St. Piers School in Surrey has achieved IQM Centre of Excellence status.
Inclusion at its Heart
St Piers School is a residential and day provision for pupils aged 5 – 19 with Epilepsy or other neurological conditions and associated special educational needs and disabilities. Many pupils have additional needs, requiring physical and medical support. St Piers School strongly believes in Inclusion which is at the heart of its practice. In the paperwork for IQM, the Head of school (Assistant Principal) stated: “The school manages a Surestart Children’s Centre and has strong relationships with other on-site Young Epilepsy providers such as ‘St Piers Further Education College’ and the ‘Neville Childhood Epilepsy Centre’ which accommodates a Medical and Research Centre with links to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. The range of services provide an integrated package of education, support and care for all pupils. This means that all pupils have a highly qualified and experienced staff team surrounding them. That team is committed to providing outstanding learning environments and excellence in teaching and support, whatever complex needs the individual pupil may have.”
Staff Know the Pupils’ Specific Needs
It is true to say that the school benefits from the close links and working relationship with onsite providers. However, what was experienced during the IQM visit to the school shows that the staff and Assistant Principal of school as well as the overall Principal know the pupils’ specific needs. Because of this, they have created an environment tailored exceptionally well to meet the individual learning needs of all pupils.
Sensory Circuits and Social Stories
The school day begins with all the pupils arriving and taking part in ‘Get Set Time’. This could be anything from sensory circuits, preparing for communication, social stories swimming to get all pupils ready for learning and motivated into the start of the school day. The tour of the school was inspiring with a motif around the school which showed different generations of people including the old and the young, abled bodied as well as disabled bodied linking together smiling and happy. This sets the tone for the whole school. All learning observed was planned and being enjoyed by the pupils. There was a hype of activity, pupils were taking part in sensory circuits ensuring that their physical and sensory communication targets and learning outcomes were broken down into small achievable steps. One pupil was full of smiles whilst working one to one with the physiotherapist. In one classroom, pupils were making guacamole and were supported by experienced staff. All pupils were working at different levels of independence. One pupil was observed engaging with a very skilled practitioner through a social story to evaluate how she was feeling and how to move to positive thoughts from her concerns. This was a joy to observe especially as the pupil had been diagnosed with mutism previously.
Positions of Responsibility
In the Gym, the school was hosting an event for Surrey Special Schools. The events were extremely well thought out with two of the St. Piers older pupils acting as demonstrators as well as supporting with the activities. The two pupils showed maturity in their demeanour and respect for the event. The PE teacher showed great understanding and empathy towards the needs of the pupils. He was clearly an outstanding practitioner in further conversation with him. The newly established Eco Warriors were taking part in their first meeting. A member of staff had planned the first meeting well. The pupils were all engaged in the discussion and were keen to promote a school that addressed the issues of recycling, pollution etc. They spoke about a truck full of rubbish being dumped in the ocean every minute and what they could do to have an impact on a cleaner environment at school which would have a ripple effect globally and within the local community. The four chosen pupils will support Eco Warriors from each class and create an action plan with such activities as making compost and planting trees as well as endorsing recycling in a variety of ways across the school. The pupils were extremely engaged in the discussion and took turns to answer and to put their point of view across. This was skilfully led by the adults to encourage everyone to have a voice. The pupils are encouraged to evaluate their actions. There is a ‘Kind Deed Wall of Kindness’ that records kind and thoughtful acts carried out by the pupils. This gives a sense of community spirit.
Pupils Felt Listened To
The pupils who were interviewed described their teachers as ‘thoughtful’, and the pupils felt ‘listened to’. They said the staff helped them if they got stuck. They like the activities they did such as swimming, gardening, sport, numeracy and literacy, the pupils spoke about their experience on the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award and how they enjoyed it but found the 10 mile walk a challenge. They enjoyed their Work Experience placements within the school grounds at ‘The Granary’ where they learned to speak to customers and serve people as well as using the cash register and learning how to prepare food. They also enjoyed working on the farm and in the grounds learning how to care for animals as well as different aspects of Horticulture. They also felt that the travel training has supported them in becoming independent as they could travel from the residential part of St Piers to the school. One pupil stated how she enjoyed boating but had been ‘nervous at first’. The pupils clearly felt valued and were confident to speak to visitors to the school. They were able to understand what the school had done in terms of moving them on in their learning and personal development to become confident, thoughtful and engaged learners.
The staff interviewed were equally self-reflective. They felt that they were given the opportunities to develop their skills set. They all felt that they could gain more knowledge through the continued CPD programme. They felt the new approach to the curriculum meant that they were given more autonomy to develop. They felt that the pupils benefitted from the learning pathways and activities were individualised to meet the pupils’ needs.
The pupils and staff have developed a radio station that was broadcasted around the school on Wednesday afternoons. Pupils and staff also visited the community once a week to experience an outing to the shops. The pupils also go into the community to use the local pool as opposed to the school pool so that they become comfortable in other surroundings. The school took the pupils on a residential trip at half term which was enjoyed by those who participated. The trips can be a mix of less able and more able pupils together with activities tailored to suit individual needs. There was a true sense of enjoyment amongst the staff in their work to support the learning of the pupils to prepare them all for adulthood and as independent living as possible.
