Living and Breathing Inclusion
Topcliffe Primary School is a popular mainstream school with five resource bases for pupils with a diagnosis of an Autistic Spectrum Condition. The school lives and breathes inclusion, tailoring the school environment and culture so that all pupils are able to rise to the high expectations. There is a strong focus on ‘adapting’ the curriculum to enable both mainstream and ‘resource based’ pupils to have opportunities to, for example, study the same texts in their English lessons. This close integration and consistent approach has had a huge impact. Pupils can move between the resource base and the mainstream classes for specific learning, when appropriate. This enables the resource base to offer specific interventions during the times when their pupils are learning in the mainstream classrooms. This outward looking approach is orchestrated by skilled staff who know the children well and enables pupils to make the best possible progress.
IQM Cluster Groups
Topcliffe School is on an inspiring inclusion journey, working with other schools and sharing good practice. The school has held the IQM Centre of Excellence Award for three years. Whilst working with their IQM Cluster, the staff have visited schools out of the local area and implemented some of the strategies and ideas that they have seen. For example, the ‘cool down’ tents can now be seen in classrooms. Having reflected on approaches used by schools in the cluster, staff have now developed their own style of large topic work books. These are growing into really exceptional records of learning. The children say that they are proud of their large topic books, which include records of their learning in topics such as ‘Prehistoric Britain.’ The books include photographs of topic-based activities, such as models of Stone Age homes, labelled diagrams and well-presented histories of Celts and Romans.
A Shared Clarity and Passion
The school is part of a Multi Academy Trust and works with other local schools, both primary, secondary and all-through. The Headteacher, school leaders and the Trust have a shared clarity and passion for the whole school’s development, including plans for developing aspiring leaders. They have put in place structures and systems to ensure a consistent approach to learning and teaching and are developing the emotional wellbeing of pupils and staff. Within the Trust, staff from Topcliffe are leading the development of Special Educational Needs, Assessment, Reading, Writing, and Mathematics.
The Inclusive Nature of the School
The Headteacher has been in post for over a year and implemented well planned improvements which have enhanced the inclusive nature of the school. For example, the classrooms and age-related resource bases are now physically close to each other, enabling pupils to integrate more effectively. The values-based curriculum is visible throughout the school. The five Values: Healthy, Aspirational, Respectful, Resilient and Independent are together known as HARRI. The pupils are proud to be recognised for the values they have demonstrated. The Values are printed on the cover of every pupil’s work book, again emphasising their importance. The new Topcliffe curriculum has resulted in equality of opportunity across the school, with adaptions made for individual needs.
Supporting Individual Needs
The Inclusion Team works with occupational therapists and speech and language teachers to ensure that expertise and relevant resources, such as ear defenders, wobble boards and weighted blankets, are available to support individual needs. The school recognises the difference that high quality specialist support can make to a child’s learning and future life skills. The classrooms display visual timetables which benefit all pupils. One-page profiles have been developed and are the voice of the child. As one teacher said, ‘we are standing in the shoes of the child’ when we consider the needs of our pupils.
The pupils at Topcliffe School rise to the high expectations. Their handwriting and presentation is extremely good and they are rightly proud of their work books and their learning behaviours. The Head boy, Head girl and their deputies are able to talk about the school with maturity, explaining every aspect of the school in great detail. For example, the Reception class recently held a ‘Sibling Day’ and this was an enjoyable time for 21 older pupils to spend with their little sister or brother in their classroom. The display of the Resilient Reader prompted a very thorough explanation of the way this helps to understand the text. The safeguarding display was explained as ‘there are special teachers to talk to but we know we can always talk to anyone here.’
Good Communication with Parents
Parents report that they have good communication with the school and ‘can’t praise the teachers enough.’ They recognise that the school is working hard to improve attendance and appreciate opportunities such as the breakfast club to support this. Parents whose children are new to the school can see that their children have benefited from the well-planned transition and are very happy that their child has joined Topcliffe. They understand the benefit of interventions such as ‘Lego Therapy’ to encourage turn taking and they value the time that the staff give to help them, for example creating a social story to prepare a child for a special holiday.
The Inclusion Leader has been leading activities for pupils to enjoy alongside their parents. For example, the Christmas workshops. These are valued greatly and the school is now encouraging parents to be involved in a ‘Friends’ group so that they can begin to take the lead on similar events in the future. Parents seem motivated to be involved and included in these types of events.