What is the school’s approach to teaching and learning?

Like any school we have structures and routines that all pupils will need to fit into. All our pupils arrive with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) which will identify how best each pupil can be supported. We pride ourselves on an approach that takes into account the aspirations and abilities of individual pupils and helps them to prepare for a life beyond school; whether that is progressing to college courses or the world of work.

To accommodate this we have developed a flexible curriculum which allows pupils to experience a range of academic as well as practical, vocational and work related learning subjects in school. As pupils move into Key Stage 4 the emphasis is placed on qualifications in their chosen subjects, both vocational and academic. These options are determined by pupil’s individual aspirations and abilities. The school also has the opportunity for students in the school to remain with us until 18 for an enhanced KS5.

Our class groups are organised largely in Key Stages but there is flexibility here too, to ensure pupils are grouped according to their needs and not simply their age.

Our academic programme is designed to support pupils’ aspirations by providing a relevant and achievable qualification ranging from Entry Level 1 qualifications to GCSEs.

In Key Stage 5 students have the opportunity to extend the learning they have undertaken at KS4 and/or explore new vocational pathways linked to their aspirations.

Our team of specialist teachers ensure that pupils’ baseline assessments are used to set challenging goals of both the pupil and for us. Other assessments carried out on entry will look at social and emotional understanding, and skills and resilience to challenge and change. Class groups typically have eight students or fewer and each class has at least one Teaching Assistant assigned to support pupils with their learning. Our Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) is employed to support in-class or for 1:1 interventions for pupils requiring extra help.

Our data is used to ensure that the right balance of academic and practical work is in place as well as any additional educational or therapeutic interventions. Our dedicated team of pastoral staff provide support for pupils both inside and outside the classroom. Our in-house therapy team provides 1:1 support for pupils as well as guiding academic staff in ways of supporting a particular pupil.

Internal Team Around the Child (iTAC) meetings involve these three teams of professionals each half-term to discuss individual pupils and ensure that their support plans and risk assessments are up-to-date and that approaches across school are coordinated.

Pupils can earn rewards throughout the week that lead to regular rewards sessions on Friday afternoons, which might include cycling, football, film-club or computer time. In addition there are termly trips further afield to try such activities as swimming, paintballing, skiing or go-karting. Our school council contribute ideas for new rewards, which we then look to put in place.

Our celebration assembly each week focusses on the successes we have enjoyed in the week.

How accessible is the school?

Dovetree School is located in a purpose built school building with outstanding school grounds. The building has been refurbished to a very high level and pupils make good use of our different areas for outside learning. At present most pupils travel to school by taxi so at the start of each day we gather in class groups for breakfast before the day’s work begins.

We make accessing important information about what we do easy. You can find information about the school and news of recent events on the website. Policies and procedures can be obtained through the school website and on request from the school office. Information from the school can be provided in a range of formats, upon request.

Pupils are given handbook induction when they join the school to help them learn about the routine of the school, including timings for the day, lesson information and reward systems. We can adapt this to the needs of any pupil using symbols or pictures, if necessary, to support understanding.

At Dovetree School we have a dedicated Family Liaison Officer who works closely with our Pastoral Team, parents and carers to ensure a smooth transition to the school for any new pupils.

We have a comprehensive range of resources that reflect the needs of the pupil population and we use differentiated communication and symbols, where appropriate, to ensure communication and language is accessible to all pupils. We consider the sensory needs of our children throughout the school; ensuring wall displays are not distracting to pupils when they are learning in class and that the classes are clutter free and private study areas are available, if needed.

If English is not the first language for a pupil we would endeavour to provide a support assistant who speaks their language to assist them in the classroom until such time as they can understand without support.

How does the school review and evaluate outcomes?

Pupils complete baseline assessments in core subjects, as well as resilience and emotional literacy, soon after arrival at school. These assessments are used to ensure that they are accessing the right classes, interventions and any necessary therapies. For vocational subject areas students will have skills based assessments to understand their starting point and to allow our expert staff to tailor their teaching to rapidly build and develop skills.

A post admission review meeting is held within the first six weeks to discuss plans and progress and ensure we are on the right track.

At annual review meetings, which involve all the people who work with a pupil, changes to EHCPs are recommended and new targets set for the forthcoming year. This meeting will also involve representatives from the local authority.

