Newsletter - 01 May 2018
I hope this latest newsletter finds you well.
For me, the summer term is usually the most enjoyable of all, with the opportunity to maximise our use of the wonderful outdoor environment around the school, and exploit those occasional but increasingly frequent glimpses of the early summer sun. Those of you attempting to discern if there had been any substantive changes in the way the school is being run should bear in mind that since I took over;
- Our hens have laid more eggs than when Chris was in charge
- We have lost no school days due to snow
- The days seem to be longer
I will, for now, gloss over the performance of our football team but recognise that decisive action may need to be taken at management level if our prospects are to improve.
I have no doubt that our SQA candidates may differ in their views as they toil away in darkened rooms in preparation for their exams over the next few weeks. We wish them every success with their endeavours and are appreciative of the additional work undertaken by their teachers.
We should also congratulate our LAMDA candidates and await the results of their recent assessments with some optimism. The expressive arts have always been a core part of The New School curriculum and it is difficult to overstate the impact on young people of the skills they acquire through art, music, and drama.
A similar emphasis is placed on outdoor learning and the development of independent living skills, resilience, and collaborative working, in the context of our Duke of Edinburgh award programme. In the months and years ahead I would like to explore opportunities to develop this further as we build a curriculum to meet the diverse needs of our pupil population.
Term began with an in-service day at which we explored the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the school.
We are emerging from what has been a very difficult period for all concerned. Fundamental to the school’s future prospects will be an increase in the school roll and it is gratifying to see amongst the 60 or so prospective pupils, a large number of serious candidates for the new session beginning in August. Much will depend on decision-making at local authority level and the outcome of tribunal’s, but even at this stage we should be congratulating the work of Dawn and Rose in being at the front end of the school, and working with such warmth and calm efficiency as they process enquiries. Barely a day goes by without a visit or prospective pupil assessment and whilst this can be disruptive at times, it is vital for the long-term future of the school that we rebuild pupil numbers and strengthen our community.
We welcome Dylan and Sol as pupils to the school and look forward very much to working with them as they settle into their new learning environment.
A significant development and a major step forward for the school has been our recent acceptance onto the national Residential Schools Framework through which many local authorities procure specialist placements. This will inevitably increase our profile and lead to greater financial security in the future.
We are also just days away from registering our new Young Adult Service in Culbrae. This aims to support young people between the ages of 18 and 25 as they negotiate the difficult transition from school to adulthood. We know that there is a desperate need for this service and that many vulnerable young people are forced to struggle without the support they need once they have left the education system. In filling this gap, we will not only help to protect and develop those who move beyond school and require supported accommodation, but also strengthen the financial position of the school in diversifying the range of services that we currently offer.
The in-service day gave us an opportunity to refresh our understanding of the complex challenges presented by child protection obligations, and the current regulatory framework in which these must be addressed. We are currently blessed with a highly professional care team who bring to our school community a broad range of skills and experience, and an unswerving determination to support young people however diverse their needs may be.
The training delivered by the NSPCC confirmed that our current practice and procedures align well to the expectations of the regulatory authorities, but also highlighted a number of significant ‘grey areas’ and weaknesses in systematic procedures where agencies and services are expected to work together.
I hope to develop these themes further at a future Parent Council where I would like to explain how the school responds when child protection issues arise, the constraints under which we are obliged to operate, and some of our concerns with the current system, especially when addressing behaviours associated with learning disability and autism.
Over the next few weeks we will be developing an action plan for the school which will identify and prioritise key developments for the next 12 months. Of particular importance will be an increased emphasis on the promotion of life skills and independence, and the establishment of a ‘through care program’ for those approaching the transition to employment, further learning, and independent living. Any such program will require strong collaborative working between home and school, and the individualisation of objectives to meet specific pupil needs.
A core part of any preparation the transition will be the development of employability skills and providing young people with the opportunity to explore different types of working environment so that they can identify how their strengths can be best exploited once they have left school. We have a number of pupils currently engaged in work experience programmes, which range from hospitality, estates management, and animal welfare, to outdoor education and sports coaching.
Gillian and Chic attended further nurture training this week and brought back the encouraging news that we may become the first special school in Scotland to achieve accredited status as a nurturing school. This would indeed be a feather in our caps but no more than the school deserves for all the work that has been done over the years in developing the skills and understanding the developmental nature of behaviour, and the support that is required to ensure that children and young people reach their potential whatever barriers might lie in their way. As indicated above, our chickens have responded well to the pressure for increased productivity and I am hopeful that our two colonies of bees will do likewise as the availability of pollen and nectar become more abundant. Miles has been working hard in the poly tunnel and we can look forward to future crops of peas and onions, together with the range of wildflowers planted there.
Commitments at school prevented me from attending last week’s football match against Perth College where our team performed well despite going down to a 9:5 defeat. New signing Sol put in a great performance as did his teammates, but doubts have now been cast on the future of the manager and his coaching team as the season draws to a close. The result of the next match could be pivotal in determining their futures.
Whilst this may be a short term the diary is already packed with events and activities. Already on the list is an engagement visit from our colleagues at Education Scotland and an audit of our provision by the National Autistic Society. Allistair, Mel, and fellow staff have been undertaking a comprehensive review of the timetable and curriculum and will be engaging directly with parents over the next few weeks as our plans for the next academic session beginning to emerge.
PS We are experiencing significant problems with email at present. The fault appears to be in the line supplied by BT and we are addressing this with them as a matter of some urgency.