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VIEW FROM THE CLASSROOM


members of staff were lucky enough to attend the 10 day diploma course. This course was run in another local special needs school and most of the attendees worked in an SEN / EBD setting so it offered an amazing opportunity to share thoughts, experiences and understanding with likeminded people who all worked with similar children. The course consumed us with interest and passion, as it presented the neuroscience of how the brain works. It used 3 clear models to break down trauma and mental health in young people. Attending the course really empowered us by


explaining the difference we as teachers and school staff can make to a child’s life as the ‘emotionally available adults’ working with that child day in day out. That’s probably the biggest impact the award has had on the school, as it’s equipped us with the scientific explanation and psychological knowledge to empower our team to understand exactly how important they are to the young people they work with. We have


always put the child at the centre of our practice but the TIS approach provided a depth of knowledge on how and why we should all do this.


Crownbridge teaches children and young people with various learning difficulties and special needs – how do you accommodate different pupils and different needs in your approach? Crownbridge is a special school for children with a vast range of needs, so it is really important that these needs are understood and the curriculum is adapted accordingly. Students are grouped into classes according to their need, with each class teacher having a thorough understanding of how best to engage these pupils. Teachers regularly meet with parents to discuss targets that are important to the student and the parent, these for the basis of their Individual Education Plan (IEP) targets. For a child with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities this may mean they need regular physio therapy based on the MOVE curriculum - an activity-based curriculum designed to teach individuals basic functional motor skills needed for adult life. We have a tertiary department for pupils aged


14 to 19, with all of these pupils having independent living skills and employment as a goal. Teachers discuss with students and parents what career pathways the students might enjoy, and from these conversations students can explore vocational avenues like café work and food hygiene, music and performing arts, gardening and animal care and much more. Pupils often come to us with a lot of anxiety


which is expressed through challenging behaviour. For these pupils it is most important that the approach is individual to that pupil. We use Individual Behaviour Plans (IBPs) to build up a topography of their behaviour and how best to support the child when they are feeling most anxious. We work very closely with parents to support the pupils and achieve a consistent approach from home to school. We change the environment to support the child, removing triggers where possible and identifying pupils and staff that support positive relationships and reduce anxieties. We identify what the child wants and work towards that where possible. No child is ever excluded from school or left out. We


September 2020


do everything possible to support the child to achieve and they always do!


What kind of therapies do you have available at the school? We have many therapies at school but deciding how to couple each one with a certain child comes from our child-centred curriculum and our understanding of each child’s wants and needs. For example, it may be very important to a child to have swimming every week. This may also be very important for them because it supports communication, health and wellbeing and independent living skills. Some of our therapies include pet therapy – we


have a dog called ‘Binky’ who visits the children weekly, which always engages the children and makes them happy. Some children with no sight, hearing or movement get great joy from being with Binky and are more vocal! For others, being around Binky reduces challenging behaviour and acts as ‘the 3rd person in the room’ while discussing anxieties. Some children also attend horse riding sessions


at a local college. We have a hydro therapy pool which is used all week. Every child that uses this pool benefits in a different way - from developing their communication skills through asking for more splashes, being able to leave their wheelchair and fully stretch, learning to swim; or following instructions and getting dressed/undressed independently. We also offer rebound therapy and are currently fundraising to build a rebound room. Some children have music therapy, which is of massive benefit to nonverbal children in terms of their engagement and communication. The key principle however that is the therapies


are not an addition to the curriculum, but are embedded within it. Through these therapies we can measure progress in literacy and numeracy targets as well as personal development and wellbeing.


How do you protect the mental health of staff as well as pupils? Since achieving the award we have definitely focused more on the wellbeing of staff. We have recently set up a wellbeing group to prioritise the mental health of staff and consider how decision making processes and policies affect staff. We have had Colour Works training and wellbeing training to help us identify how to support each other within class teams and across the school. Most of all though I think building upon the TIS


training, we have identified that we can’t be emotionally available adults if we are not OK ourselves! Because of this, we sit down together as class teams to debrief on the daily running, planning and operations of the school. We listen to each other and discuss how to move forward so everyone understands what is expected of them.


What advice would you give to other special schools looking to boost their awareness of mental health and trauma? Many other special schools have undergone TIS training, and as I discussed earlier, sharing practice and experience is hugely beneficial to all of us. In my experience most special schools have the children at the heart of the system and base the curriculum around the child. My TIS training offered me the opportunity to meet with teachers from mainstream settings, which is where children can easily get lost in the system. The new curriculum in Wales is less target driven and more person-centred - this along with the Additional Learning Needs (ALN) Review makes us hopeful that mainstream schools will adopt more of a TIS philosophy.


uFor more information on Trauma Informed Schools please visit https://www.traumainformedschools.co.uk /awards


www.education-today.co.uk 17


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