View from the classroom

school, regularly at the forefront of research and innovation working alongside professionals in both national and international contexts. We are developing our role as a teaching school and regularly have teaching students within our staff base and we regularly work alongside other schools to develop and share good practice.


his month, Education Today hears from Clare Jaques at Topcliffe Primary School in

Birmingham, and Kerri Schubert, occupational therapy student at Coventry University, about the school’s use of occupational therapy, and its benefits for children, parents and staff.

Tell us about your school Topcliffe Primary School is part of the Community Education Partnership, multi academy trust. We are a one form entry primary school in Castle Vale, Birmingham. We are a school of excellence for inclusion and have specialist resource base provision for pupils with Autism Spectrum Conditions and Speech and Language Disorders. Through our ethos, we actively encourage high moral and spiritual values that enable children to access learning and apply knowledge, promote curiosity and wonder and empower children to make a difference to their lives and the lives of others. We firmly believe that through committed and caring teaching, and five steps to improvement, all our children will be able to reach their full potential. We are a forward-thinking

What initially prompted you to work with an occupational therapist? Over the past ten years we have worked closely with occupational therapists to support children in the school who required input for physical difficulties due to their conditions. We have always found the service valuable and supportive, and it significantly benefited the children and staff they worked with. Over recent years we have expanded our provision for pupils with autism and now have children with increasingly complex sensory and motor needs. We found we were making more referrals to occupational therapy services, to help us understand and support the needs of the individuals within our setting. We began working with therapists through the community, to support children with specific sensory needs and considering their recommendations, we set up new environments to support pupils with autism. Therefore, as a school, we had always been interested in the profession and how it can benefit our children, so an opportunity to have our own occupational therapy student excited us.

How did you organise this? An occupational therapist working in Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust contacted the SENCO at the school. They explained how the occupational therapy team at the Trust was interested in working in partnership with the school, to set up an occupational therapy contemporary student placement. From this, a meeting was set up, which involved the Senior Management Team of the school and Paediatric Community Occupational Therapists from the Trust. This meeting highlighted the potential for occupational therapy students to have a contemporary placement at the school. The next step involved contacting Coventry University, as Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has had previous links with mentoring occupational therapy students on placement. From there, staff members who had


showed an interest in mentoring the student received training, which helped us to understand the remit of occupational therapy and how specific support could also benefit many more children in our mainstream population. Finally, a contemporary placement was created and students allocated to the setting.

How does the therapy work in the school environment? A referral system was set up whereby the teachers/teaching assistants within the school were able to refer as many children in their class as they deemed necessary, to the occupational therapy service. These children were then observed in class and an initial assessment was carried out – to highlight any issues they had with self-care, school and leisure activities. From this, it was determined whether the child required 1:1 therapy sessions, to attend a group session, a combination of both, or no intervention. Sessions with the children fit in well with the school table time, as they take part during assemblies, free time and other non-essential classroom activities – to ensure the children do not miss out on vital lessons. A 1:1 session lasts around 30 minutes and they tend to focus on developing fine motor skills; increasing independence in dressing, cutlery skills, using school equipment correctly (such as scissors, holding pencils) and addressing sensory issues. Group sessions focus on social skills, well-being and handwriting and last for approximately an hour – these all take place once a week. The sessions are aimed to be fun and engaging for the children, so that they enjoy practising their skills.

December 2016

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