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

From even before your child starts at our school we will be working hard to ensure that they are not only looking forward to joining Oversands, but they can also start learning and developing from day one. Prior to them starting, an initial assessment will identify their specific educational needs. We would learn more about these needs and your child in general during their first six weeks at the school, when a baseline assessment across all subject areas would take place.

Throughout this process, we would communicate with you and your child, so that you know exactly what is going on and what support we will be putting in place to allow your child to settle into school life. This initial induction period would also include a range of diagnostic assessments completed by specialist staff, including specific learning difficulties, educational psychology, speech and language, mental health and dyslexia.

We will develop a clear picture of your child’s needs and ensure we really understand what you and your child want to achieve. At the same time we would be getting to know your child and finding out what they are interested in and what they enjoy. We want their learning to be fun and for them to be happy in their time at school.

We will always continue to assess your child’s needs and development, so we can ensure that we are providing the best possible support and also challenging your child in their studies so they can work towards realising their full potential. We are able to assess young people for dyslexic tendencies and are a Dyslexia Friendly School, providing the necessary resources for young people who require support in this area. We hold Autism Accreditation with the National Autistic Society and are also a member of the National Association of Special Schools, who provide up to date information relating to any legislative changes in SEN.

We work hard to help all our young people in their lessons and would make sure all teaching and support staff know the full picture of need for your child. We pride ourselves in really knowing each of our young people and this is what helps us to help them achieve and succeed. All our classes are small (maximum eight pupils), with at least one teacher and one teaching assistant. Additionally there are several pastoral support staff available throughout the school day should any young people need additional support outside the classroom. There are also opportunities to be taught in smaller groups, or even individually, if the need is identified.

Teachers, teaching assistants and pastoral staff help our young people to complete their work independently as much as possible. This is also the case with routines and daily activities. We will work closely with you to promote independent learning outside of school by providing work and other suggested activities that could be done at home.

Your child will be allocated a key worker, which is likely to be their class Support Assistant, and every week they will speak to you to report on your child’s progress. You are welcome contact them if you need to speak to them at any other time.

All our staff receive training to meet the needs of the young people. The Witherslack Group provide a comprehensive induction programme for all new staff, which includes specific training tailored to support their role. All teaching and support staff receive induction and refresher training in a range of areas including Autistic Spectrum Disorders, behaviour management and de-escalation techniques (Team Teach). Additional training is provided to staff, in areas including curriculum development, child development and special educational needs, such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, ASD, ADHD, attachment disorder. We understand that to do our best for your child, our staff must be developing and producing high standards of work and support at all times.

We offer a full National Curriculum and will work with you and your child to maximise their ability and potential, which may include studying towards GCSEs or other similar qualifications. We not only personalise the curriculum for every individual child, but we appreciate that every young person’s specific needs should be considered when it comes to the time of them sitting exams and assessments. This information on their individual needs, alongside a full description of each young person’s ‘usual mode of working’, is used to make formal applications for special considerations during examinations. These adjustments i.e. extra time, reader or scribes, are applied to examinations as well as everyday working in lessons.

In addition to the National Curriculum, we also offer vocational studies, where pupils can study a number of practical disciplines, including construction and motor vehicle skills, and obtain a range of vocational qualifications that will lead them on to college and beyond.

We offer a 24 hour curriculum for our residential pupils who stay with us on a termly basis. Our residential staff are trained by our team of therapists and can help with homework or any difficulties your child might have in school, as well as helping your child to develop their independence skills.

External teaching and learning opportunities take several forms. We have a post sixteen provision where our student’s curriculum can be enhanced through accessing local college courses. We also run a programme of extension studies every week where our young people can work towards accredited qualifications off site i.e. lifeguarding, environmental field studies and horse riding. All ‘off site’ provision are fully risk assessed prior to any young people attending. Once the programme has been fully tested support may be reduced to encourage independence, however regular contact is maintained.

How accessible is the school?

Oversands is set in a unique and stunning rural location, which is accessible to all visitors, pupils and staff. All curriculum areas are accessible for wheelchairs with designated parking and toilets for wheelchair users also provided.

We will discuss you and your child’s access requirements at our initial consultation, where we will identify specific needs and make arrangements on how these can be met. We want to ensure that on your first visit to the school you can solely concentrate on meeting the staff and seeing what Oversands has to offer. We will do all that we can to make extra arrangements for you and your child to ensure that you can look forward to your first visit.

We know how important having access to all the relevant information is and so we make sure that you will be provided with all the information you will require, including relevant school policies and procedures. These are available from the school, on the school web site and can also be provided and sent out in a format and language that is best for you. If English is not your first language we will provide you with all information in a way that you can understand. We also have numerous displays around school which are used to share information between young people, staff and parents.

