Talocher School in Monmouth has achieved the Inclusive School Award.
Talocher School is an independent, specialist school for boys and girls aged 7 to 19 with social, emotional and mental health difficulties – many of whom are looked after children by local authorities. All learners are referred to Talocher and have behavioural issues as a priority on their statement – often in addition to other associated complex needs. In addition to a range of difficulties, many of the students arrive at Talocher having become disaffected towards learning. The school’s primary aim is to enable students to acknowledge and cope with their specific difficulties and assist them in fulfilling their potential.
Committed to Inclusive Principles
It is very clear that the staff at the school are absolutely committed to inclusive principles. On a day-to-day basis, this is achieved by an effective combination of highly flexible and individualised approaches to provision alongside consistency in values and behaviour towards students. Consistency and flexibility, if not given thoughtful consideration and exceptional attention to detail, can too easily be mutually exclusive. The school’s success in this was summed up in a conversation with one of the students. He was describing the actions of a fellow student as “selfish” and “pointless” following an attempt to get excluded by copying the actions of another student who had got excluded. Interestingly, and importantly, the student explained that
“you can’t just have the same rules for everybody. (Xxx) needed excluding and it will make him think. (Yyy) won’t change just by excluding him – he needs more than that.”
This may appear to be an example of inconsistency – but the staff at the school readily articulate that consistency need not mean uniformity. What is consistent is the importance attached to developing strong and effective relationships and in practice this means treating every student as an individual and treating every act or incident as a unique event with its own motivations and/or trigger points. This thoughtfulness comes from, and is driven by, the Headteacher. There is a realisation that hard work, “going the extra mile”, and good relationships alone are not enough in terms of dealing with such complex needs.
Understanding, Tolerance and Care
It was evident from the tour around the school that, alongside the challenges associated with the demands of the students at Talocher, there is a real warmth and tangible sense of understanding, tolerance and care. The school site, recently enhanced by new classrooms, library and specific areas for pastoral and therapeutical support, is well maintained and provides a secure, stimulating environment. Classrooms look well organised and have vibrant, stimulating displays – typically celebrating the successes of students. Excellent use is made of outdoor spaces which provide a great deal of flexibility for individual needs. It was during the tour of the school that the first contact was made with “the lady with the clipboard”! A crucial component of the individualised approach to individual students’ curriculum, is the use of off-site activities and resources. On the day of the assessment, this involved organising staff and transport for off-site working/activities for all of the primary-age pupils and a range of destinations for older students. Further complexity is added by the school thoughtfully collecting at least one student from home on the way to the activity (not for convenience, but because the student in question becomes unsettled if he/she has to come into school simply to go straight back out again). An additional layer of complexity is that assessments/judgements are made on the day in terms of the student’s frame of mind or current circumstances before the activity is finalised and also whether or not the student is actually in attendance on the day. Add in a timetable of therapies and visitors (in addition to timetabled lessons) and the logistical challenge is clear. Hence the importance of the lady with the clipboard – who is also a key member of staff in terms of maintaining standards of pastoral care. There was also evidence on the tour of the school’s “eyes-on” approach. Even when students need some personal space, staff remain vigilant and observe the student from a safe distance thereby granting the student some privacy whilst maintaining an appropriate level of care.
Relationships with Parents are Excellent
Conversations with parents provided further evidence of the school’s values and effectiveness. One said that the school had
“rediscovered her son” and that he had returned to being the “more affectionate, more cheerful, less angry boy that they thought they had lost.”
They said that the school provided a mixture of structure, care and exceptional communication that had previously been absent in their child’s education. There was specific praise for the school’s communication via the “class dojo” app which allowed her to track her son’s progress, behaviour and attitude in real-time, often accompanied by photographs of him “being good”. Another parent noted that their son was now
“able to speak to adults and other pupils whereas he used to just become angry when adults spoke to him and lose his temper.”
They noticed that this was working “out of school” in terms of his ability to conduct conversations. Friends he had made in the school had also contributed to his ability to control his anger. They commented that he was now
“happy to talk about activities and work he had completed.”
Again, mention was made of the effectiveness of the “dojo” tool and the daily updates this provided. Two-way communication between the school and home was felt to be a critical aspect that contributed to their son “feeling safe at school” and “making good progress.”
Academic Progress is Very Important
Academic progress is also important to the school and this is tracked and evaluated systematically. The school uses an effective blend of accredited academic and vocational courses in order to maximise the likelihood of students being suitably prepared for their next phase, whether that be continued education or the workplace. Target-setting is rigorous and effectively informs lesson-planning. A recent enhanced focus on literacy is already securing significant gains in skills for students. Reports home reflect the importance attached to this in addition to updates about progress in behaviour, self-confidence and attitudes. Meetings with teachers provided evidence of meticulous lesson planning, especially for the school’s “transition” classes, an effective strategy to bridge the gap between the primary and secondary phase for individuals who cope less well with this significant change.
Securing Engagement in Education
Discussions with the vocational coordinator and head of pastoral care gave further powerful examples of strategies to ensure that each individual has a route to securing engagement in education. This includes some highly effective approaches to work-experience, Duke of Edinburgh awards and links with local organisations. Younger pupils have the opportunity to spend time every week off site at a farm where they develop social, emotional and communication skills through interesting project work. Conversations with students confirmed that this multi-dimensional approach is both popular and successful.
Immensely Positive Relationships
The school, led by a highly effective Headteacher and supported by able staff who have established immensely positive relationships and working practices, is clearly inclusive in both intention and delivery. Students are valued and make clear progress.
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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