St John’s RC School is a co- educational non- maintained Roman Catholic special school. St John’s is part of the organisation of the Sisters Of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. It is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brentwood, and works closely with the mainstream primary and secondary Catholic sector. Although Catholic, we welcome children and young people from all faiths and from none.
We aim to provide to meet the educational needs of young people with a range of learning difficulties including moderate to severe and complex learning needs, speech and communication difficulties.
The majority of children and young people who attend St John’s have a statement of SEN, or since September 2014, an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). We are constantly engaged in the process of assessing and responding to pupils’ needs, both formally including through the annual review process, and through our own policies and practice in relation to assessment. Throughout the process, we look for advice and input from a range of partners, including internally, through our therapists and learning mentors and class staff teams. we also take on board the views of our external partners including parents and families, and through agencies such as educational psychologists, CAMHS, social care professionals. Thus we aim to meet pupils’ needs in a holistic way to secure the best possible outcomes. The role of SENCO is undertaken by the head teacher.
Consulting and involving parents.
We endeavour to create excellent lines of communication with parents and families of our young people. This communication takes many forms, including through daily contact via the home school book, and emails and telephone calls. We also have parents’ evenings, and annual review meetings. For those young people who may be struggling, we may implement more frequent partnership meetings with a range of relevant partners, including CAMHS or social care. Pupils also receive a detailed yearly progress report in the Summer Term. Parents also receive termly information including in relation to a young’s persons achievements in relation to their individualised learning and perhaps behavioural targets. We aim to work with parents to ensure that their hopes and aspirations for their young person are reflected in educational targets. Our dedicated team of therapeutic staff, including learning mentors and speech and language therapist also communicate frequently with parents/ carers including with advice and guidance on strategies for home. We hope to be always available and on hand to talk to you, and you are welcome to visit the school, although it is usually best to arrange this in advance.
Involving Children and Young People
We aim that our young people should grow in in confidence in themselves as learners. Pupils are encouraged to grow in self-reflection, including through the use of assessment for learning techniques in class activities. At key points in the year, including the annual review meetings, pupils are invited to give feedback on their strengths and needs, and to give their own views about future targets. We have a strong pupil voice, with a very active student council, with representation from all ages and abilities.
Working with Others
We aim to create the most effective transitions for our young people both within the school setting, and into and out of the school. To this end, we create strong collaborative working partnerships with other agencies and providers so that our parents and young people can be as fully informed as possible about the range of opportunities out there. We have developed the role of the family support officer to provide greater advice and guidance. We have strong links with a range of careers guidance professionals and social care agencies. We encourage the young people themselves to be aspirational about their future, but also support this with help for them to develop effective self management and vocational skills. Our team of therapists also support young people to make effective transitions and to cope successfully with change, including through specialist communication support, such as communication passports. Within the school, there is a wealth of shared knowledge about our young people and regular opportunities to share and pass on information.
Teaching young people with SEN
The school aims to provide highly personalised learning approaches for each pupil. At the heart of the process is the importance of developing communication and interaction skills, as well as self confidence and self esteem. Staff to pupil ratios are high and class sizes are relatively small. A variety of different teaching approaches is adopted in line with pupils’ learning styles, but there is emphasis on learning by doing, and lots of opportunities for repetition. Learning activities are highly structured, and pupils’ individual learning targets and objectives are addressed through differentiated activities. Groups are organised by a range of criteria including ability but also by perhaps behavioural and communication needs.
We aim to create a broad, balanced and highly relevant curriculum, which we constantly seek to refine. In the primary phase, pupils spend most time with their class teacher and support staff, but also with opportunities to have specialist teaching in key areas including music and PE. There is a strong emphasis on learning through play, through developing communication and interaction skills, and in developing the earliest foundations for learning.
The secondary phase has more of a mainstream feel, with pupils accessing a wider range of specialist subject areas, including Design and Technology, and Food technology. Students may move around the school to different teachers and subjects. Students may achieve a range of challenging awards and accreditations including Entry Level Certificates in English and Maths, Science, and IT, as well as ASDAN awards.
The aim of the 6th Form curriculum is to prepare students for their transition to the next phase of their lives as adults and valued members of their communities. Students may choose from a range of Btech qualifications, including in vocational areas such as hair and beauty. There is still a continued emphasis on developing functional literacy and numeracy skills, as well as communication skills. Students access local colleges for educational links programmes.
As we are a Roman Catholic School, the teachings of the Catholic faith permeate our school’s life. Pupils who are Catholic have enhanced opportunities to study RE. There is a strong emphasis through the day on prayer and on the Catholic liturgy with assemblies and masses. Christ is at the centre of all that we do, and the Gospel values are our guiding principles. As a Catholic school we are subject to regular additional Ofsted inspections and have been judged Outstanding.
We are lucky to have a very spacious, richly resourced environment with a multi-sensory and soft play rooms, specialist teaching areas, a large purpose built gym and ample areas for outdoor play. We also utilise the wide range of local resources including the local farm, adventure playground and leisure facilities. We also are fortunate to be able to use the beautiful convent chapel for our masses and celebrations, and many of our young people are given the opportunity to serve mass or to sing in the choir.