We consider the sensory needs of our young people and so throughout our school wall displays are minimal and not present on the teaching wall. Our classrooms are also clutter free and private study areas are provided. We try and cater the way we display and share information and understand that for many people it is best to use images and symbols, as well as text. Pictorial timetables are available for any young person and pictorial feedback/marking symbols are used to communicate information in young person’s books. Displays around school also make good use of pictorial communication.

Your child will be given a handbook when they start 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 your child and will always make whatever arrangements necessary to cater for the individual needs of each of our young people.

All children have a ‘My Support Plan’ which they contribute towards; this identifies the level of pastoral support they might require and in what circumstances. Any pupil who exhibits social, emotional, psychological or behavioural difficulties is provided with support, where necessary, from the teaching and support staff and from our Pastoral Care Team, who are based outside of the classroom and are dedicated to ensuring that our pupils feel safe, settled, calm and ready to learn.

At Oversands School we have a dedicated student support team who work closely with parents and carers to ensure everyone knows how well our pupils are doing and are able to offer support and guidance when required. We also make use of the latest assistive technology and IT resources as part of day-to-day school life. These are available to support the needs of our young people in lessons and examinations, if appropriate assessment of need demands.

How does the school review and evaluate outcomes?

At Oversands we really enjoy being part of your child’s development and seeing them thrive and succeed. To ensure that we realise the best possible outcomes for your child, and for all our pupils, we have a robust and comprehensive review process in place. Several data sets are used to evaluate our effectiveness including reports from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Educational Psychologists. We also analyse our GSCEs and progress data against baseline assessments, outcomes against predicted grades, attendance and destination data.

Everyone at our school is thrilled when our pupils succeed and achieve their goals. As a parent we want you to be able to celebrate and enjoy as your child develops and works towards qualifications, vocational skills and ultimately their chosen career.

All pupils have targets set in each subject. You will receive a report at the end of each term showing the progress made by your child and the targets set for the following term. Once a year your child’s Educational, Health and Care (EHC) plan, and their personal targets within it, will be reviewed. Your child will take a leading role in preparing for meetings to review targets and progress. They will be encouraged to attend and lead the meeting, with support if required, or alternatively they can prepare a presentation or report in the medium of their choice. You will receive a full school report prior to the meeting so that you too can prepare.

Your child’s progress and outcomes are shared with you via a wide and regular level of contact. Your child’s key worker will contact you fortnightly as a minimum, but in reality much more frequently if and when needed. You will be invited to annual reviews and six monthly reviews. Progress reports are also sent out to parents and carers at the end of every term highlighting your child’s progress against annual targets.

We provide a number of other meeting opportunities including: PEP (Personal Education Plan), Young Person Risk Assessment, MSP (My Support Plan), SENCo and annual Health Assessment. You will also have the opportunity to discuss your child’s progress at some of our annual events including parents’ evenings, open days, sports day and Christmas events. These offer a chance for you to talk to staff about your child and ask any questions you may have.

How does the school keep pupils safe?

One of our main priorities is to ensure that all of our young people are safe during their time at school or when taking part in off-site activities. A personalised risk assessment will be developed for your child prior to them starting and will be continually reviewed and updated. A young person’s risk assessment and their My Support Plans are updated regularly as need arises and are reviewed by their key worker, form tutor and the Senior Leadership Team.

We work hard to ensure that the school environment is as safe as possible, with risk being minimised. Designated areas for parking and handovers are clearly identified in specific areas of the school grounds. These handovers are managed by our Pastoral Care Team. Information sharing takes place between school and home at both ends of the school day to ensure that we have a really strong knowledge about how your child is feeling and how we can best support them.

We have a breakfast club where your child will be able to settle into school prior to the school day beginning. At breaks and lunchtime we offer a choice of structured activities, both inside and outside the school building. There is a register of activities and staff support all the young people during these times. We will also encourage your child to access a wide range of activities so that they can broaden their interests and develop new skills and find new talents.

We ensure all children stay safe during outdoor activities, whether these are on the school grounds or off-site, by completing site specific risk assessments. These risk assessments are informed by making prior visits to venues and venue guidelines. Alongside preparing individual support plans and young person risk assessments, we make sure that all activities are staffed with high staff to young people ratios and that the chosen staff are skilled and experienced in the relevant activity. The quality and accuracy of our risk assessments are regularly checked through our Health & Safety Audits and inspection visits.

We take any form of bullying very seriously at Oversands and ensure that any incidence of bullying, however slight, is dealt with quickly. The anti-bullying policy is accessible on our website or by contacting the school, along with other policies concerned with keeping our young people safe, such as Health & Safety, Safeguarding, Team Teach and Complaints.