The learning pathways have been set out to rigorously evaluate the needs of the learners. The three learning journeys of ‘Learning for Life’, ‘Skills for Life’ and ‘Specialist Skills’ take into accounts the different needs of the learners. The EHCP Learning Outcomes are addressed as well as the AET framework if appropriate. Earwig is used as a tool to record and track progress. Within each pathway, there are key areas of learning that are covered. This is currently being evaluated to develop more learning opportunities and creating an outstanding curriculum under key proposed areas incorporating Life Skills, Creativity and Therapy, Science and the Woodland Adventure and the Outdoors, Philosophy, Key Skills including ICT, Literacy and Numeracy.
Pupils are at the Centre of Everything
The pupils are truly at the centre of every Leader’s thinking and vision. The five key outcomes value: Independence, Wellbeing and Health, Family and Home life, Learning and Emotional Resilience, Inclusive Community and Social Network. St. Piers strategic proposition states that all pupils will be empowered to have ‘greater freedom, choice and control over their everyday lives’. This is ‘achieved through a transdisciplinary approach, which all our staff understand and jointly implement’. This was reinforced throughout the day wherever you happened to be or whatever you were observing. The school shop run by pupils was a good example of building independence and social skills as well as resilience and life skills. The pupils were very happy serving and counting the money. They were extremely helpful when dealing with the customers and truly had a sense of pride in their work.
Building Confidence and Self-Esteem
The highly skilled Leaders and staff clearly build the confidence and self-esteem of all the pupils to achieve greater social independence through the five key outcomes. During the visit, two major key developments were both exciting and innovative. Orchard 9 is a bungalow within the grounds of the school. This has been developed to support and show pupils what it is like to run a house and live independently. Through the expertise of the member of staff, twelve pupils are developing their life skills and gaining an ‘OCR Life and Living Skills’ qualification at the same time. The bungalow has been set up with the garden at the front used for growing vegetables and herbs as well as hanging planters on the patio for certain pupils who find this easier to manage. The back garden is used to develop social skills and to entertain and invite other pupils and staff to for a social gathering. Inside the bungalow, it is set up with a living area, kitchen, dining area, bathroom and bedroom as well as a utility room. The pupils all have responsibilities for jobs to upkeep the house. This includes gardening, using the appliances such as the washing machine, dryer and cooker as well as cleaning the house and changing the bed. This supports pupils in their life skills as well as engaging in social communication. Parents say that this has had a positive impact on their children at home in understanding the issues involved in running a house.
Another key development is the proposed development of the ‘Woodland Adventures’ led by a talented, thoughtful, reflective practitioner and Science specialist who has read evidence-based research into the impact of outdoor learning. A PowerPoint presentation explained the thinking behind the vision and the positive benefits for every pupil. The ambitious project is both exciting and innovative. The woodland area of the school would be used to its full potential incorporating an enchanted garden area for creativity and storytelling as well as a theatre for drama, an area for construction such as building dens, bridges, towers inventions and a fire pit, creating bug hotels for creatures and insects found in the woods. In addition to this, an area for physical play and activities is being proposed as well as Eco/enterprise projects such as upcycling and recycling. The pupils have been heavily involved in developing ideas including a Troll Village! The Project focusses on the different seasons and what could be achieved in each one.
Excellent and Innovative Practice
It is an absolute joy to experience the excellent and innovative practice at St Piers School. This was reinforced by the Parent Governor who had travelled nearly 70 miles to speak as an advocate of the school. She knew the school extremely well and could not speak highly enough of the staff and the leaders. She has created a group for parents so that they can be guided through coffee mornings each half term, or if they need a chat through the parent group. This has supported parents to understand the decisions made for the best outcomes for their child. The coffee mornings may involve a member of staff being invited to talk about an aspect of education. ‘Friends of St. Piers’ fundraise for the school events, this is well supported by the parents. She felt that her own experience was that her son had blossomed and had become confident and happy. She felt he was very well looked after. She felt fortunate that she had gained a place for her son. She stated that the parents that she communicated with were all very happy with the school and that it had changed their lives and family relationships.
High Expectations for Everyone
The Principal, Vice Principal and Assistant Principal of the school have high expectations for themselves and their staff. They lead by the example of their hard work and dedication to inspire all pupils to learn and to believe in themselves. They have created an environment for this to happen. The curriculum is innovative and creative to inspire and motivate all the pupils so that they aspire to lead as independent lives as possible teaching them keys skills through ever evolving and new opportunities that are continually being planned within the structure and framework of the well thought out document ‘St Piers Education A Strategic Proposition 2024’. This document has also been reflected in depth in the documentation for the eight elements of the IQM. It is an excellent and thorough evaluation of the school.
Challenge Partners Review
The recent Challenge Partners review report stated: ‘The high expectations that staff have for what the pupils can achieve is evident and is embedded in practice. Staff are motivated and passionate about inspiring pupils to learn and to achieve their full potential.’
Passion and Purpose
Throughout the IQM visit, this was evident. The true sense of passion and purpose amongst the leaders and staff was evident for any visitor to see.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
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