OVERVIEWOur Philosophy & Our Practice
The philosophy that informs our autism education practice at Bright Futures School emerged from a study into the feasibility of a parent led special school for children with autism/ Asperger’s syndrome that was completed in 2009.
The feasibility study identified research published by the National Autistic Society that focused on over 200 young adults who had a diagnosis of ‘Asperger’s syndrome’. All had relatively high IQ’s and good language skills. Some 50% of these bright individuals had gone on to higher education after secondary school. Yet, at the time of the study:
- Only 12% were employed, full or part-time
- Only 3% could live independently
- Over 65% had almost no social contact outside of their family
- None were married or involved in a significant emotional relationship
These are disappointing outcomes for ‘successful’ pupils. They help explain why at Bright Futures School, as well as focusing on academic progress, we place an equal emphasis on supporting the social and emotional development of children with autism. We take the view that the above research shows that academic achievement without appropriate social and emotional development leaves autistic children with a poor quality of life, as well as poor life chances. We therefore focus our attention on the core difficulties that lie at the heart of autism. These can include problems with rigid thinking, managing uncertainty and change, social interaction and understanding and managing emotions. These are the difficulties that are at the root of distressed (challenging) behaviour.
At Bright Futures our projects and activities involve academic learning but an equal priority is to better equip our pupils for the adult world of social/emotional relationships, work and independence. We therefore seek to ameliorate core autism difficulties rather than just compensating for or working around them.
We have found that this can only be achieved by supporting parents to use the parent-child relationship to help their children to master developmental milestones that were missed when autism got in the way.
Our Practice – What We Do
Detailed information about how we use levels 1 and 2 of our ‘guiding’ approach to do this is available on our ‘Useful resources’ page.
For learning in areas such as literacy and numeracy, pupils who have difficulty in responding to traditional teaching methods and workbooks may quite readily draft out an appeal for donations for the weekly session at the Oldham food bank, calculate and measure ingredients for a cookery activity or work out the costs of items required for their latest project.
Staff slowly build trusting relationships with pupils, finding opportunities during carefully planned joint activities to enable pupils to have experiences of competence. This increases pupils’ motivation to engage in learning and as a result, all pupils are now consistently achieving school attendance of 95%+.
The high level of staff input, delivered mainly 1:1, at is why, in the ‘core offer’ that follows, we identify at least 66% of all provision for each individual pupil delivered 1:1 (or 2:2 if undertaking a shared activity).
The following are the features of our ‘core offer’.
Each individual pupil will:
- As a full-time pupil, attend school each day with school hours of 9.15am to 2.15pm, Monday to Thursday, and 10am to 3pm on Friday.
- Be provided with their personal timetable – tailored to their needs and interests.
- Be provided with their personal workstation, and ‘desk-top’ resources including laptop and access to iPad.
- Have the opportunity for academic learning across the National Curriculum areas of Literacy, Numeracy, Science, Humanities, PSHE and IT
- Receive at least 66% of all timetabled provision delivered 1:1 (or 2:2) by appropriately qualified, experienced and skilled teaching staff.
- Receive level 1 ‘guiding’ input on 4 days per week for 45 minutes. These 1-1 sessions target mastery of foundational social communication competencies such as understanding and using non-verbal communication.
- Be active during the week in a number of different locations within school and off site. This will include the opportunity for weekly recreational activities including walking, swimming, cycling, horse-riding and other adventurous outdoor activities.
- Be provided with an Action Plan which is regularly reviewed and updated. The AP will identify targets related to (a) academic attainment and (b) social and emotional development.
- Have progress reviewed annually when pupil, parents, school staff and external professionals will take account of the objectives identified in the pupil’s EHCP and of progress in addressing these.
Academic progress of each pupil will be measured by in-house assessment related to national curriculum literacy and numeracy targets. There will also be an externally provided annual measure of age-related literacy and numeracy attainment. B Squared provides on-going step-by-step target setting and assessment.
In Key stage 4 pupils will prepare for Functional skills and should they wish, they will be offered the chance to sit external Functional Skills assessments in English, Maths and IT. This is all part of our preparation for leaving Bright Futures School at the end of Year 11.
ASDAN course work also provides opportunities for qualifications that serve as measures of attainment in areas specific to individual interests.