Sharing expertise with parents, carers and schools

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Ysgol Plas Brondyffryn is the regional centre for autism in North Wales. It engages closely with parents, carers and with schools and colleges to share its expertise through support, guidance and a wide range of training courses.

Number of pupils: 129
Age range: 3-19
Date of inspection: July 2016

Information about the school

Ysgol Plas Brondyffryn is a local authority maintained co-educational special school for pupils with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) and associated learning difficulties from the age of 3 to 19.  It has a 38-week residential facility, which is open from Monday to Friday.  The majority of the children and young people are boys, due to the higher prevalence of autism diagnosed in males.  Due to the nature of the pupils, the school uses alternative methods of communication such as a picture exchange communication system, Makaton and communication aids.  The school is based on four different sites and strives to maintain a whole-school ethos across all sites.

Context and background to sector-leading practice

The widely differing needs of the pupils call for a holistic view of the support they need in order to achieve their full potential.  The school pursues an active and inclusive strategy of engaging all stakeholders around the learners.  This engagement involves bringing in the expertise of fellow professionals and agencies while at the same time going out into the community of parents and professionals to offer support, guidance and training.  There are four strands to this strategy, which has been developed over the past seven years, and which is now referred to as Working Together:

  • Working together in school

  • Working together with families

  • Working together with other schools

  • Working together with other agencies

This case study will focus on Ysgol Plas Brondyffryn’s work with families and other schools.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

Working together with families

The school works hard to maintain excellent communication links with parents and carers.  This is particularly important as most pupils live a considerable distance from school and many are resident in its residential provision.  Communication channels include daily diaries, telephone calls, parents’ evenings and annual reviews.  In addition to this, the school provides training for parents in all aspects of the issues that parents of pupils with ASD might face.  The school holds coffee mornings, staffed by teachers, behavioural support staff and speech and language therapy (SLT) staff.  The school also provides expert speakers on subjects requested by parents and carers.

Working together with other schools

The school’s aim in the Working Together with Schools programme is to share expertise in working with pupils with ASD and thereby raise the level of expertise around supporting pupils with ASD in all schools.  The school offers two levels of outreach support, using teachers and experienced teaching assistants (TAs) and SLT staff.  A weekly drop-in clinic held at the school is free to all teaching professionals in the county.  The school has developed an extensive library of literature, DVDs and sensory equipment, which can be borrowed by any school in the county.  The school supports the professional development of its own staff and the staff of other schools by encouraging Ysgol Plas Brondyffryn staff to visit other specialist education providers and by welcoming visiting professionals from other schools to enable the sharing of good practice.  The school works in partnership with the regional universities to provide placements for undergraduates and postgraduates in the area of additional learning needs education (ALN) and ASD in particular.

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

Parents and carers report that they feel more able to support their children effectively and feel more confident in meeting the challenges they face.  They see the progress that their children make when they apply what they have learned and this success creates a circle of positivity around their own skills and progress.  This can be evidenced through various feedback routes, including parental questionnaires, coffee morning feedback and training evaluations.

Through working with other schools, the outreach team and the expertise they share have enabled staff to develop and refine how they support individual pupils with ASD in the mainstream school environment.  All visits are evaluated by the client schools and these are extremely positive.  The outreach service has played an important role in keeping pupils in the mainstream school setting and in helping schools to create a positive, supportive and constructive environment in which pupils can thrive.

How have you shared your good practice?

Developed initially for staff, the school now offers a wide range of training courses to different client groups, including parents and professionals.