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Fitzwaryn School

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Fitzwaryn School
Context
Fitzwaryn is an Outstanding Special School for children and young people from 3 - 19 years old whose Special Educational Needs range from Moderate Learning Difficulties through to Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties. The school is situated in Wantage, a small but growing market town in Oxfordshire. We have a fantastic, up to the minute, purpose-built environment that enables us to deliver an exciting and diverse curriculum for each and every child. Pupils are grouped into 11 classes, broadly by age/ Key Stage rather than educational need. Most pupils access a modified National Curriculum and we also have timetabled Personal, Social and Independence Skills sessions every week. The content of these is aligned to EHCP outcomes and IEP targets. Our vision of 'through learning to learn, pupils will access society' underpins all that we do with the aim that all of the pupils who have been with us leave with the skills and knowledge they need to successfully engage in the next stage of their lives. We applied for the Accelerator Programme so that we could apply the Skills Builder language and explicit teaching of skills to what we were already doing. We are developing our Careers programme, including work-related learning and Enterprise projects across the school. The framework formalises what was already happening the school. From the start of our partnership with Skills Builder, it was emphasised to staff that this wasn't an extra to add further to teacher-workload, but rather framed and refined our current practice. Having the support of a strategy partner meant we were able to implement changes more effectively.
Overall impact
The programme has been invaluable in providing us with the common language needed for the effective teaching of essential skills. It wasn't so much about fundamentally changing what we do, rather how we do it and also making it explicit for the pupils. A highlight has been when pupils are overheard to reference the skills and are able to identify their own strengths and areas for development. The essential skills icons are visible around the school and again, this frames the interactions and conversations that staff and pupils are having. Through the programme we have benefitted from the virtual employer encounters, which combined with our work with Talentino, have helped us make progress towards the Gatsby Benchmarks.
Keep it simple
The skills now form part of the strategic planning and policy development, including the careers programme. The provision map is colour co-ordinated to match the essential skills. Icons are displayed in new planners for students. The school now uses the essential skills as the 'language currency'. The Home Zone link has been shared with parents to encourage adults at home to support their child. The icons have been displayed where appropriate, including a whole school display in the hall. Icons are displayed on all classroom doors so that visitors aware of the skills and can reinforce the language of the skills with students. Skills symbols are also used with some students, including as a form of self-assessment. Whole school assembly takes place on a Friday via Teams. Each class shares a piece of work, and this is linked to the essential skill of the week. Certificates from the Hub and stickers are used to recognise and reward student effort and achievement in essential skills.
Start early, keep going
The school is organised into 11 classes including provision for EYFS and Post 16. Careers Programme starts for all pupils the moment they start at Fitzwaryn. The pupils learn about; different jobs, who helps us in school and the wider community and about formal and informal relationships in PSHE and Citizenship lessons. All year groups and classes have regular and planned opportunities for the learning and practising of essential skills, through PSHE, citizenship and stand alone lessons.
Measure it
Life skills are included within EHCPs and are taught alongside a modified curriculum. Communication skills are assessed for all students as part of the Annual Review process. Other skills are assessed depending on needs of students. Staff have devised progression steps in Personal, Social and Independence Skills sessions, which allows them to asses progress made in relation to the skills. These are shared with SLT and are reviewed when new IEP targets are set.
Focus tightly
Personal, social and independence skills are timetabled 2 or 3 times a week and explicit reference/ teaching is also made to the essential skills during National Curriculum subject lessons. Icon posters are displayed on the outside of classrooms so that visitors to a room are aware of the skills that are being developed and can discuss that with the pupils in the class. One Maths lesson a week across the whole school is dedicated to problem-solving, linked to the learning that has taken place. All teachers are engaged in the explicit teaching of essential skills.
Keep practising
All teachers provide regular opportunities for students to practise essential skills in the wider curriculum, crossing into different subject areas. The wider curriculum and extra-curricular opportunities meet pupils' needs exceptionally well and are a key strength of Fitzwaryn School. The many awards and accolades, such as the most inclusive school award from the Oxford County Music Service and our designation as a Duke of Edinburgh Award Licensed Centre reflect leaders' ambition and commitment to pupils' high achievements. Riding for the Disabled is another example of an extra-curricular lesson that allows pupils to practise essential skills. In KS3, enterprise challenges have been explicitly linked to the skills and we are developing our work experience programme in KS4 and 5. Our extra-curricular opportunities increase in the level of challenge as pupils move up through the school and great care is taken to ensure their age-appropriateness.
Bring it to life
Our Careers provision map is explicitly linked to the teaching of the essential skills and pupils from Year 7 upwards were invited to a Transition Fair where they could find out about next steps and the importance of developing their own skill sets. Younger pupils explore the jobs that are in school and role play wider life situations. The majority of pupils have benefitted from employer encounters this year and teaching staff have been trained so these experiences are meaningful and linked to the skills. Key Stage 3 classes have completed an Enterprise challenge with a clear focus on skills development. Older pupils complete work experience in school, for example working in the school kitchen, in the Horticulture area and supporting in younger classes and reflect on their strengths and areas for future development. All sixth formers complete a volunteering placement for their Duke of Edinburg Award and in Years 13 and 14 undertake off-site work experience placements in a range of settings.
What's next
Next steps are to network with other Special schools to discuss best practice, as we found many of the resources on the Hub to be inaccessible for our pupils as they were pitched too high. We will be working to further embed the explicit teaching of the essential skills through the wider curriculum, projects and extra-curricular activities and also to explore options for the school's strategic approach to recognising and rewarding the development of essential skills.
Greater London
United Kingdom