The Pupil Voice at Woodlands School
Our aim is to ensure that the pupil voice at Woodlands is strong. This is a crucial area of focus in a special school, where so many pupils will find communication highly challenging. Our staff team, in partnership with the pupils’ families and other agencies, empowers our pupils to express themselves and to develop their confidence, independence and self-esteem. There are too many strategies to do full justice to in a short document, but here is a flavour:
- Pupil representatives belong to our School Council. The Council has its own budget and helps the Leadership Team with important decisions, staff interviews, conducted tours for visitors, and many other responsibilities. We also have representatives on the county-wide Special Schools Council (called “Wacky Forum”). We are investigating the possibility of representation on mainstream councils.
- Leadership roles: Prefects, Mentors, Wheelchair Drivers, Librarians, School Choir, Sports Leaders, E-safety Council. The next target is to create a number of new Leadership roles, such as Playground Leaders and Bank Clerks. Librarians have completed surveys to find out what books pupils would like.
- Assistive technology, such as Eye Gaze, switches, sound beam technology, plasma interactive touch screens etc. We plan to install a wonderful new “Immersive Room” in the Spring of 2016.
- Individual interventions create extra opportunities for empowering self-expression – eg dyslexia assessment and programmes, peer support and emotional well-being work.
- The embedded understanding that all behaviours are a communication, and we must seek to understand what the pupil is trying to express.
- Pupil Behaviour & Safety Questionnaire, resulting in school improvement actions.
- English and Art questionnaires allow pupils to provide feedback on likes/dislikes and ways to enhance teaching and learning.
- A Person-Centred approach to multi-agency meetings, including EHCPs/Annual Reviews, where the pupil views and best interests are always at the core.
- Trying relentlessly to understand what makes each pupil “tick”. To gain this best possible understanding, we liaise closely with numerous partners: home, Physio, Speech and Language Therapy, Play Therapy/Adolescent Therapeutic Counselling, Music Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Educational Psychology, Social Care, School Nurses, School Health (Compass), Careers (Right Steps), Early Intervention Service, IDS (including the Autism Team and Complex Needs Team), CAMHS, Community Nursing, Visual Support Service and Hearing Impairment Service, NHS, Therapeutic Play Skills, commissioned experts in various fields.
- Pupil involvement in productions, assemblies, talent shows, departmental and whole-school celebrations.
- We are constantly evolving our practice and our environment to be “Total Communication”: carefully considered vocabulary, Makaton signing, symbolised script, visual timetables, objects of reference, picture exchange communication systems, focus on signs for the outdoor environment as much as for the indoor environment.