Knockevin Special School in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland has achieved the Inclusive School Award with Centre of Excellence status.
Knockevin Special School is a special school over two sites in County Down, Northern Ireland. The school is made up of students aged 3-19 with severe learning difficulties, profound and multiple learning difficulties, and needs. There are currently 40 children in the early years’ provision (3-8 years) eight miles away at the specialist centre in Dundrum and 100 children (9-18 years) in the primary and secondary provision at the Downpatrick site.
Students come from a large geographical area covering a 30-mile radius and are placed at Knockevin by the Education Authority. All students have a statement of educational need or are placed in the early years’ provision pending statement assessments. 70% of the students are LAC (within the jurisdiction of NI, this reflects any ongoing support from social care and services). 5 students currently have a CP plan. Attendance is currently 92% across the school.
A Welcoming, Happy School
The school is led by a non-teaching Principal and Vice-Principal along with four curriculum and assessment leaders. Knockevin is a Rights Respecting School. The team has adopted a holistic and collaborative approach to creating a welcoming, happy, safe, and stimulating setting where children are supported and motivated to learn and develop maximum independence. The ‘all through school’ approach secures successful transitions including those students in Year 14 who are supported to college placements or needs appropriate individual supported pathways.
The school mission is:
‘Together We Can Achieve More.’
Knockevin teachers meet formally twice a year with parents and therapy staff who support the pupils and there is daily communication with parents using the Seesaw app to give updates on progress and involve parents in supporting their child. Therapy staff are based in the School with 2 Speech and Language therapists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists regularly visiting to support students and work with the teachers. Multi-Disciplinary team meetings take place once every half-term. In addition, the School holds monthly behaviour team meetings involving school staff, community nursing, therapy staff and the Intensive Support Service (SE Trust).
Pastoral care and wellbeing are at the heart of all practice at the school and the team has embraced recovery curriculum practice throughout the pandemic to identify and support the impact of trauma on students and families. There is a strong focus on recovery activities to support students including mindfulness, ‘Relax Kids’ and outdoor learning. The team is currently involved in an attachment project which focuses on the impact of trauma and the experiences of the pandemic on learners who have not had access to therapeutic interventions because of restrictions.
The school has recently achieved Forest School status and the team is planning for the expansion of outdoor learning opportunities as lockdowns ease and with the potential of a third site. The school has sensory rooms, a hydro pool and soft play areas. Children have supported access to a full curriculum that reflects their individual needs.
Developing Confidence and Social Skills
The arts have a prominent place in the curriculum and experiential offer at Knockevin. The music teacher works across both sites and there is a rock band and a samba band. Students have taken part in the Shakespeare in Schools’ festival, the Peace Proms, the Ballynahinch shared education choir and community concerts and drama festivals. Parents are regularly surveyed for feedback and the impact of the arts is hugely positive with the majority of parents reporting an extremely positive effect on their children. Through the drama work, students develop confidence and their social skills. The music interventions provide students with opportunities to improve their concentration and communication skills as well as enhancing their enjoyment and sense of achievement.
Special links with the Local Community
The team has a clear focus on building and strengthening links with the local communities and with other schools. Local businesses have provided work experience opportunities for students and there are regular collaborative projects with other schools and the South-Eastern Regional college, the post 19 provider which offers the Mencap supported Readiness for Work pathway. The school runs parent support groups and workshops and there is a parent and toddler group.
Incorporating Online Learning
Throughout the pandemic, the team have ensured that online and home learning was available for all learners. In the first lockdown, the school was closed but has remained open since June 2020, with the team developing a blended learning offer for students in school and at home. It was an absolute pleasure to meet virtually with 3 of the students who spoke with great confidence and are clearly, and rightly, so proud of their school. Students highlight and place great value on the positive relationships with their teachers and with each other, and they are enthused about the wide range of opportunities they can join in with a range of activities, particularly in the arts.
The parent governor I met described the school community as a family and that the school is designed for the students, with their individual needs at the centre of the curriculum and personal development.
Find out more about the IQM Inclusive School Award
If your school is interested in obtaining the IQM Inclusive School Award or you wish to talk to a member of the IQM team please telephone:
028 7127 7857 (9.00 am to 5.00 pm)
or email: email@example.com for further details.
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