Pupils help develop school strategic direction

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Ysgol Penmaes focuses on developing varied participation opportunities for the whole-school community and recognises that this has a positive impact on relationships throughout the school. They have developed structures and support to allow all pupils to contribute to the school improvement journey.


Number of pupils: 110
Age range: 2-19

Context

Ysgol Penmaes is a day special school that provides education for 110 pupils aged from 2 to 19 years.  The school is situated in Brecon and maintained by Powys local authority. 

The school caters for pupils with a wide range of learning difficulties.  These include severe learning difficulties, autistic spectrum disorder and profound and multiple learning difficulties.  All pupils have a statement of special educational needs.  No pupil has been disapplied from the National Curriculum. 

Very few pupils come from ethnic minority backgrounds and very few pupils speak Welsh as their first language at home.  Approximately 31% of pupils receive free school meals and 10% are looked after by the local authority. 

Culture and ethos

The school’s mission statement is ‘Together Everyone Achieves More’.  It promotes the mission well and this sets the standards for inclusivity at Ysgol Penmaes.  There is a highly supportive and positive ethos throughout the school with a strong focus on equality and diversity.  The school is effective in removing barriers to learning and participation. 

Action

Ysgol Penmaes focuses on developing varied participation opportunities for the whole‑school community and recognises that this has a positive impact on relationships throughout the school.  They have developed structures and support to allow all pupils to contribute to the school improvement journey.

At Ysgol Penmaes, there are many different ways for pupils to communicate their views and participate in decision-making.  Where communication is an identified difficulty for individuals or groups of pupils, the school develops strategies to make sure that all pupils have an equal opportunity to participate and influence decisions.  As a result, staff develop a better understanding of their pupils’ needs and interests.  Pupils feel confident that staff listen to them and their views are valued.

There is an effective school council.  Members of the school council are elected by their peers and undertake their roles enthusiastically.  The school council has a budget to buy resources during the year.  This develops pupils’ understanding of the need to prioritise and budget as part of their role as council members.  The school council discusses a wide range of issues such as the school environment, the quality of the school canteen, learning experiences and self‑evaluation.  As part of its work, it has produced a very useful and accessible prospectus for prospective pupils.

The senior leaders introduced a self-evaluation day for pupils, staff and governors to make sure that all pupils contribute to the school’s strategic direction.  During the self‑evaluation day, staff and school leaders work with pupils to gain their views on all aspects of the school such as learning and teaching, the quality of care, school buildings and quality of the outdoor learning environment.  The school has introduced a range of strategies to make sure that all pupils contribute actively to the process.  Pupils who are more able evaluate the quality of provision at the school confidently by using symbols and signs.  Others work alongside staff to share their views. 

Members of the governing body attend the self-evaluation day and gain an extensive understanding of the pupils’ views on provision and areas for development.  The headteacher collates the information and it informs the school development plan.  For example, pupils identified that they enjoyed the opportunity to learn in the outdoors and wanted more opportunities to do so on a regular basis.  As a result, the school invested in a selection of outdoor equipment and improved the outdoor learning environment for pupils to enjoy their lessons there, where appropriate.

The self-evaluation day makes sure that all pupils, staff and governors have an opportunity to work together to identify the school’s strengths, areas that require improvement and priorities for the school development plan.  

Outcomes

At Ysgol Penmaes, relationships between staff and pupils and between pupils and pupils are strong.  There is a clear sense of mutual trust and empathy for every member of the school community.  Most pupils develop a thorough understanding of their peers’ needs and choices.  This is reflected in the decisions that pupils make as part of the school council and participation groups. 

Nearly all pupils feel that the school listens to them and that their views and opinions are valued.  They have a positive attitude towards their learning and the school.  As a result, it has a positive impact on standards across the school.  The behaviour of nearly all pupils, in lessons and during the school day, is exemplary.  There have been no permanent exclusions from the school for a number of years and the number of fixed term exclusions is extremely low.  As a result, with very few exceptions, pupils, over time, make good progress. 

Pupils gain a wide range of recognised accreditation at the end of key stage 4.  All pupils enrolled on the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme achieved the bronze and silver level and nearly all achieved the gold award.  This is a significant achievement. 

The number of leavers not engaged in education, employment or training has been consistently low for a number of years.

The school engages pupils regularly in debate about their own learning.  This develops pupils’ listening and communication skills successfully.  Pupils also improve their understanding of the impact of their decisions on others in the school community.  For example, members of the school council identified the need to improve communication further between themselves and the wider pupil population and put an action plan in place to address this issue.  School leaders, governors and members of the school council monitor the plan regularly.

Links:  http://www.penmaes.powys.sch.uk/