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.
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.
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.