Achieving inclusion — becoming an inclusive pyramid.

Carol Johnson, Senior Teacher Key Stage 3/AST Inclusion, The Gryphon School, Sherborne, Dorset

At Gryphon School, one of the key strategies we have developed to achieving inclusive practice is to work closely with our eight feeder primary schools, by forming the Sherborne SEN Pyramid project. How this has been developed will be looked at first, before outlining other strategies we have developed at the school for promoting inclusion further.

Sherborne SEN Pyramid project
During the 2000 academic year, the Gryphon School led an initiative to improve the SEN practice within the Sherborne Pyramid — made up of our school and the eight primary schools we serve. With financial support from the LEA, two key staff, a senior teacher from the Gryphon School and a special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) from one of the primary schools, were appointed to identify what was needed to improve the existing practice between the schools. Initially, these managers worked together one day a week to identify how the needs of the SEN students in the pyramid could be met with more effective use of resources.

Identifying core issues The Gryphon School already had a team of qualified teachers trained in managing specific learning difficulties (SpLD) who were able to assess and teach pupils with a range of learning difficulties. This was evidently not the case in all of the primary schools. In addition, lack of sufficient funding, particularly primary, made access to the LEA services difficult. Allocated hours from the educational psychologist were insufficient for some schools.

Another issue that arose was lack of training for teaching assistants (TAs) and SEN teachers wanting to extend their expertise. Teaching assistants had been attending the DfES induction course — a four-day course to address training needs for both primary and secondary TAs — but wanted to further their training.

The new national vocational qualification (NVQ) in SpLD for teachers was available in Somerset, South Dorset and through private providers, but this was not economically or geographically suitable. Teachers in the primary schools with SEN responsibility in some cases did not have the training, particularly for assessing and teaching students with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties (BESD) and those with specific learning difficulties.

Staff in the primary schools identified pupils for assessment by the Gryphon team, who would then be referred to LEA services if appropriate. This reduced the pressure on the educational psychologist who worked for the LEA (Dorset) so that his time could be used for more urgent cases. Schools were also able to have more needs met as they pooled their SEN money to fund the extra time needed from the Gryphon team. Additional qualified staff were appointed as a result.

Progress one year on By 2001, the schools had established a better way of working with the educational psychologist that ensured that those schools requiring urgent assessment were able to access it much more quickly. Qualified SpLD teachers from the Gryphon began to visit the primary schools to assess pupils and plan a teaching programme. In some instances, the Gryphon staff would teach the programme but also they offered valuable training to both teaching and non-teaching staff so that they could deliver the programme to pupils designed to be at School Action level.

At this time, five staff from the Gryphon and five from the pyramid were trained to be assessors once the Gryphon gained the status to be a Centre for delivering training for the new NVQs for teaching assistants and for the SpLD teaching course (then called the RSA but now called NVQ 4). By the end of the first year there were 23 teaching assistants from the pyramid signed up for training.

Benefits of programme The programme has continued to flourish and we have trained 24 TAs with 11 qualifying for NVQ2 and 13 for NVQ3 and five teachers receiving their SpLD qualifications. There are now qualified teachers in the pyramid schools who can plan and teach programmes but the Gryphon staff are still called on to carry out assessments of literacy and numeracy difficulties. This year we intend to run the NVQ5 Part 1, which will enable teachers to receive training on how to assess SpLD.

The enhanced training in the pyramid has created teams of trained, knowledgeable teaching assistants who are able to address the needs of a range of learning difficulties, in particular SpLD, BESD, autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) and speech, language and communication difficulties. They are also more skilled at delivering literacy and numeracy objectives from the national primary and secondary strategies. This has led to the employment of subject teaching assistants in English, maths and information and communications technology (ICT) as well as our year team teaching assistants. This initiative has contributed to inclusion in the pyramid as students’ needs are being identified earlier through increased expertise, additional resources — such as Lucid CoPS (Cognitive Profiling System), a computerised screening system that can accurately predict dyslexia and other learning difficulties in young students — and more efficient use of services provided by the LEA.

Communication between our schools has always been good, but this intervention ensures that students are assessed before they arrive at secondary school making for a smoother transition and ensuring that we are more knowledgeable about the pupils we are receiving. The Gryphon School is then able to plan continuous professional learning (CPL) to increase the awareness and knowledge of our teaching staff so that they are able to plan for these students in their schemes of work and their lesson plans. This year we have provided in-service training for teaching ASD pupils in the mainstream classroom.

Future Pyramid plans This year we have agreed to appoint an inclusion worker, as pupils with BESD remain a concern in most of the pyramid schools. This person will liaise between school and home as well as link up with professional services to access support more quickly.

The role will involve working within our Learning Support Centre to further develop the inclusive practice that already exists in the Gryphon. This includes employing counsellors and setting up a Pupil Guidance Centre staffed with a non-teaching manager supported by a member of the teaching staff throughout the day.

