Heronsbridge Special School skilfully-organised pupil participation opportunities contribute to developing pupils’ self-confidence and social skills. Over time, many pupils develop their independence and take increasing responsibility for themselves and their learning in line with their needs and ability.
Heronsbridge is a local authority residential special school, maintained by Bridgend local authority. The school provides education for pupils aged 3 to 19 years. Currently there are 237 pupils on roll. Nearly all attend on a day basis.
Many of the pupils have statements of special educational needs. Pupils at the school have a range of difficulties, including profound and multiple learning difficulties, severe learning difficulties and autistic spectrum disorders.
A very few pupils come from ethnic minority backgrounds. Very few pupils speak Welsh as their first language at home. Currently, just over 5% pupils are looked after by the local authority. Around 40% of pupils receive free school meals. This is slightly lower than the all Wales average of 43% for maintained special schools.
Culture and ethos
The headteacher and senior leaders have a clear vision for the school that is fully understood and shared by all staff and governors. They articulate their high expectations and sustain a positive culture within the school. The school’s motto is ‘Together we can’ and its values are independence, wellbeing, opportunity and sustainability. These inform and guide the activities of the school.
There is a supportive and positive ethos throughout the school with a strong focus on equality and diversity. The school ensures that there is equality of access to the curriculum.
Pupil participation is co-ordinated by a senior member of staff responsible for wellbeing across the school. The co-ordination role means that there are effective lines of communication between the senior leadership team, governing body and the pupils. Pupils receive timely and sensitive feedback by the nominated member of staff on their suggestions and recommendations.
The school has prioritised training and support for pupils to make sure that participation opportunities are relevant for the needs and abilities of the school community. For example, a local drama company has been working with the pupils to develop their skills and understanding of participation in a sensitive and needs appropriate manner. This has developed pupils’ personal and social skills and contributed to making participation more meaningful for many pupils.
Nearly all pupils evaluate their learning experiences at the end of the unit of work. The school has developed a range of effective strategies to overcome barriers to communication and make sure that all pupils have an opportunity to evaluate their own learning. These include the use of:
gestures where pupils give a preference
pictures or photographs that pupils can communicate through drawing their responses or pointing to the pictures
communication systems such as the picture exchange communication systems
Pupils rate the work unit with support from staff using a well-understood traffic light system. A few pupils complete questionnaires tailored to their needs and many contribute by picture responses and oral questioning. Younger pupils evaluate their work and topics effectively using ‘smiley faces’. Teachers collate the pupils’ evaluations of their personal learning experiences at the end of term. They are analysed carefully and used to inform teachers’ planning. Senior leaders refine the curriculum offer appropriately in response to the views of pupils.
Skilfully-organised pupil participation opportunities contribute to developing pupils’ self‑confidence and social skills. Over time, many pupils develop their independence and take increasing responsibility for themselves and their learning in line with their needs and ability.
Nearly all pupils are confident in communicating their needs clearly, either verbally, by signing or using a picture exchange communication system.
The curriculum plans, which pupils influence regularly, build systematically on pupils’ knowledge, understanding, skills and interest. Nearly all pupils engage well in their lessons, and their behaviour in class and during unstructured times of the day is excellent.
As a result, nearly all older pupils gain a range of appropriate qualifications in accredited courses that are matched well to their abilities, needs and interests.