Partnerships pay off for pupils with special educational needs

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Partnerships pay off for pupils with special educational needs

Portfield Special School in Pembrokeshire work effectively with nearby secondary schools and colleges to increase inclusion and widen the range of subjects available to their pupils. Pupils from Portfield can also share lessons and break times with mainstream peers. Pupils’ social development has improved as well as their academic achievement.

Number of pupils: 142 
Age range: 3 - 19 years
Date of Estyn inspection: March 2013

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Portfield School provides education for pupils with statements of special educational needs aged between 3 and 19 years. Pupils’ needs include severe learning difficulty (SLD), profound and multiple learning difficulty (PMLD), autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as various genetic disorders, sensory difficulties and challenging behaviours.

Portfield School has two satellite centres. One of these satellite centres is based in Tasker Milward Comprehensive School in Haverfordwest. The other centre at Y Porth in Ysgol Preseli, Crymych, offers Welsh-medium provision.

The particularly well-managed partnership working with two mainstream secondary schools and a local further education college enables the majority of pupils in key stage 3, key stage 4 and post-16 to learn for at least part of the week with their mainstream peers.

Portfield School’s upper school building is located on the same campus as Tasker Milward School, which is a large comprehensive school serving the Haverfordwest area. Initially, a small number of pupils were able to access inclusive learning opportunities at Tasker Milward. As a result of the success of this project, a discrete Portfield class was established in Tasker Milward School. This arrangement was gradually extended so that the majority of Portfield’s pupils had the opportunity to take part in inclusive learning activities at Tasker Milward.

In 2009, Portfield School, supported by the local authority, established a Welsh-medium satellite at Ysgol Preseli to meet the demand for Welsh-medium special school provision in the north of the county. From its inception, Y Porth took the opportunity to include the majority of its pupils in the life of Ysgol Preseli. Pupils share lessons, playtime and lunch time with their mainstream peers. The process is very much a ‘two-way street’ with some Preseli pupils accessing the additional learning needs provision offered by Y Porth.

The school obtained Welsh Government Additional Needs Development Project (ANDP) funding to expand provision. Students working at Entry Level 1 and above were able to experience taster courses at the local Pembrokeshire College of further education.

Since 2010, this funding has also provided an options day at the college for all 14 to19-year-olds at Portfield School and other local secondary schools. Pupils follow vocational and skills-based subjects, such as Shakespeare performing arts, art workshops including screen-printing and pottery, a fruit and vegetable co-operative, technic construction, and film and animation.

Nature of strategy or activity identified as sector-leading practice

Pupils access courses leading to accredited qualifications, such as OCR, ASDAN, OCN and GCSE at an appropriate level to their assessed needs. They are prepared well for transition to college courses.
The aim of the inclusive courses was not only to promote the basic principles of inclusive practice but also, by utilizing resources more effectively, to give Portfield pupils access to courses that are difficult to provide within the Portfield setting. For example, pupils are able to follow GCSE courses in science and design technology.

The project also enabled “inward” inclusion into Portfield for pupils with additional learning needs from other secondary schools across Pembrokeshire. At Portfield, these pupils access specialist accredited courses at a level appropriate to their individual needs. Staff who accompany these pupils to Portfield benefit significantly in their professional development from working with Portfield staff and through access to their particular expertise and skills.

A recent development has been to extend these links to the taster courses and workshops at Coleg Sir Gar. This arrangement helps pupils to develop their interests and extend their aspirations for future careers and learning pathways.

Impact on provision and learners’ standards

The range of inclusion options has enriched pupils’ learning experiences significantly and helped them develop a much wider range of individual interests.

Through this partnership work:

  • all pupils have achieved a broad range of accreditation appropriate to their assessed level at both key stage 4 and post-16;
  • teacher assessments indicate that the participating pupils will attain GCSEs at Foundation Level; and
  • all post-16 pupils attending courses at Pembrokeshire College have achieved accreditation with OCN units in the relevant subject areas.

Overwhelmingly, the success of the partnership project lies in the social inclusion benefits experienced by both Portfield pupils and those from other partner schools. The positive impact of their inclusion helps these pupils gain greater self-confidence, become more independent and acquire a range of skills that prepares them well for life beyond school.