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Orchard Manor School

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Orchard Manor School
We are a Residential Special School (4-19) for pupils with Communication and Interaction difficulties, including Autism, located in the seaside town of Dawlish. The pupils have a wide range of needs, abilities, aspriations and interests. This necessitates a broad curriculum that meets the very important need of developing Life Skills, communication and interaction skills so pupils are better equipped to function as independently and confidently as possible in the community. The Skills Builder programme offers the platform and resources for staff to support the development of these skills for our pupils to learn, practise and apply them to real life situations.
Overall impact
Following our move to partner with an academy trust, we have reviewed our curriculum and have made Skills Builder a more concentrated focus for Key Stage 2 and some of Key Stage 3. We have begun work on using the essential skills within a high quality Life Skills programme; the essential skills can be used directly and positively to support the completion of a specific life skill (such as travelling on a bus, or following a recipe to cook a meal etc). We are piloting this in September 2022. The eight essential skills continue to be the foundation of our programme.
Keep it simple
We have a shared common vocabulary throughout the school, re-enforced by posters and frequent references to aspects of essential skills during everyday interactions. We have timetabled Skills Builder lessons and opportunities to use and develop skills within both the complementary Life Skills curriculum and through everyday tasks and activities. We have scheduled teacher training and reflection meetings and report to Senior leadership and Governors as part of termly meeting agendas. We celebrate Skills Builder success in weekly assemblies using our own 'branded' certificates and awards.
Start early, keep going
The Skills Builder programme forms the foundation for essential skills development across the age ranges at Orchard Manor. As pupils present with a range of needs and abilities, there is a significant requirement to adapt, differentiate and enhance various aspects of the programme and resources to meet the needs of pupils and allow progress, at times in small steps, across the varied groups in school.
Measure it
Orchard Manor uses a range of strategies and methods to identify the level of skills pupils have and where intervention is needed. The Education and Health Care Plans (EHCP) of all pupils form the basis of all support across the school and common targets are recorded and targeted. We monitor individual and group assessment marks and starting points alongside progress as pupils continue to develop skills (using a combination of Skills Builder and our own school assessment processes). These are discussed and reflections made during termly 'progress reviews', successes identified and further targets recorded and actioned. Feedback is also accumulated from the pupils themselves. This has resulted in a 'triangulation' of needs and progress, with frequent collaborative reflection used to ensure good outcomes for the pupils.
Focus tightly
At Orchard Manor, we have spread the skill themes across an academic year, so for example, 'Listening' is the focus for all of the first half of the Autumn Term. This allows direct teaching and practise of the theme to occur across the curriculum. Re-enforcement opportunities and practice activities are facilitated by all staff, wherever possible, in their lessons or activities. The Skills Builder Hub and teachers' self-developed or collaboratively-developed accompanying resources are used together to meet the needs of pupils in alignment with the focus for that particular half-term.
Keep practising
Orchard Manor uses a wide range of strategies and methods to practise essential skills. This includes the curriculum and cross-curricular activities, challenge days, projects and 'Wow' days. We also practise essential skills during vocational activities, our enrichment activities (such as forest school, Horticulture and Food Technology), through off-site trips and through our work-experience programme and vocational opportunities, across our school and local community.
Bring it to life
Pupils engage in a range of onsite and off-site activities and projects that allow essential skills to be practised and we have found that projects that are of a set duration have been extremely successful.
What's next
Develop the skills of teachers and other staff to use Skills Builder most effectively, through CPD and sharing good practice and resources. Work to add practical activities to the eight skill areas.
South West England
United Kingdom