How does the school promote a healthy lifestyle?

We take our responsibility for your child’s health and wellbeing very seriously. Our staff receive training on the safe keeping and administration of medicine and all medicine is stored in a double locked cupboard, to ensure that it is kept safe. Detailed records are kept of all medicines received in school and when they are administered to any pupils.

All pupil care plans are developed in partnership with parents and the tutor team in order to ensure that all staff are aware of each pupil’s needs. Regular tutor team meetings and staff meetings ensure that the relevant staff have access to this important information.

All staff in school have a recognised First Aid qualification with a number of staff also holding ‘The First Aid at Work’ qualification. Where there to be a medical emergency, staff follow protocols which includes appropriate first response and alerting the emergency services, if necessary. Parents or carers will then immediately be informed by school staff.

At the point of referral to Oversands School we ensure that we have the appropriately qualified and experienced staff to meet your child’s needs, with all training regularly updated and accredited where appropriate. We also have a school nurse and we have therapy and counselling service on-site as part of our staff team, which means that we have access to Speech and Language Therapy alongside Person Centred Counselling, therapeutic support and Educational Psychology. They all work across our tutor teams and with each individual child.

How does the school communicate with parents?

We aim to always have strong relationships and high standards of communication with our parents. When you are first thinking of your child coming to our school you will be invited to visit Oversands to look around and meet both staff and other children.

When your child is starting with us they, along with yourself, will meet key staff on admission visits and you will be given a parental booklet prior to your child’s first day. You will also be able to access helpful information that is available on our web site and our termly newsletters.

You are welcome to contact the school main office at any time; we have an open door policy at Oversands School and we want you to feel comfortable in asking questions and letting us know of any concerns or issues you may have. You can speak with a range of staff including your child’s key worker, form tutors or a member of our Senior Leadership Team.

We will also keep you updated on your child’s progress through their annual reviews, termly reports, PEP reviews, and via our school newsletters and web site, if appropriate. We know how proud parents are when they see their child featured in one of our articles or on our news page.

You will be invited to our annual open day and awards event in May, which is a fabulous occasion when all the school community comes together to celebrate the achievements and talents of our pupils. We hope you will be able to join us and the many other proud parents.

Oversands School encourages any feedback from parents, whether it is about something you are really pleased with or if there is something that you feel we could have done better. You can share your views through the parent questionnaire or at your child’s reviews. There are also opportunities at parent’s evenings, open days or during key worker contact to share your thoughts. We have a complaints procedure that will be made clear to you when your child joins the school and will be available for you to read if ever you feel it is required.

We understand the importance of confidentiality and operate to the highest standards possible to ensure that we communicate with you in an appropriate, considerate and confidential manner around all aspects of your child’s education and care.

How does the school promote working together?

We like to think of our school community as one big team that is working together for the success of every young person. It is important to us that everyone feels like they can have their say and play their part. Pupils can contribute their views via the student leadership meetings and house meetings. This allows every young person to be able to share their opinions and make suggestions that can be implemented in the school. All young people also have the freedom to state their opinions during tutor time and key worker sessions.

A peer mentoring program is set up in school which offers training and support to pupils who have the capacity to support other pupils who find aspects of the school day challenging. This fosters a close community spirit which gives responsibility to pupils and reinforces the school ethos of developing both independence and resilience. We are very proud when we see our pupils helping and supporting each other.

We encourage all of our young people to fully participate in their annual review and we will include their feedback and comments in the annual review document. They will be encouraged to attend and lead the meeting, with support if required, or alternatively they can prepare a presentation or report in the medium of their choice. You will receive a full school report prior to the meeting so that you too can prepare.

Oversands School is an independent school and does not therefore have a board of governors. However, we monitor our provision at group level with a board of directors having oversight to ensure quality and consistency. At Oversands School we monitor and make sure the needs of each child are met and discuss our provision with engaged parties at all review opportunities.

We like to share regular updates and news on our web site and our social media page. This gives everyone the opportunity to see what is happening at the school and also celebrate 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. This is something that we are very proud of.

Oversands works in partnership with Education, Health and Social Care agencies along with other providers of support including the Duke of Edinburgh Award and CAMHS. Student support staff and pupil liaison staff ensure that all interested parties are part of the planning, monitoring and evaluation process.

We will always communicate closely with you so you understand what you can expect from the school and what you can do to help ensure that your child makes the best possible progress. We are committed to working in partnership with you to meet the aspirations of you and your child.

What help and support does the school offer to families?

We understand that to achieve the best outcomes for your child we will need to work closely with you and your family and offer support and help, if needed.

