Supporting pupils with Speech, Language and Communication Needs to improve oracy and wellbeing

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At Malpas Court Primary School, staff have developed strategies to support children with Speech, Language and Communication Needs. As a result, pupils demonstrate good outcomes in oracy and have become more resilient, resourceful and reflective.

Number of learners: 211
Age range: 3-11
Date of inspection: January 2017

Context and background to sector-leading practice:

Malpas Court Primary School is in the city of Newport.  The school has 226 pupils, including 37 part-time pupils in the nursery.  There are ten full time teachers for nine classes.  There is a resource base for 16 pupils from the wider area with speech and language impairment. 

Around 40% of pupils are eligible for free school meals.  This is well above the national average (19%).  Around 40% of pupils join or leave the school during the academic year.  No pupils speak Welsh as their first language and 14% of pupils have English as an additional language.  The school identifies approximately 50% of pupils as having additional learning needs.  This is considerably higher than the national average (25%).  Twenty-one pupils have statements of special educational needs.

The headteacher took up her post in 2007.  The school’s last inspection was in October 2011. 

The school is currently a ‘curriculum pioneer school’.  This means that it is working with the Welsh Government and other curriculum pioneer schools to develop and to pilot a new curriculum for Wales.

The school is an inclusive, welcoming, multi-lingual Community First school where all pupils are uniquely valued.  The established Speech and Language Base (SLB) caters for Foundation Phase and key stage 2 pupils from four neighbouring local authorities.  The wealth of knowledge and expertise used in the Specific Language Impairment Base (SLIB) is outstanding in meeting the needs of the Specific Language Impairment learners who have specialised speech programmes, which have made improvements seen from initial and final outcomes. 

SLIB staff provide pupils with appropriate specialist programmes and share their expertise with mainstream staff and pupils.  The staff in the speech and language base staff identify pupils with Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) in mainstream classes that greatly affect their social, emotional and academic standards.  Specialist communication strategies within the mainstream classes needed developing to engage and enrich all learners. 

In 2015, Malpas Court achieved ‘Communication Friendly Schools’ (CFS) status and was the first school in Wales to present to specialist programme tutors in 2013, encouraging them to train as Communication Friendly tutors in order to deliver CFS across Wales.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

The leadership team empowered the whole school to develop these strategies across the primary phase to support children with SLCN including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) and Attachment difficulties. 

Leaders ensured that staff received training in specialist therapies, which they use in assemblies and greetings across the school.  Trained teaching assistants deliver specialist programmes, leading to early identification of SLCN.  They use these to support receptive and expressive language therapies, enhancing learning using specific resources and making learning relevant and exciting.  Pupils identified with articulation difficulties in nursery and reception classes develop phonology using approved programmes.  There are visual schedules in every classroom, and staff address specific needs such as ASD using approved approaches.  Staff assess pupils using a commercial programme, which indicates how well they understand questions.  Staff use a range of coding schemes to develop sentence structure and a recognised signing method to develop grammar.  This has enhanced structured speech, which supports extended writing well.  Staff use specialised resources well to support the use of appropriate topic vocabulary, enabling pupils to understand how to present information clearly. 

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

Achieving ‘Communication Friendly Schools’ status has increased the range of knowledge, skills and strategies for all staff.  All pupils benefit from an improved knowledge and skill base of staff.  There is an ongoing trend of good outcomes in Oracy shown through a variety of commercial specialist checklists.  Pupils are engaged and enthusiastic in their ability to communicate, improving their wellbeing and behaviours for learning and becoming resilient, resourceful, reciprocal and reflective learners.  The school feels that nearly all pupils demonstrate appropriate use and understanding of language through using these specific strategies. 

How have you shared your good practice?

Malpas Court is a Lead Practitioner for the Welsh Government Additional Learning Needs Pathfinder Project across Wales, supporting emerging schools.  A ‘Communication Friendly Schools’ presentation to all Newport additional learning needs co-ordinators in 2014 identified specific schools requiring support in SLC.  These schools, which had specific educational needs base classes, were supported in 2014-2015.  Specialist resources and strategies from the school’s SLIB have supported and developed speech and language in a range of mainstream schools, encouraging participation and gaining accreditation of ‘Communication Friendly Schools’.  The outcomes include staff trained to a nationally recognised standard, enabling whole school speech, language and communication transformation.

Parents of pupils from the four neighbouring local authorities with SLCN attend the parent support group at Malpas Court.  Sign language, behaviour, social and communication training give parents confidence to support their child at home.  Leaders propose to embed and enhance the school’s own ongoing good practice and continue to extend its expertise to other schools through a range of strategies and resources focusing in the early years.  The school aims to use its knowledge to raise standards in its role as a Pioneer School for the Health and Wellbeing Area of Learning and Experience, designing the new curriculum for Wales.