generalising learning.
- Choice making
- Problem solving
- Developing special interest
We make all activities as accessible and inclusive as possible through making reasonable adjustments. We have an accessible inclusive after school club (payment required) for school age pupils (5 afternoons) plus a weekly drumming after school club for our post 16 students. Our KS4 students are involved in work experience of a diverse nature throughout the year as part of our curriculum. We use ASDAN (Towards Independence) and Duke of Edinburgh Award to accredit the work for KS4 students
We have a vast appropriate range of specialist resources to support individual needs; physical access – side lyers, prone boards, wheelchairs, adapted seating, adjustable height tables, mobile and overhead hoists; ICT – adapted keyboards, touchscreens, interactive whiteboards, variety of adapted switches, switch power boxes, switch operated battery toys; communication – AAC – PECS, ‘big mack’ switches, various speech devices, VOCAS, iPads. We have differentiated learning resources for all subjects especially literacy & numeracy & communication, much of which is created as bespoke resources. Subject leaders will order or create subject specific SEN curriculum resources.