Describe the situation prior to intervention
South Molton is a small community college in North Devon. In Easter 2017 they moved into a new purpose built campus. Before then they had been operating from buildings which were not fit for purpose and this really had an effect on their ability to be inclusive.
What did the school do?
With the move to a new environment the school seized the opportunity to develop its approach to inclusion. There was already a strong emphasis on student voice at South Molton, which the SEND leader actively used to encourage the ownership of inclusion by the student body itself. For example with a new campus came the opportunity to rebrand SEND. The SEND leader handed this responsibility over to the pupils who chose the department’s new name – “Aspire 2 Learn”. This name change was important to establish it as a student focused resource and enabled it to distance itself from the negative connotations an ‘SEND department’ label can sometimes acquire. The new name was positive and modern, focusing upon high aspirations and learning rather than on needs. This naming of the department was significant as it clearly gave the pupils’ ownership of the support they received and placed them as a key driving force for how inclusion would be at the school.
“Relationships are key; both the teaching and support staff go above and beyond what is expected of them and have a willingness to do whatever it takes to support the pupils to succeed”. (School SENDCo)
The school goes much further than promoting ‘student voice’ by really embedding student ownership into all parts of the department. Using their already established prefect and rewards systems they selected student prefects to provide support for others. For example prefects run their quiet spaces intervention at lunchtimes; these prefects are often Year 11 pupils who have been through the Aspire 2 Learn system and can provide valuable peer mentoring and support to younger pupils.
What factors led to success?
Flexible Deployment of Staff
The SEND leaders also utilised their new environment to re-organise support for pupils. Some teaching assistants were deployed into core subject areas, whilst others specialised in supporting those with the highest levels of need; being a small school support staff are highly flexible. The most striking thing about this support is how the staff are constantly flexible, moving their skills into the areas needed seamlessly to ensure that inclusion really works on a daily basis.
Ongoing Staff CPD and Strong Communication
Teaching staff also have a good understanding of the needs in their classroom and SEND training is ongoing. The reason quality first teaching really works at South Molton is the outstanding methods of communication the school has embedded into its daily routines. As well as SEND leaders and teaching assistants communicating with teachers, communication with pupils and parents is also of high priority; they invest resources into allocating staff time to communicate because they feel it makes a huge difference to inclusive outcomes for pupils. For example as progress is monitored regularly the fast and fluid communication between pupils and parents, teachers, teaching assistants, heads of department and SEND leaders mean that any underachievement flagged up by progress data is actioned very quickly. Many of these methods are not new or revolutionary but because of the fluid communication systems in place which work so effectively here the ‘Assess, Plan, Do, Review’ cycle brings about positive change quickly.
What are the outcomes?
South Molton’s results for SEND are above the national average. Recently a student with severe physical and sensory needs joined the school; and cannot communicate verbally. The pupil’s inclusion has been a real challenge with vast changes to the physical environment, policy and practice, learning techniques and support needed. The school’s meticulous communication skills and staff flexibility have been essential to ensuring this student has been included successfully; the pupil recently attended a field trip on Exmoor, which was a milestone achievement for this individual.
“Keeping the student and parent central has been essential to successful inclusion”. (School SENDCo)
What can we learn from this case study?
Seamless and meticulous communication of all kinds is a key to successful inclusion at South Molton. They may modestly say that being a small school aids them to accomplish this, but how they have organised communication regarding SEND and the high importance they place on it with all parties involved means that issues are dealt with so quickly that larger problems do not develop. Heavy resource investment in communication has meant it is used proactively as a tool which supports pupils more effectively.
For this school they seized the opportunity of a new environment to re-invigorate key values for their vision of inclusion. What has made a real difference here is the way they have grown ownership of SEND with pupils within the wider picture of the strong student ethos at the school. SEND leaders have inventively used the student leadership system to their advantage by getting the pupils actively and constantly engaged in inclusion themselves; this goes far beyond ‘student voice’, indeed the pupils’ voice is inclusion at South Molton.