Our Pastoral Support Team and Family Liaison Officer are always on hand to speak to parents and carers to ensure that everyone is working closely together. We want to make sure that parents or carers are aware of the targets that have been set for pupils, how they are progressing to these and how we are encouraging and rewarding their hard work and progress. It is important that we are all able to celebrate pupil’s achievements and ensure that we adapt their targets so that they continue to be challenged and develop.

In addition to our regular ITAC meetings to discuss progress, teachers conduct full subject audits three times a year to identify individual progress and adjust their teaching and resources to reflect each child’s needs. Pupils identified as requiring additional support may get some 1:1 intervention work delivered by one of our HLTAs.

The school is monitored regularly by external agencies and the Witherslack Group internal Quality Assurance Team. We spend time making sure that the school is working effectively for you and your child and that the resources we have in place meet the needs of all the pupils.

We understand that some of the key successes and outcomes for pupils will be measured by what they do once they leave our school. This is why we provide a broad range of resources across school life in the areas of life skills and careers. We will support pupils to develop a strong skill set that will allow them to become more independent as they grow. We will also support them in making their first steps into their chosen career by arranging relevant work experience placements with suitable organisations and businesses when they are in Key Stage 4 and continue this if they stay with us Post 16.

How does the school keep pupils safe?

At the pre-admission stage information gathered is passed onto the ITAC team that will be working most closely with that pupil. This will be put into a plan called a My Support Plan (MSP). This plan along with any Pupil Risk Assessment ensures that all staff have a clear understanding of a pupil’s likes and dislikes, and will help us to support pupils if they are feeling anxious.

Our routines and structures similarly take account of the safety needs of pupils. Pupils come into school before 9.00am and are dropped off in the school car park where they are met by members of staff and go into breakfast club. There is opportunity at this time for a handover of information and to start the day with a whole school gathering. Break and lunch times are well-staffed so that pupils are supported and safe throughout the whole day. At lunch your child will sit at the dining table with at least one member of staff and after lunch pupils can take part in a range of activities.

All off-site activities are risk assessed and appropriately staffed with specialist qualified instructors delivering outdoor education. All staff receive training and support to ensure that when pupils are away from the school site they are well prepared and safe. All staff are qualified First Aiders and staff who drive minibuses have completed their MIDAS minibus test. Staff are also trained in the management of medication. Risk assessments are site specific and regularly reviewed to ensure that appropriate measures are taken for specific individuals and groups of pupils on educational visits.

Dovetree School works hard to ensure that pupils feel safe and secure in school; we know that this is when pupils are most able to succeed. We have a strong culture of anti-bullying and monitor and address any issues of bullying. Our lessons cover subjects such as Citizenship, PHSE and British Values. These lessons address bullying as part of the ongoing work, which includes anti-bullying week and outside speakers coming into school. Our anti-bullying policy is available on the school website or on request from the school office. We also teach pupils to consider the growing problems created by our online lives. We teach e-safety in PHSE and IT lessons.

How does the school promote a healthy lifestyle?

A unified approach to health and wellbeing runs throughout our day at Dovetree School. Our breakfast consists of cereal or toast with milk or fruit juice, lunch time is similarly healthy with salad always on offer and fruit is available at both meal times. Pupils’ intake is monitored by staff to ensure they eat well.

Our therapy teams also make time available for pupils outside their formal therapy sessions should they have worries they wish to discuss.

How does the school communicate with parents?

Communication is something that is central to the way our school operates. We place a great deal of importance on communicating effectively with all parents and have dedicated staff to help ensure excellent standards of communication with parents. Most often this will be with our Family Liaison Officer (FLO), Pastoral Team or a pupil’s group tutor or Teaching Assistant.

Regular phone calls ensure that parents or carers are kept up-to-date with how their child is progressing. Regular meetings ensure that any issues can be discussed and plans to address these put in place.

A full school report will be sent prior to a pupil’s annual review and termly reports on progress and targets will be sent at the end of each term. A parents’ evening will take place once a year and this will be an opportunity to meet teachers and discuss pupils’ progress and successes. Parents are welcome to visit school and can arrange this by speaking to our FLO or we can arrange for us to visit at home.

