Thomas Cowley High School ‘Local Offer’
What should I do if I think my child has special educational needs?
Talk to the SENCo, Mr Martin MacGregor or Mrs Bev White, who will listen carefully to your concerns.
How will the school respond to my concern?
The most appropriate action will be agreed with you as part of the discussion. It may be that we decide to screen your child for a difficulty such as dyslexia, or we might need to refer to an outside agency such as Speech and Language Therapy (SALT) for assessment.
How will the school decide if my child needs extra support?
Much of our support at TCHS is focussed on the development of functional skills in literacy and numeracy. We screen all students for reading and spelling age when they transfer to us at the start of Year 7. If there is a significant discrepancy between one of these and chronological age, we intervene. We also provide support for students who transfer to us with their learning needs already identified. Our primary liaison officer, Julie Taylor, provides the SENCo with detailed information following her Year 6 transition visits.
What will the school do to support my child?
In Year 7, typically 40% of the cohort will follow a literacy intervention of some kind to help them catch up. Some students continue to require intervention after Year 7 but we strive to close the gap as quickly as possible. Other students may present with difficulties which are not simply literacy-related and the range of interventions at our disposal reflects this. We have an outstanding team of highly skilled and committed teaching assistants and this gives us the flexibility to offer in-class, small group and one-to-one support, as appropriate.
Who will support my child?
The SENCo is responsible for the overall organisation of support and most students with additional needs work with a range of teaching assistants. Our goal is always to move young people towards independence as learners and most of the time, though not always, this works best when teaching assistants are not ‘attached’ to particular learners.
What training and experience do staff have for the additional support my child needs?
We are proud to be an inclusive school and there is a strand of staff training every year which focuses on how to successfully include young people with learning difficulties within the mainstream classroom. The SENCo, ECLIPS colleagues based at this school, Hearing Impairment co-ordinator and teaching assistants are also a rich source of advice, information and support for teaching colleagues. Our ethos within the school is one of problem-solving; if a child is experiencing difficulties, we work together in assessing the situation and planning action. If we feel we need more specialist guidance in order to secure progress, then we engage an external agency
Who else might be involved in support my child?
There are several support agencies that we work closely with at TCHS. These include ECLIPS (Extended communication and language impairment provision for students) which has one of its office bases at TCHS; the Educational Psychology Service; Autism Outreach and colleagues from social care services who are often helpful in promoting social inclusion. Specialist support for young people with hearing and / or visual impairment is also provided through TCHS’s Sensory Impairment Unit. Unique in the county, this provision ensures that hearing and visually impaired young people can learn safely, happily and successfully alongside their peers.
What support will be there for my child’s emotional and social wellbeing?
TCHS enjoys a national reputation for its commitment to students’ social and emotional wellbeing. We provide a keyworker service which means that any student who feels they need to talk to a trusted adult, daily if necessary, can do so. Keyworkers also liaise with parents and have been able to provide mediation when necessary. In addition, some young people benefit from anger management, self-esteem and a range of other programmes, delivered one-to-one by trained and experienced staff. Our social skills packages are important for some young people with autism and we also provide a sanctuary at lunch and break-time where all students with an identified need can play games, chat or quietly complete homework. Through PSHE, special assemblies and focus days, we promote emotional health and equip our students with strategies to develop a sense of resilience and wellbeing. On top of all this, we offer information evenings for parents who are looking for advice on mental health issues impacting on young people, such as self-harm and eating disorder.
How will my child be involved in the process and be able to contribute their views?
Students are invited to review meetings. This enables them to reflect on their progress, to celebrate successes and to agree areas for improvement with both parents and staff involved. We also gather our students’ views through focus group discussions, the outcomes of which are shared with all staff to inform the on-going development of inclusive practice. In addition, we know all of our students very well and they are happy to share their views with us informally on a daily basis, often during one-to-one or small group work.
How will the curriculum be matched to my child’s needs?
During KS3, any student who has a literacy difficulty is withdrawn from French so that they are able to focus on developing skills in English, in a small group situation. At KS4, learners with complex needs are encouraged to follow fewer GCSE courses than others so that they can focus their efforts on achieving the best possible grades in critical subjects. A small number are double-entered for both Entry Level and GCSE courses, guaranteeing success. Our KS4 Learning Mentor works closely with all students who remain on the SEN register, liaising with subject staff, helping with coursework, assisting with personal organisation and generally ensuring they make the most of their invaluable private study time.
What opportunities will there be for me to discuss my child’s attainment and achievement? How will I know how well my child is progressing?