We recognise that our staff are our most valuable resource and we aim to ensure that they are as well- trained as possible to best meet pupil needs. All staff have a thorough induction training schedule, including with regards to health and safety and safeguarding our children and young people. Throughout the year, there is a lot of opportunity for formal continuous professional development including outside of the institution. All staff are subject to rigorous appraisal and performance management systems.
With regards to specialist SEN training, all support staff participate in training including behaviour management and developing pupils’ communication skills. All staff are trained in the Team Teach system of behaviour management and de-escalation. All relevant staff have medical training in relation to pupils’ medical care plans, and we have a large team of qualified first aiders. Many of our large team of learning support assistants have undergone specific training to NVQ level. Many of our teachers have specialist qualifications in SEN including to Masters Level, and some specialise in Autism. The school’s leadership team have nationally recognised school leadership qualifications. Key staff have also undertaken advanced training in safeguarding. We have on the staff role a number of qualified and experienced therapist, including a music therapist, two speech and language therapists and an occupational therapist. We have committed to employing our own staff because we are aware of the shortage of provision. We also have a skilled team of learning and behaviour mentors. All of our staff work in collaboration to minimise pupils’ barriers to learning and to create, implement and evaluate holistic individualised learning programmes.
We will also commission support from external partners where necessary including psychotherapy services, and educational psychologists.
Evaluating What we Do
As a school, we evaluate the outcomes for our pupils in a variety of ways. We use hard data in relation to the progress and attainment of our young people,, which is scrutinised at a number of levels including shared with our governing body and senior leadership team. Where pupils may appear to be in danger of not meeting their targets, pupil progress meetings identify factors and plan measurable interventions to overcome barriers. We also look at progress in relation to pupils’ IEP targets and these are shared with parents and a range of others including through the annual review process. We also keep checks on formal accredited awards and programmes. We are currently implementing a system whereby we can evaluate the impact of therapeutic interventions on identified outcomes. All of the school’s provision is subject to regular and rigorous self- evaluation including using our on – line self evaluation programme.
Including our young people
Though we are a special school, we want to ensure that our young people access to at least as many opportunities as other young people without SEN. We have strong links with a range of local secondary and primary schools, and a significant number of our pupils are included in educational or social opportunities. For example, pupils who are particularly gifted in a given area may study for GCSEs in certain subjects in a neighbouring secondary school. Other pupils have regular sessions working in fundraising partnerships with another Catholic secondary school. St John’s pupils have opportunities to take part in regular work experience and enterprise opportunities. Pupils take part in high quality performing arts opportunities including through the Shakespeare Schools Festival We have a rich programme of extra – curricular activities including residential trips to, for example, youth hostels in Wales.
We are an active partner in our local Catholic deanery of schools, joining with mainstream pupils and students in liturgical celebrations. We are proud of the way in which our young people, even those with the most complex needs, participate in our masses and sacraments, and through the school are prepared for the next stages in their development of faith.
The majority of our 6th Form pupils also have opportunities to experience mainstream college placements, including through local mainstream and more specialist college settings.
Support for developing emotional and social skills
Many of our young people have emotional and behaviour needs linked in some cases to their disabilities. Many have failed in mainstream schools and many have very complex family circumstances. We have a range of mechanisms for helping to support and develop pupils’ emotional well- being. These include the input of our skilled tea of learning and behaviour mentors who provide targeted input and guidance to individuals and groups of pupils and their parents The mentors provide teaching sessions including around keeping safe and sex and relationships education.
We regularly involve partners from outside of the organisation including CAMHS, and will support and signpost parents in gaining further specialist advice.
We offer a comprehensive support programme for parents and carers, including on topics such as sex and relationships, keeping safe and behaviour management.
We hold regular paediatrician clinics on site where concerns can be aired. There are good systems of communication throughout the school and staff utilise technologies including Behaviour Watch to track and monitor behaviour.
All of this operates within a culture and ethos which has at its heart keeping pupils safe and happy. Pupils and their families are encouraged to share and voice their concerns. Bullying and racism is rare, and dealt with firmly. As a result we believe that pupils feel safe and can trust adults to look after them and care for them.
Working with other partners
We recognise that effective partnerships with all appropriate agencies will optimise outcomes for our young people and their families. We are swift to refer to external agencies such as CAMHS and social care when we feel it would be helpful. We have young people placed with us from 11 local authorities, and work hard to establish positive relationships with their representatives. We refer formally outside of the institution including through safeguarding protocols, but we will also talk to other partners informally for advice and guidance.
We work with a range of voluntary sector organisations, including parent support charities, and therapeutic agencies, to secure direct input for young people and their families.
We also work collaboratively with a range of mainstream and special schools locally to develop and share good practice.
And if things aren’t going so well?
We want you and your young people to be happy at St John’s and to thrive and make progress. Very occasionally, things may happen that you may be concerned over. Whatever this may be, please free to contact us so that issues can be resolved quickly. You may wish to contact your young person’s class teacher, in the first instance, who along with the rest of the class team, are the people usually best placed to have an overview of everything going on. You may also wish to discuss the matter with the relevant senior leader. If your concerns are of a serious nature, including of a safeguarding nature, it may be more appropriate to contact the head teacher or deputy head. It is usually easier to put any concerns in writing at this stage. If your issue is to do with the head teacher, you have the right to contact the Chair Of Governors, care of the school office.