Other inclusion strategies
Inclusion starts with the full commitment of our leadership and management teams. The leadership team has driven curricular change and the enhancement of our work-related curriculum reflects this.

Role of vocational provision Year 10 pupils can now choose vocational routes according to their interests and ability. They are taught careers and citizenship in Year 9 to prepare them for making decisions about their Key Stage 4 programme. The school has its own nursery for babies to age five called ‘Little Gryphons’ situated next to our health and social care department. Students are able to opt for NVQs and vocational A-levels in childcare where they also gain experience from working in the nursery.

We offer an NVQ in catering and hospitality where students learn the necessary skills for a career in the catering industry. Our vocational programme is further enhanced by off-site provision of motor mechanics, hair and beauty, plumbing, practical countryside, horticulture, welding and blacksmithing and electrical.

We believe that quality careers education and vocational provision matched to the needs and desires of the students raises inclusivity and provides equality of opportunity for all. It ensures that students are accessing the curriculum that is most appropriate to their ability and relevant to their future aspirations.

Developing a behaviour for learning strategy
The development of our behaviour for learning document in 2004 has created a more consistent, positive approach to behaviour management. The document outlines clear guidelines for teachers to manage classroom behaviour so as to deal effectively with low level disruption. Strategies are offered and subject areas are responsible for supporting students and ensuring that work is accessible, relevant and presented with a variety of learning styles in mind.

Effective teaching and learning
We have developed a teaching and learning group in the school to promote effective and creative repertoires of teaching and to develop assessment for learning practice — we have been chosen to be a pilot school for the National Project in Assessment for Learning. This year we have initiated student voice groups as a way of eliciting from the students how we can improve their learning. This includes discussions about classroom behaviour and other issues related to personal, social and health education (PSHE).

Identifying SEN
At present, students have individual education plans (IEPs) if they are at School Action or above on the Code of Practice. If they do not have SEN but are being identified through our behaviour for learning as ‘at risk’ from exclusion then the heads of year initiate pastoral support plans that are developed with the student in consultation with relevant staff, outside agencies (if appropriate) and the parents. Our intention is to reduce the number of IEPs and create a provision map that reflects our inclusive practice for all students.

Future plans Our plans for the future are centred around national and regional changes. Nationally the remodelling of the workforce agenda has enabled us to look at how we staff our pastoral system and we intend to increase staffing in this area by appointing student support managers to work with heads of year and other departments in the school to support our inclusion policy. These managers will not be teachers but will be trained to support pastoral issues and liaise with outside agencies and parents. Regionally, we are being asked to ensure sustainability and being encouraged to work with other pyramids in our area. We already support the training within some of these pyramids so as far as we see this as a natural and necessary progression to promote inclusion within a wider area.

Carol Johnson, Senior Teacher Key Stage 3/AST Inclusion, The Gryphon School, Sherborne, Dorset.

School context

The Gryphon School, a newly-designated specialist school in Business and Enterprise (2004), is a mixed 11-18 comprehensive Church of England voluntary controlled school, successfully formed from the amalgamation of three schools in 1992, which moved to purpose-built accommodation in 1994. The school, which in 2003 also achieved Silver Artsmark and Sportsmark status, is larger than average having 1,360 students on roll, 300 of whom are in the sixth form which, in itself, is also larger than average. Significant numbers of sixth formers join from other schools in Year 12. The balance of boys and girls varies from year to year, but is broadly even. The school serves the town of Sherborne and surrounding rural areas in north Dorset but also caters for students in west Dorset and east Somerset. More than half the pupils travel on school bus services. The Gryphon School achieved 70% A*-C at GCSE and 320 APS in 2005. In February 2003, Ofsted described the school as:

a popular, successful and enthusiastically inclusive school where the standards attained by pupils in public tests and examinations show that overall they make better than average progress.

The proportion of students eligible for free school meals is below the national average. For a very small proportion of students English is not their mother tongue; this year there are 14 students to whom this applies. The proportion of students identified as School Action Plus and having statements of special educational needs (SEN) is above the national average since it includes the 15 students who attend the school’s specialist base for specific learning difficulties. In addition, the school has developed a Pupil Guidance Centre to cater for students with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties.

The Gryphon School serves eight primary schools from a wide rural catchment area in North Dorset that encompasses 100 square miles.

Impact on pupil progress

  • Early intervention with pupils with literacy difficulties in Year 3 has resulted in the students making enough progress to need no extra input by the time they reached the Gryphon School (evidenced in this year’s intake)
  • A Year 9 pupil who was totally unschooled and illiterate in Year 5can now read and write well enough to cope with a new school environment and has moved on to an agricultural school
  • A student in Year 11 with severe SpLD with very basic reading and spelling skills in Year 7 can now read and write independently and will be entered for the GCSE English exam — he was not seen in the primary school because the initiative was not in place and he had not met the criteria for teaching set by the LEA service.