St Christopher’s Special School, Wrexham, has developed a 14-19 years option programme to help pupils to gain a range of qualifications. Teachers assess pupils to identify their strengths and areas that need improving. Pupils are helped to choose the best options that will help them gain the qualifications they need for the next stage of their learning.
Number of pupils: 285
Age range: 6 - 19 years
Date of Estyn inspection: March 2014
Context and background to sector-leading practice
All pupils at the schools have statements of special educational needs. Their needs include severe and moderate learning difficulties (SLD and MLD), autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), emotional and social behaviour difficulties (ESBD), as well as various genetic disorders, sensory difficulties and challenging and complex behaviours.
The school has five departments: junior, middle, senior, behaviour support / autism department, and the independent living department.
St Christopher’s school places particular emphasis on extending the opportunities for pupils aged 14-19 years to achieve appropriate academic and vocational qualifications. As a result, a culture has developed where pupils expect to undertake examinations and attain accreditation for their learning.
The school provides an exceptional range of accredited vocational courses to help pupils achieve their maximum potential and prepare them effectively to move on to the next stage of their learning pathway. There are a number of enterprise facilities including the Millennium Eco Centre, beauty salons, retail shops, car valeting outlet, animal husbandry centre, cafés and a logging business.
St Christopher’s has excellent partnerships with local mainstream schools, further education colleges and business partners. Pupils from mainstream secondary schools in Wrexham also attend the vocational provision.
Nature of strategy or activity identified as sector-leading practice
Over the past six years, the school has developed the 14-19 years options programme. This enables pupils to build on their achievements over their time at school. The programme includes pre-entry level, entry level GCSE level 1 and level 2 courses from a range of awarding bodies.
Rigorous individual pupil assessment accurately identifies pupils’ strengths and areas of need. This is complemented by effective staff support to help pupils choose options that lead to qualifications they need for the next stage of their learning pathway. Because of this, pupils progress to courses at a higher level or gain supplementary experiences and additional qualifications at the same level.
Thorough analysis of qualification data for each child informs future curriculum planning at the school.
Staff performance management includes individual staff targets related to specific improvements in pupils’ achievements. As a result, the school is highly effective in providing learning experiences that meet pupils’ needs.
As part of the 14-19 learning partnership with all secondary school in Wrexham, the school has been instrumental in developing the ‘Enrichment’ college links programme. As co-ordinator of this programme, the school enables nearly three hundred pupils, including over one hundred from St Christopher’s, to attend local colleges. All pupils have an annual learning partnership plan.
Impact on provision and learners’ standards
Over the past three years nearly all pupils have moved onto college courses, specialist day provision or employment. In relation to their identified needs, these pupils have made excellent progress in gaining a wide range of recognised qualifications by the time they leave school.
The vocational options programme has inspired and motivated pupils to continue learning after Year 11.
Because of this, pupils have a clearer understanding of the world of work and experience of a wide range of placements. Pupils who are less able have valuable ‘taster’ sessions in the school’s various enterprise provisions.
At 98%, the percentage of Year 11 pupils gaining qualifications and accreditation for their learning is very high. Nearly all year 11 pupils access entry level qualifications including mathematics, science, English and ICT. When appropriate, pupils transfer to GCSE courses.
At 99%, nearly all pupils leave Year 14 of St Christopher’s with qualifications or accreditation for their learning.