Fun and adventure – an integral part of the timetable

Posted on 6th Nov 2018 in School News, Emotional and behavioural difficulties, Kisimul

Cruckton Hall School in Shropshire is entering an exciting phase, writes Mary Owen...

Following an OFSTED Inspection in May 2017 Cruckton Hall School was graded ‘Good’ in both Education and Care. All teams within school have worked hard to ensure that this grade is reflective of the quality of our provision and the progress the pupils make.

In the 2016-17 DfE Performance Tables, Cruckton Hall School pupils gained an Attainment 8 score which is amongst the highest in the country for specialist schools with a similar cohort of pupils.

The hard work and bespoke support offered to our pupils has allowed them to flourish and prepare them for their next steps in learning. Some have moved on to ‘A’ Level programmes which they access at local mainstream colleges with support from Cruckton Hall staff; others are experiencing continued success in our new Post 16 educational classrooms, further developing their skills for work and independent life.

The key to our success with our pupils is built on the foundation of solid working relationships and an unconditional positive regard for all. Working with the young person we develop a bespoke curriculum, linked heavily to the child’s Education Health and Care Plan, which is supported by a variety of therapies (including Forest School, LEGO Therapy, Music Therapy and Drama Therapy), and a very successful outdoor education programme which is accessed by our pupils in one of two ways:

1. Timetabled sessions including Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and off site learning activities.

2. Referral from staff to work towards specific outcomes linked to their individual needs.

Outdoor activities include mountain biking, climbing, walking, trekking, taking on challenges such as The Three Peaks, camping trips and educational visits to a variety of places to name just a few!

Research has found that outdoor education programmes can produce the following outcomes for students:

  • Improved Communication
  • Increased Motivation
  • Improved Cognition and Learning
  • Development of Friendships
  • Leadership and Responsibility
  • Increased Self-esteem
  • Resilience
  • Improved Health
  • Improved Self-regulation

The majority of our pupils have a diagnosis of ASD and also have experienced several unsuccessful educational placements in a variety of settings. As part of the initial assessment and admissions process we can find that, because of past experiences, pupils are not ready to learn and could not manage to be within a classroom environment. At Cruckton Hall School we firmly believe that a different approach is needed. As a starting point some of our pupils respond well to our nurturing environment and individualised bespoke timetable.

Our initial assessments give a detailed account of developmental and nurture needs as a starting point for an individual’s timetable and curriculum offer. On analysing this information, we can ascertain areas of development that need to be addressed. Due to life experiences up to the point of admission, many of our pupil’s struggle with attachment and the ability to develop and form positive emotional regulatory relationships with others around them. With this in mind, we focus on the child’ emotional security in the work we do across all aspects of life at Cruckton.

To enable this to happen we carefully plan for a small staff team to be in place around each child. This is to provide the support needed so that our pupils feel safe and secure with those around him. As part of the drive to increase educational progress and engagement we regularly review the wider therapy sessions on offer to our pupils. From this we know that our pupils experience success in a wide range of academic and therapeutic learning areas. These include off-site learning and educational visits, Forest School, Outdoor Education, Dog Therapy, Equine Therapy and Music. Through this approach we are able to engage our most complex pupils with incidental and incremental learning which is enjoyable and increases pupil progress.

One of our recent additions to the range of strategies we have at Cruckton is the use of the SCERTS framework. SCERTS stands for Social Communication, Emotional Regulation and Transactional Support. This provides a clear framework of detailed assessment to unpick what skills a pupil has and needs to develop. When our children and young people are able to communicate in a socially appropriate way, they then have the skills to be able to regulate their emotions. One of our tools for the development of this is increasingly through the delivery and use of ‘Zones of Regulation’ with our pupils. This gives them the vocabulary and framework to be able to express how they feel and also the strategy they need to use to emotionally regulate.

Cruckton Hall School is entering an exciting phase, as we continue to build on the progress already made on our journey to Outstanding. We are particularly excited by our upcoming developments with a wider range of pupil needs, and also our new learning pathways which provide constant development and progression for all our children from 8 to 19 and beyond to 25 as part of our local adult services.