Our Pastoral Care Manager can work with you to access further help and support. We will communicate with you regularly so we are aware of the help you need and find out how to obtain it. It might be help to improve your child’s health, independence, college options or activities outside school. Our Pastoral Care Manager also deals with the transport department to arrange taxis and ensure your child is comfortable and safe on their journey to and from school. We can even arrange transport for you and your family when you are visiting the school or attending your child’s review.

We offer many different types of practical help and resources for you to support your child outside of school. You will have access to a wide range of practical advice and support resources and will also be invited to attend parent events and advice workshops. These focus on giving practical and helpful advice and tips on a variety of relevant issues, including behaviour, travelling, sleep problems and narrow diets.

When you are planning for your child’s future, including college options, our Transitions Officer can provide guidance and support, arranging things like college visits or further work experience. We also utilise support from INSPIRA, a national social enterprise company based in Cumbria, who help us plan our young people’s transition into college or employment. Other advice and guidance is always available from school staff and other professionals during review meetings.

How does the school support new pupils and school leavers?

We understand that two of the most important moments in your child’s education will be when they start at Oversands and when they leave the school and make their first steps into adult life.

When starting at our school, young people and their parents or carers are invited to Oversands to look around and meet the staff and other children. There may be more than one visit if a young person is particularly anxious about joining us. Sometimes, young people come for several short visits prior to starting full time, particularly if they have been out of school for an extended period of time prior to coming to Oversands. We can even arrange to come and visit you and your child at home so they can get to know us and we can talk about any concerns or worries you may have in an environment that is familiar and relaxing.

We arrange a Post-Admission Review to take place within 12 weeks after starting to discuss progress and how well new pupils have settled in to school. When young people start at Oversands, it is possible that they may be feeling anxious or nervous about their new school, and that they may become frustrated or emotional at times during their first few days or weeks. There is excellent pastoral support offered to young people who may be struggling to express their anxieties or emotions, in the form of our Pastoral Care Team, who are based outside of the classroom and are dedicated to ensuring that our young people feel safe, settled, calm and ready to learn.

We support young people who are moving on to new school settings by providing transition opportunities in their new settings, including open days or taster days. The level of transition is always dependant on the young person’s individual needs and how much support is required for their move to be successful. All relevant information is shared with any new establishment to ensure a successful transition.

There are several work experience opportunities available to our young people depending on their need and ability. We have links with local farms and wildlife sanctuaries, riding stables, hotels and motor vehicle garages. There are also opportunities to experience the world of work on-site alongside our maintenance and kitchen staff.

The twenty four hour curriculum offered at Oversands provides an opportunity for young people to develop within school and gradually work towards full independence. Our young people have the opportunity to have reduced support with cooking, shopping and traveling as they progress through the school. Our Preparation for Working Life programme also covers many areas of life skills. Many social and emotional areas are explored via our BEST (behavioural, emotional, social and therapeutic) curriculum which also supports transition into adulthood.

As mentioned above the Preparation for Working Life programme enables us to educate our young people about many life events and situations. They receive independent and in-house Careers Education Guidance relating to further and higher education, employment and independent living. The school is presently working with The Brathay Trust on the New Beginning Project aimed at supporting the young person’s transition from care.

As your child nears the time to leave the school, we will work closely with them, their home support team and yourself to develop a transition plan. We support young people when attending open days and visits to local colleges and help with job application forms and interview preparation. We also utilise the help of INSPIRA to support transition into local college and also provide independent Careers Education Guidance to all our young peoples across Key Stage 4.

What extra-curricular activities does the school offer?

Oversands has provision for both day and residential young people and as such we offer a wide range of after school activities, which are available to all our young people. We run annual camps and sailing activities across weekends and holiday periods. We have regular Duke of Edinburgh overnight excursions and overnight fishing activities.

There is a full range of activities offered to all young people during lunch and break times. We also have a variety of enrichment activities that are part of the curriculum on Wednesday and Friday afternoons, including bird watching, fishing, swimming, horse riding, walking, mountain biking, football, archery and computing. The school also arranges visits to local agricultural shows, cinema and theatre trips, and outdoor adventure activities.

All activities are accessible to all young people and are completely funded by the school. We always ensure that every young person is assessed for their suitability and risk for each activity, but we encourage and support all our young people to strive towards completing whichever activity they choose to try.

The school encourages friendships between young people and places a high value on peer support. New pupils are encouraged to form friendships and we actively try to place young people in positive situations to help them formulate friendships. We have a weekly programme of ‘BEST’ themes that introduce young people to social concepts which we expand during assemblies, form tutor periods and lessons.

If you have further questions or you would like to arrange to visit the school, please contact our Head Teacher on 015395 52397.