Upgrading facilities to extend provision

Posted on 3rd Sep 2019 in School News, Emotional and behavioural difficulties, Kisimul

Kisimul Schools provide an update on recent developments

Kisimul Schools work with a large number of local authorities to provide education for learners with severe learning disabilities and autism. Learners typically come to be placed within the schools when placements elsewhere are unable to provide the specialist input necessary to manage the complex profiles and behaviours that cause challenge.

Within Kisimul Schools there is a focus on functional learning skills rehearsed within a largely semi-formal curriculum offer, using an experiential and practical skills approach, alongside therapeutic input within specialist environments for young people with severe learning difficulties. In order to achieve this, there is a need to adapt the environment and facilities to meet the various challenges and special educational needs of the learners.

Alongside this, there is a dual focus on a physical and outdoor orientation, which serves to meet the sensory regulation needs of young people, promote healthy lifestyle choices, and enable learners to apply learnt skills within real life contexts.

In order to support this provision, the schools have undertaken recent project developments to further upgrade their facilities and support this core curriculum offer. Careful planning and needs analysis was undertaken to support the implementation of new buildings. This included reconfiguring existing spaces to better facilitate learning, consider the movement of footfall throughout the school, and create more adaptable teaching opportunities across the education accommodation.

The addition of 7 new classroom spaces within the schools provision in Lincolnshire has provided this additional flexibility. These classrooms have been carefully planned to include a flow of natural light and access to outdoor learning spaces. Curved walls have been installed within corridor and communal spaces, providing some break out spaces and to better manage transitions through the building. A small soft play room with ball pool and sensory lighting and music provides a flexible space to provide a fun experience and assist regulation for young people who need to be able to move in and out of classrooms in short periods to engage more successfully with learning challenges.

Classrooms include integrated storage so that the focus of the learning intention is not distracted by other resources within the teaching space. Each classroom comes equipped with interactive teaching boards, and are colour co-ordinated to give each space an individual identity. Modular table arrangements and seating in some rooms enables a flexibility for various group sizes or individual support as required.

To reinforce and extend the focus on vocational and life skills acquisition as a learner progress through the school to post 16 education, every other classroom comes equipped with a fully integrated kitchen space. This enables a focus on functional learning skills (Maths and English), as well independent living skills to be used in context within cooking sessions. The outdoor vocational learning element is being developed further within the next planned phases of development, so the horticulture and animal husbandry provision in place at our Acacia Hall school site can be replicated at our other schools and college.

The addition of a theatre room, with integrated interactive floors and walls, sensory lighting and modular seating, has extended the curriculum to include creative arts and drama opportunities, and support functional communication and reciprocal interaction. This supplements the other elements of the environments in both the school sites to facilitate interactive learning within the smaller immersive rooms.

The addition of a swimming pool and gym within the Surrey school campus has provided both the opportunity for physical input and interactive games, as well as the sensory and regulatory benefit of having a pool facility onsite. This has enabled flexible access both as a tool to directly support confidence and sensory input, and supports with engagement in wider learning and input for more classroom based learning opportunities.

As part of the physical curriculum, having the benefit of an onsite gym area means that there is immediate access to a safe area to provide physical input and stimulation for learners in the school. This benefits both social interaction in the provision of group work and team building, and also enables individuals who require a more regular physical outlet with the space to do so regardless of the weather. The gym space can also be flexibly used to facilitate enrichment activities and further group opportunities such as visiting theatre or dance groups.

The swimming pool can likewise be used flexibly – as a motivational tool, for sensory input and to encourage reciprocal communication during water play and games. The development of better water confidence can be better facilitated by accessing an onsite facility, where there are less time restrictions or reservation requirements – if learners would benefit from accessing the pool a number of times during the week, this can be more readily facilitated.

These recent developments are part of phased plans to extend the education provision across the KGL sites, and reinforce the benefit of having multiple group provisions whereby curriculum innovations and successes in one school can be shared across other settings. This ensures reciprocal benefits for children and young adults placed within our education settings, and bears testament to our commitment for having first class and sector leading learning facilities across the schools and college.

This article first appeared in the 2019/20 edition of Which School? for Special Needs. The digital version can be viewed here: