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SEND & Student Support

What types of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities do we cater for?

Students with a range of special and additional educational needs and disabilities attend our Academy, including cognition and learning needs (such as dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties), communication and interaction needs (such as speech and language difficulties and autism spectrum condition), sensory impairments and physical disabilities, as well as social, mental and emotional health needs. The most common special educational need in our Academy is cognition and learning difficulties. A small percentage of students are also learning English as an additional language. Support provisions for them are co-ordinated by the SEND Department, based in our main building. 

How do we identify special educational needs?

Students are identified as experiencing special educational needs or disabilities according to the criteria set out in the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Code of Practice (2014). On entry to the Academy, a thorough review of each student’s needs is carried out and a profile is created from all available sources of information. All students are screened for signs of dyslexia as part of this process. A small number may require additional, specialist assessment and this is co-ordinated by our Deputy SENCO or (in exceptional cases) via referral for external specialist assessment.

How do we work in partnership with parents and carers?

Parent/carer partnership is a core part of our work. They are invited to make an appointment every six weeks with our SENCO or Deputy SENCO to discuss their child’s progress and provisions. These weeks are known as ‘Parent-SENCO Partnership Weeks’. This initiative is promoted on the Academy website, on Twitter and in the Academy newsletter. Our SENCO or Deputy SENCO will also ask parents/carers and students to attend meetings to discuss any significant concerns around progress and/or well-being, sometimes in liaison with other staff (for example a Head of Year or subject teacher). In addition, our SENCO is available to meet with prospective and current parents/carers at events such as Open Evenings and Academic Review Days.

How do we promote student voice for young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities?

Student voice is a priority within our Academy, starting with regular opportunities to share views and voice concerns within tutor groups. At a higher level, there is also a good representation of students with special educational needs and disabilities on the Academy’s student councils. For students with special educational needs and disabilities who have issues or concerns, ‘student voices’ is embedded in all systems and provisions. Where a student has a pastoral or academic mentor or needs to see our SENCO or Deputy SENCO, semi-structured one-to-one learning conversations are provided. These structured conversations aim to pinpoint clear areas for development and additional differentiation needs in any subjects. This enables the student to recognise what they need to do themselves to fulfill their potential but also gives them a real opportunity to contribute to any required adaptations to teaching and/or support.

How is progress monitored and supported?

All Directors of Learning, Subject Leaders and teachers are responsible for monitoring progress and putting in place additional interventions to support good or better progress for all students. The progress of all students with special educational needs and disabilities is monitored by the Achievement team led by the Assistant Vice Principal for Achievement, who meets with the SENCO once every half-term. In addition, the SENCO carries out a review of progress and behaviour for each student under SEN/D support three times a year. Where a student’s progress is becoming a cause for concern, the SENCO will initiate a further co-ordinated set of actions, as part of ‘Assess-Plan-Do-Review’ process that is set out in the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Code of Practice (2014). This may include targeted interventions to close gaps in attainment and progress and may also include a further meeting with the student and their parents/carers.

What do we do to support transition to next phases of education and preparation for adulthood?

Wherever a young person’s aspirations lie, it is important that they are equipped to manage the challenges in the next phase of their life. For every new student there is a thorough review of all information and data, as well as standard testing, to ensure appropriate setting and to establish the need for any further specialist assessments. It may also be appropriate to put in place immediate support provisions. Our SENCO works as a key staff member within a team that oversees transition at Key Stages 3 and 5, as well as casual admissions at any point in the academic year. If a young person has an EHC Plan, Our SENCO attends transition review meetings in Year 6 and dedicated support will be provided to assist with selecting Key Stage 4 options subjects. This support is extended to a number of other students who may have more complex special educational needs and/or disabilities. In Year 11, students are given every opportunity to make informed decisions about the next stage in their education or their introduction to training or employment. The Academy works in close partnership with Prospects (careers agency) to ensure that students with an EHC (Education, Health and Care Plan) – as well other students with significant needs – have advice and a personalised transition plan in place. The main aim of the plan is to set high aspirations, ensuring a wide range of options and supporting the young person to achieve the best possible outcomes in further education or employment. If, at any time, a young person transfers to a new school or college, we liaise closely with staff at the new school and provide them with all necessary information, including student files, to ensure the appropriate arrangements can be made to make the transition process as smooth as possible.

What is our approach to teaching students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities?

As part of the tiered and inclusive approach that is set out in the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice (2014), the Academy focuses on ‘quality first teaching’. This means that all systems and forms of support are driven towards supporting good or better progress in all lessons. Several subject departments, including English, Mathematics and Science, organise students into classes according to their current attainment. Classes where a higher level of support is required may be smaller in size and may receive support from additional staff members such as teaching assistants. Departments and co-ordinators across the Academy organise a wide range of intervention programmes. For students with dyslexia, other specific learning difficulties and speech, language and communication needs, this is supplemented by an on-going Study Skills programme, which moves from ‘Boost’ (taught sessions in Year 7) to ‘Springboard’ (refresher sessions which trigger personalised intervention where necessary, in Years 8-11) to an open tuition service in Year 11 and the Sixth Form. Students who are at the beginning stages of learning English as an Additional Language (EAL) may receive one-to-one support to accelerate language acquisition. In addition, students can access additional support in the after-school Study Club. A small number of Key Stage 3 students with a more complex profile of learning difficulties receive a range of special educational needs provisions within their Humanities and Modern Foreign Languages curriculum, led by our Deputy SENCO. Students with an EHC Plan or a Statement of Special Educational Needs will receive individual support and monitoring from teaching assistants across a range of subjects, according to their needs.

What adaptations are made to the curriculum and learning environment for students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities?

As part of our commitment to ‘quality first teaching’, all teachers are provided with live, up-to-date information about each student located within their online class registers. This includes information about any student’s special/additional educational need(s) and/or disabilities. This is supplemented by information regarding any special requirements; examples include access to colour overlays (available in each classroom) and netbooks. Most students in Key Stage 4 with special educational needs – and some students with disabilities – will also have access arrangements for examinations and controlled assessments; the details of these arrangements are also outlined on each teacher’s register. Changes to any information in this area are made immediately and all teachers are alerted to any updates once a week. All teachers work within a framework that sets out clear differentiation strategies for each type of special educational need or disability; in addition, any very specific adaptations that are necessary for individual students (such as specific resources and seating arrangements) are communicated to staff and monitored by the SEND Department. Quality assurance of differentiation for students with special educational needs and disabilities is embedded in the Academy’s termly schedule of teaching observations and marking scrutiny. Where academic progress is a concern, the SEND Department play a key role in supporting students directly and helping teachers to personalise their differentiation strategies.

What is the expertise of staff and what training is provided to staff?

Our SENCO and Deputy SENCO are qualified teachers with extensive experience in leadership and special educational needs. Our SENCO, Sandrine Twinley, holds a National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership. Our Assistant Director, Elysa Alton, holds a Level 7 Diploma in Teaching and Assessing Learners with Specific Learning Disabilities, which qualifies her to formally assess a range of specific learning difficulties, including dyslexia as well as a Masters in Equality and Diversity. They are supported by a highly experienced and extremely dedicated support staff team. Staff who have responsibilities in specialist areas receive in-service training from expert professionals to update their knowledge and skills. Our whole staff training programme also includes refresher training in key areas of special educational needs and disabilities, which supplements the comprehensive differentiation frameworks provided to all teachers to support ‘quality first teaching’. All staff also have access to a regularly updated library of online training and advisory materials in all areas of special educational needs and disabilities, as well as a series of ‘top tips’ provided in the weekly staff bulletin. Teachers and support staff are also regularly briefed on the individual needs of students and strategies to support these needs. In addition, staff can at any time and when the need arises seek the advice of staff in the SEND Department, especially where a young person’s needs may be more complex.

How do we evaluate the effectiveness of our provisions for students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities?

Student progress is at the heart of evaluating the effectiveness of any provision. Individual provisions and interventions have their own progress and impact measures, depending on what the aim of the provision/intervention is. Typically, any provision or intervention will be evaluated for any individual student within a six week period, as part of the ‘Assess–Plan–Do–Review’ process that is set out in the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Code of Practice (2014).

How we do enable students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities to engage in activities that are available to all students?

We consider all our stakeholders always look to remove a perceived barrier that might deny any individual access to our services. Each student with a disability or medical need is treated as an individual. The SEND Department are pro-active in making ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled students and those with medical needs to ensure that they have access to all buildings and the whole curriculum. Students with a physical disability (or medical needs, including those that may be of a temporary nature) will have, if appropriate, an early leave pass and the option of using lifts to help them move around the Academy with minimum disruption to their learning. In some exceptional cases, a personalised timetable or phased reintegration plan may be put in place. Learning support is provided via the HUB. Some students may need a Health Care Plan, which will be drawn up in partnership with parents or carers, healthcare professionals, the Head of Year and the Director of Student Support Services. Information such as triggers, signs, symptoms and treatments and strategies for managing an emergency are shared with staff. Similarly, advice on differentiation in class for a student with a disability or medical need is clearly communicated to all teachers and closely monitored. Most equipment used in classrooms is accessible to all students regardless of their needs. The Academy also provides a range of adaptive technologies or other equipment, via departmental resources or via the Heads of Year. All students with a disability or medical condition will be supported to ensure that they have full or alternative access to the Academy’s extra-curricular activities, including clubs and trips.

What support is provided for students’ social and emotional development?

Apart from the daily pastoral care provided by each student’s tutor and their respective Head of Year, pastoral care will also be provided by the Senior Leadership Team, class teachers, support staff, the Safeguarding Team and the Academy’s counsellors. Some students, who may or may not have special educational needs, also require additional support from the SEND Department. This support is provided via the HUB, which includes personalised mentoring and a range of engagement and early support provisions. The SENCO meets with: (a) the Academy’s counsellor, Vice Principal (Student Welfare) and Designated Teacher for Looked After Children on a weekly basis, to review the needs of students with possible social, mental and/or emotional health needs; and (b) each Head of Year, every six weeks, to carry out a full review of such needs and support requirements for their individual year group cohort.

What other bodies and agencies do we work with?

The SEND Department work with a range of external professionals and agencies. These include medical professionals in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), Community Paediatricians and Advisory Teachers for visual impairment, hearing impairment and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Advisory Teachers visit the Academy and meet with students, staff and parents when specialist advice is required. In liaison with pastoral staff and the Safeguarding Team, professional partnership work may also take place with the South Eastern Attendance Alliance Service, social workers, the New Horizons Federation (for students who are vulnerable to missing education) and local youth organisations. In complex cases, the Director of Student Support Services will engage with professionals from the Bexley Early Intervention Team, such as educational psychologists.

Who can I contact for further information?

Your first point of contact in Student Support Services is
Annette Twigger, our Student Support Co-ordinator (Administration).