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Ensuring support for speech, language and communication needs is firmly embedded across the school

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Supporting children’s speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) underpins everything we do here at Pontville.

We complete a comprehensive baseline assessment during a young person’s 12-week admission period, which provides reports with recommendations aligned to a young person’s EHCP outcomes. This comprehensive assessment period ensures we are able to input the right communication support into all aspects of learning across the curriculum.

Following our win at the 2018 Shine a Light Awards for SEN School of the Year, we have shared some practical advice to help middle leaders ensure that support for speech, language and communication - and, in particular, support for those with SLCN - runs across the whole school.

Collegiate working

Ensuring all staff at every level work together with the young person’s communication needs at the centre of all planning and delivery is the key to success. Regular half-termly team meetings with all the professionals supporting that young person allow for Assess Plan Do Review in a dynamic, shared pupil-centred way.

Communication focus across the whole school

By setting and planning a communication focus across the whole school, it enables teachers, teaching assistants and therapeutic staff to discretely incorporate the identified focus into all planning across all subject areas. Our speech therapists and PSHE coordinators plan a whole-school communication focus for each half term.

Generalising skills

Timetable a weekly session for pupils to generalise their communication skills. These can be in a range of contexts and environments linked to different aspects of the curriculum. Through the generalisation of skills, this allows pupils to develop their confidence and independence, which prepares them for the transition into adulthood.

Comprehensive and regular training

Not every school or setting is fortunate enough to have an on-site therapy team as we do at Pontville. However, by developing a comprehensive training programme with communication as a focus, you enable staff to become skilled on the pedagogy and practice of supporting young people with SLCN.

Use your linked therapeutic staff to deliver training on induction for new staff so that their knowledge and practice become integral to their planning and delivery across the curriculum. Regular training updates across the year help to ensure the school's workforce is highly trained and up-to-date with best practice research.

Family support and training

Our collaborative approach with families enhances the success of interventions and progress for our young people in developing their communication skills and thus increasing their access to learning. The collaborative approach can take on many forms, and it should be bespoke to the family and pupils. These can include a siblings' group, parents/carers' groups, home visits, communication programmes at home, parent and pupil input into setting and reviewing targets.

Pupils' voice

Our pupils feel they have a voice and communicate effectively with a range of audiences. Ensure your pupils feel listened to and their opinion is valued. For example, develop a student-led newsletter team and blog, run student council meetings, have house captains, and ensure young people input and attend annual review meetings.

By effectively removing barriers to communication, our children and young people can achieve anything at Pontville and the same can be achieved within your school or setting.

About Justine Sims
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Justine Sims is head teacher at Pontville School in Ormskirk, Lancashire, a co-educational independent specialist residential and day school for children and young people aged five to 19 who have a range of needs, including asperger’s syndrome, autistic spectrum conditions, semantic pragmatic disorder, and speech and language impairment.

Pontville School won SEN School of the Year Award at the 2018 Shine a Light Awards, a national awards scheme that celebrates innovative work and excellent practice in supporting children and young people’s communication development, which is run by learning company Pearson in partnership with The Communication Trust. A short case study on Pontville School can be found here together with a video providing an overview of the school.

For further information on Pontville School, visit https://witherslackgroup.co.uk/pontville-school/. For further information on the Shine a Light Awards, visit www.shinealightawards.co.uk.

First published 12 June 2018