All students in the school receive a detailed progress report annually as well as shorter snapshots of progress. In Year 7, this includes reading and spelling age data. Both the SENCo and teaching assistants are available at parents’ evenings to discuss progress and review meetings for SEN learners are also scheduled throughout the year. We are happy to set up a review meeting at any time, should one be requested.
H How does the school know how well my child is doing?
We generate performance targets based on what students achieved at KS2. These targets and current performance grades (how my child is doing right now) are shared with parents through the interim reports mentioned above. When the gap between target and current performance is too wide, we know there is an issue that needs to be addressed. We have a team of student performance co-ordinators as well as the SENCo whose job it is to ensure that any student falling behind is supported in getting back on track through the implementation of a robust ‘assess-plan-do-review’ cycle.
How will my child be included in activities outside the classroom including school trips?
Not only are young people with SEN encouraged to participate in all school trips, they have some of their own. All Year 7 students on the SEN register enjoy a Christmas pantomime trip and the Year 8 SEN event is a trip to London. We raise funds for this all year to keep the cost very low indeed. The itinerary changes – we have in the past seen a West End show, visited the Science Museum, Madame Tussaud’s and of course there is always a tour of ‘the sites’. Students are supported on such trips by teaching assistants when necessary and risk assessments are undertaken to ensure that any disabled students are fully included.
H How accessible is the school environment? How accessible is the curriculum?
Our historic buildings are beautiful but, unfortunately, not the most accessible for wheelchair users. We have no lifts and our science laboratories and the art room are on the first floor. We do have students who use wheelchairs for medical conditions which require careful pacing through the day, but these students are all able to manage the stairs when required. There are ramps into ground-floor buildings, two disabled toilets, grab rails on stairs and we have a meeting room with disabled access. In short, we have done what we can to make our site accessible but the listed buildings and associated English Heritage constraints mean that we are limited in just how accessible they can be.
Our curriculum offers a range of academic, practical and creative subjects and is accessible to all. During KS3, students with literacy difficulties are taught in a smaller class which is supported by two teaching assistants as well as the teacher. Teaching is differentiated to ensure that all learners experience the right level of stretch and challenge within this ‘Y’ group. During KS4, a reduced timetable for learners with special needs enables us to continue to offer bespoke learning programmes. Some learners, for example, follow courses in life-skills rather than taking a third option. We are unusually flexible in our provision, adapting what we do to ensure that needs are met.
How will the school prepare and support my child to join the school?
Many Year 5 learners already know us from our popular ‘Technology Days’ and so by the time they reach Year 6, TCHS feels a familiar and very exciting place. Our primary liaison officer, Julie Taylor, visits all of our partner primary schools to talk to Year 6 children about what to expect when they start. The SENCo also attends transition reviews for SEN learners so that we know what support to have in place ready for September. There is an ‘intake evening’ for parents and students – an opportunity during the summer term to meet key staff, such as form tutor and Head of House as well as the Headteacher. Finally, for those who remain anxious about transfer despite all of these events, there is a session in school run by the SENCo called ‘Transition Plus’. Largely for SEN learners, this is a morning of circle-time activities which allows students to discuss their worries and in so doing to begin to overcome them.
How will the school prepare and support my child to transfer to a new setting/college/school?
George Gray is responsible for careers in the school and he ensures that all students are given impartial and up-do-date support, information and guidance. College visits are organised for students and providers are also invited to TCHS for an annual careers fair. The SENCo and a Local Authority adviser conduct transition reviews for individual SEN learners from Year 9 onwards to ensure that planning for the next stage begins early and that aspirations are high.
How can I be involved in supporting my child?
The most important thing you can do to support your child is promote reading. All students, with SEN or otherwise, have reading diaries and we expect parents and carers to sign these. We also run ‘Accelerated Reader’, a programme which allows students to earn rewards for taking an online quiz after they have finished a book. Quizzes can be taken at home and we ask parents to actively encourage this. Parents can also support their children by attending all reviews, by coming to us with any concerns and, perhaps most importantly of all, by ensuring good attendance of at least 95%.
How can I access support for myself and my family?
We try to act as gate-keeper to other services, so if you are need of support as a family then by contacting the school’s SENCo, the most appropriate service can be drawn to your attention. There is also a very active Parent Partnership in Lincolnshire. This agency can be found at http://www.lincolnshireparentpartnership.org.uk/ It offers a listening ear as well as signposting other services.
Who can I contact for further information?
Your first point of contact for all matters relating to SEN is the SENCo, Mr Martin MacGregor or Mrs Bev White, who can be contacted on 01775 820254