Specialist partnership model putting inclusion at the heart of Rokeby Primary School
One of the head teacher responses to the SEND & Inclusion Strategy consultation last year said:
“Mainstream can often meet needs, but not in as effective a way as schools that are more set for children with specialist needs. This doesn't mean necessarily special schools, but more that we seem to have two models only - special school and mainstream - there needs to be a better choice than this” [Primary Head Teacher]
The SEND & Inclusion Strategy sets out to bridge the gap between mainstream and specialist provision by creating new models, such as specialist partnerships and resourced provisions.
Headteacher of Rokeby Primary School, Jen James, has recently set up a successful partnership with a local special school and has been surprised by the impact this has had, not just on the pupils receiving the support, but on the whole school community. Jen shares in her own words the journey they have been on to get to this point.
Does it matter? I must have asked myself and my staff that question more times than I care to remember over the last few years. Does it matter if she isn’t sitting down? Does it matter if he needs to chew on his sleeve? Does it matter? This has become a whole school mantra and in many ways, these few words have completely changed how we plan provision for children with SEND.
Having been thrust into the head teachers chair in January 2017 as an inexperienced, naïve and completely unprepared educator, I had no idea the moral dilemmas that I’d be faced with as a leader. Balancing needs and standards amongst many other things has not been an easy task and it has been even more complex for our governors and Academy Trust to understand.
Only recently, we have taken a child with very complex medical needs on to our roll. Having been previously refused by several schools, we were of course concerned about how we would meet his needs in terms of managing his oxygen and his tube feeding. Now he is here, settled and thriving. It was a challenging time for all involved but ultimately, we are doing what is right by the children and families; providing an opportunity to access mainstream education for as long as possible.
Our partnership with Brooke Special School has helped support the vision we have, where pupils on their roll attend our setting anywhere between half a day to five days a week. We needed to know if we could fully integrate these children into our mainstream classrooms and, if we could make it work for these children, what other children could benefit from this? Over the last 18 months, a shift has occurred. We have begun to expect more from ourselves as to what experiences we could offer to children with SEND in terms of full integration into the classroom.
I am not saying that this is easy – it absolutely is not and the hard work and dedication of our team is not to be underestimated. This has been something that every member of our whole school community has had to buy into in order for its potential to be maximised. Our whole staff body are trained in Makaton, communicate in print, nurture philosophy and many other areas to enable every corner of our provision to be accessible to all pupils.
Our school has become more than I could have imagined – a community joined by a shared vision, aspiration and passion for ensuring inclusion is at the very heart of what we do.
If you are interested in establishing a specialist partnership or resourced provision please contact Steve Pendleton, SEN and Inclusion Commissioner - email email@example.com