Whats Different about Bradstow?
The fundamental aim of Bradstow School is to support the children and students to acquire the skills to self-manage their behaviour and to develop language and communication skills. We recognize that these things are two sides of the same coin, and that if we can enable a child to communicate, even at a most basic level, this will have a positive impact upon their behaviour. Absolutely everything we do in the school is therefore directed towards this end. The curriculum, activities both in and outside of the classroom, in fact every single time a member of staff engages with a child, are all used as a vehicle through which we can facilitate the child to acquire these skills.
The manner in which this is accomplished is that at all times we seek to ‘look at the world through the eyes of the child’. What are the motivations, fears, wishes of the child that drives their behaviour, and how can we enable them to communicate those motivations to us? All learning therefore is planned at the level of the individual child, and is delivered in a task centered, highly focused way, in a step by step manner in a learning environment in which the child feels secure.
By wishing the child to be secure in their own environment, we mean that the child must be comfortable with and accepting of all those elements which go together in order to make up the totality of our experience in any particular situation. This means not just the physical environment, what it looks like, colours, noise, heat, smells softness/hardness etc, but also the social environment. Who is here? How far are they away? How do they inter-act? etc, and also the environment of the child’s mind. How settled are they, how happy, worried, confident, nervous etc. Finally, the manner in which experiences or learning are presented to the child is critically important, and the impact that this has upon the child’s state of mind.
It is for this reason that we are very careful how we design the child’s environment in the school, and have developed what we call our ‘Complementary Curriculum’. This is a raft of activities, presented to the child in ways which we feel will be less threatening to them. This is done in the class group, small groups or individually, and can range from the highly specialized area of the sensory or dark rooms, musical communication, through to Veronica Sherbourne developmental movement, and inter-active story telling using puppets, props and DVD’s. All complementary activities are tightly targeted and there is close liaison between the class teacher and the complementary practitioner. So supportive are the various complementary environments that are generated, that it is often the case that emergent skills are spotted in those sessions before they appear in the more formal class sessions.
The outcome of the highly specialized and focused work undertaken at Bradstow has been to enable the children to achieve success. As OFSTED reported : ‘The most effective element of teaching is the way staff help pupils and students to overcome their challenging behaviour and begin to learn, often for the first time.’
How do we teach?
The pupils are in class between 9:30 am and 3:45 p.m. During the day the school is divided into eight class groups of approximately six pupils. The classes are divided into two departments:
The Lower School (Up to 14 years)
The Upper School (14 – 19 years)
Each class has an assigned teacher who oversees the educational and behavioural planning for each pupil in the group. The teacher is supported in the class by learning support assistants, and also assistants allocated to individual pupils when extra behavioural support has been identified as required.
Both the morning and afternoon sessions commence with a ‘Communication’ group where the pupils’ and individual pictorial schedules are displayed and interpersonal or group skills developed.
Class staff support the pupils over the lunch time period, both with the eating of the mid-day meal and during the ‘Lunch Clubs’, which are structured leisure activities for which special targets are set for each pupil.
At the beginning of the day the support staff from the residential teams escort the pupils to school, and at the end of the day the pupils return supported by class staff. Information is exchanged between the staff via the Communication Files, which accompany the pupils, and orally between identified staff.