Parents will be invited to school for special assemblies or celebrations at Christmas and the end-of-term. In addition we will organise workshops which will address issues where parents often feel they need practical advice or guidance in caring for their child. These events offer a great opportunity to ensure we are all working together and they also provide the chance for parents to meet others in similar positions.

We are always keen to get feedback from parents and carers; we conduct a survey annually as well as feedback during reviews. At Dovetree School we understand the importance of working in partnership with parents and carers and welcome feedback, even if it is about something you think we could have done better or improve on.

How does the school promote working together?

Dovetree School works tirelessly towards meeting the needs of its pupils and helping each young person to thrive and develop. Much of this is due to our ethos of working as a team. This includes our staff and extends to our pupils, parents and their wider families. We have a number of initiatives that help us to work together effectively across the school for the combined benefit of our young people.

We like to share regular updates and news on our website and our social media page. This gives everyone the opportunity to see what is happening at the school and also celebrate in the good news and positive activities that take place in the school on a daily basis. We also feature the projects and initiatives that our pupils and staff take part in with charities and the local community as a whole.

Dovetree School work in partnership with Education, Health and Social Care agencies and CAMHS. Student support staff and pupil liaison staff ensure that all interested parties are part of the planning, monitoring and evaluation process.

What help and support does the school offer to families?

We are able to offer a range of support and practical help to families. This can include our Family Liaison Officer meeting with families at home or here at school to discuss the admissions process.

We are able to offer a wide range of support, guidance and practical advice from our Therapy Team. This may include the opportunity for families to have access to our Educational Psychologist, Speech and Language Therapists and Career Advisors.

Our Pastoral Care Manager can work with parents or carers to access further help and support for families. We will communicate regularly so we are aware of the help a family may need and can help them to obtain it. This may include help to improve a pupil’s health, independence, college options or activities outside school.

When parents or carers are planning for their child’s future we can provide guidance and support, plus arranging college visits, if needed.

Our school works with local authorities to provide transport to and from school and to ensure that pupils are well supported on their journey at the start and end of the day. We understand the importance of the start and finish of the day and know that this can set the mood for learning and returning home.

How does the school support new pupils and school leavers?

We understand how daunting starting and leaving a school can be. The transition into and out of school can be a challenging time, not just for the pupil but for the whole family. To support our pupils and their families we develop individually tailored transition plans for all pupils starting school or moving on to options Post 16 or 18.

We make transition plans for pupils coming to school and for those moving on to their next school, college, university or into the workplace. These include regular supported visits and appropriate handover of information, to ensure that transition is as smooth as possible. We know that starting anywhere new is an anxious time and we ensure that your child is supported during this time with care and empathy.

When a pupil is preparing to start at our school, our staff will support them in the build up to their start date. This may include home visits, visits into school and taster days, where pupils can spend time with their new teacher and other pupils. We will provide a school uniform so that a pupil feels part of the school when they visit and even arrange transport for parents or carers as well as the pupil. If a child is nervous about starting we can arrange for some sessions to be delivered at home or for them to attend part-time at the school whilst they build their confidence.

When pupils are preparing to leave and move on to college or employment our staff will arrange visits and will accompany them, if needed.  We will arrange work experience placements so that pupils can try different working environments and see if a job that they are interested in is actually something they enjoy and like. We can also support transition into further education by arranging college taster days or accompanying pupils when they visit college. We develop detailed plans for pupils’ next steps as they move into Key Stage 4 and will make sure we help them along each part of the process. We also do the same if pupils stay with us into Key Stage 5.

The individualised timetables that we develop will include work experience, college placements and vocational studies during Key Stage 4 and 5 in order to support the transition into life outside school. We are determined  our school will develop a strong record of pupils remaining in education or employment when leaving school.

What extra-curricular activities does the school offer?

All pupils in school will have the opportunity to access residential outdoor education trips and off-site education visits. These trips are a fundamental part of our holistic education and are therefore funded by the school. Pupils’ access to these trips are based on individual risk assessments and appropriate adjustments are made to ensure that all pupils access these opportunities in a safe and positive way.

At lunchtime we will offer the choice of a wide range of activities and clubs including arts and crafts, console games, computer club, sports, outdoor activities, indoor games and also quiet time. All pupils attend lunch activities and it is a good opportunity to make friends outside of their class.