Personalised Progress For All
“Personalised progress for all” is the ambition of the North West Hospital School (NWHS). Straightforward in its message, the focus and attention to detail required to make this a reality requires exemplary leadership and the full commitment of the whole staff team – both of which were amply evidenced during this assessment.
NW Hospital School works in a unique context, serving young people who are receiving Tier 4 intervention for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) and require residential treatment and care. This provides the highest degree of complexity and challenge. Students are typically in crisis, meaning amongst other things, that prior attainment is an unreliable indicator of current need.
They have a wide range of ages and achievements and have often experienced severe disruption to their learning, as well as being acutely unwell. School staff show admirable patience, determination and care, leaving no stone unturned to ensure that all students receive the very best education possible, by their fundamental rights, whilst incorporating this into a holistic package addressing the needs of the individual. Inclusion is therefore inextricably woven into the fabric of everyday practice.
Learning is Focused on Participation
Personalised learning is the bedrock of all that happens at NWHS. Needs are comprehensively assessed as soon as possible and very regularly. Needs can change suddenly and setbacks that require the focus to move back several steps are not uncommon. For many students, engagement is the immediate priority, and learning is focused on participation. For every student, suitable progress is defined and tracked. For those students able to engage in more structured learning, gaps analysis identifies learning goals and suitable learning sequences are planned. Some students can resume their studies and complete formal qualifications including General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). It is important to emphasise that targets can in themselves be detrimental in these circumstances, where mental health and wellbeing is so fragile and of critical importance. The team has developed an outstanding approach that bridges the seemingly insurmountable gap between a truly ambitious programme of learning for all and the need for a threat-free learning environment.
The understanding of the importance of relationships is evident from every member of staff. They recognise that trust needs to be established and that the process of enabling students to accept challenge within their learning cannot be rushed. “When they get here, they [often]do not want to be on this planet. We must help them see that there is a place here for them,” said one member of staff.
The process of gaining trust often begins on the ward, being present for the students and attempting to engage their attention with very low-demand and low-threat activities. Considerable skill is required to find the right balance between encouraging students to participate and provoking an adverse response. Staff are supported by a suite of activities developed by the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Co-ordinator (SENDCo) which supports students to engage. These materials reflect three defined stages of engagement and as well as suggested activities, they identify very small steps at each stage of the process. Students are fully involved in the development of their programmes of study and learning goals. Their mental health and wellbeing are always the priority, ensuring that self-esteem boosting achievement is the focus and threat and stress are minimised.
Each student has a full care plan which is led by a consultant. Education is part of this holistic plan. There are clear benefits to this multi-disciplinary approach, and it can be seen to be very effective at this acute level of need. Professionals work together well and understand the separate components of the plan. This ensures that education is suitably prioritised but never to the detriment of the overall package. Reviews are weekly or fortnightly. Students are supported by residential and therapeutic staff and therapy compliments and works alongside the education programme. Timetables allow therapy and education to be suitably prioritised according to need. Education staff are careful to maintain a separate identity from other staff on the ward – they are never involved in medical intervention or restraint. This ensures that when students can fully attend the education area, they can separate this from their life on the ward. Input from Education staff is valued and respected by multi-disciplinary partners.
Flexibility and adaptability are required of both teaching and the curriculum, which must be built around the needs of the learner. Staff plan for outcomes but understand that circumstances can change rapidly, meaning plans might not be appropriate.
Understanding the Needs of Each Student
Students may be unable to attend at short notice or may miss one or more of a sequence of lessons. A very high degree of demand is placed on all members of staff. This is managed by fully understanding the needs of each student and keeping this understanding under constant review. A good range of resources is used to create bespoke learning packages and these are always meaningful. Staff work hard to ensure that individual learners can succeed and are working towards something important to them, often going to the students when they cannot attend timetabled learning.
Relationships are a key component in the success of this school. “The team is like a family – we all look out for each other”, reflected one staff member. Support and collaboration are certainly high, with every staff member knowing every student. Staff feel well supported by the leadership team and all share the same ethos. There is genuine appreciation and respect for what colleagues contribute, but also a willingness to reflect and improve where possible. Informal support is part of the everyday business of the school, but this is well backed up by formal structures.
Governance meetings are held regularly with representatives of Aspiris, who run the school, and these support and challenge leaders appropriately. Formal supervision meetings have been introduced recently, to ensure that the duty of care to staff cannot be overlooked. Staff also have access to telephone support on demand and regular access to a psychologist, if needed, in mitigation for the trauma that students can present and the impact this can have. Relationships between students and staff are very strong. Interactions were seen to be warm and positive, with humour playing its part when appropriate. “Inclusive”, “caring” and “supportive,” were the words students chose to describe their school.
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 protected] for further details.