GHA is a National Autistic Society ADVANCED School

Autism Accreditation Assessment

Gosberton House Academy         

Reference No.

 

Assessment dates

 

Lead Assessor

Stephen Dedridge

External Moderator

Stephanie de Vires

Status prior to assessment

Accredited

 

SECTION 2: KEY FINDINGS

What the service does particularly well

 

What stood out as particular strengths:

 

Community Ethos

A strong sense of community exists within the Academy.  This is founded on a commitment to a ‘rights and responsibility’ culture related to the school’s work to achieve the UNICEF Rights Respecting Gold Award. Pupils are given the space to be themselves and are encouraged to celebrate their differences and personal achievements. At the same time, high expectations are set for them in terms of how they should interact with others with respect and good manners and how they should contribute to a calm, purposeful working environment.

 

Continuous Professional Development

The school invests heavily in CPD as reflected it having achieved the Continuous Professional Development Excellence Mark and Investors in People Platinum status. Parents and professionals comment highly favourably on staff knowledge and understanding of autism. The assessment team observed staff as highly skilled and consistent in their approaches. Staff feel valued, are encouraged to be reflective learners and are supported to develop their knowledge and understanding further. There is a robust collaborative culture within the school where staff feel they can obtain help form colleagues and are keen to share information and ideas.

 

Creative approach to learning

The school employs creative ways to make learning fun and engaging for the students and to invest them with a sense of pride and achievement. There is a willingness to take on new challenges and initiatives such as Scouting schools and Forest schools to ensure that the curriculum remains relevant, meaningful and challenging to the pupils.

 

Self-reliance

Staff allow pupils time and space to solve problems for themselves, making effective use of verbal and visual prompts to encourage independence and self-reliance. Thinking skills are explicitly taught and pupils are regularly praised for self-reliance and resilience.

 

Sharing of expertise

The school is strongly committed to sharing and promoting the good practice established at GHA across the county. Indeed, the school clearly sees itself as having a mission to try and make the world outside the school gate a better place for autistic people. This includes the fundamental role the school has played in setting up AIMS, the Outreach Service, AET training and Early Bird Training. The school has also contributed to furthering knowledge and understanding of autism through its involvement in a range of research projects.

 

Learning at Home

Parent feedback is excellent. An impressive initiative has been ‘Learning at Home’. This has empowered parents to appreciate their role as educators of their child and provided a means by which parents can celebrate and value their child as a learner.

 

What else the service does well:

 

Transitions

Transitions are exceptionally well organised and skilfully choreographed to ensure each pupil knows what is expected of them and what is going to happen. This ensures that they remain calm, focussed and not stressed.  

 

Environment

The décor of the school is maintained to a good standard. For example, walls are kept smooth and free from cracks or marks. Everywhere is kept neat and free of clutter. Displays are very attractive and effective use of photographs and pupil quotes are made to reinforce the school’s culture of celebration and pupil voice. Colour schemes are employed effectively to achieve a balance between ensuring environments are attractive and engaging whilst still low arousal. The school has been accredited for its gardens and use of outdoor spaces for learning.

 

Integration of Therapeutic interventions

Whilst the school recognise the value of therapeutic expertise, where necessary using its own funds to buy therapy time, staff at GHA take full responsibility for understanding. delivering and evaluating therapeutic interventions in the best interests of the pupils rather than been over-dependent on external specialist input.

 

Visual Mediation

Throughout the school there is recognition of the value of providing visual supports in a range of formats and contexts.

 

 

What the service could develop further

 

 

  • The assessment team do not recommend any significant change in the current provision. In the words of one parent: Why change something that is doing a fantastic job with our children? Indeed, the greatest challenge for the academy is to sustain and consolidate on the excellent practice highlighted in this report at a time of transition and expansion.
  • Sensory Profiles could record sensory experiences that have a positive impact on the autistic pupil (e.g. what helps calm them or give them enjoyment) alongside those that have a negative impact.
  • The ‘About Me’ document could be developed to encourage greater pupil involvement and accessibility.
  • Pupils who were interviewed expressed an interest in more opportunities to interact with animals. This is something that the academy may wish to consider.

 

SECTION 3: PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

 

  • The Academy expresses a strong commitment to investing in the professional development of its staff. This is evidenced by achievement of the Continuous Professional Development Excellence Mark and Investors in People Platinum status.
  • All new staff receive induction in the SPELL framework.
  • Staff are also trained in autism specific practices and interventions such as; PECS, TEACCH and Social Stories.
  • Staff are able to access practical resources such as the Sensory Pack.
  • School staff are kept up to date with current research relating to the education and wellbeing of autistic people through meetings, training opportunities and access to eLearning. Many have attended external courses and achieved relevant qualifications.
  • The Academy receives support from Educational Psychologists, Medical Officers, Academy Nurse, Occupational and Physiotherapy services, Speech and Language services and the Sensory Impaired Service.
  • The school is part of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) Mobilise Project. This is a county wide initiative which aims to develop the skills of teaching assistants in making effective use of evidence to improve practice.
  • Parents and professionals comment highly favourably on staff knowledge and understanding of autism.
  • The assessment team observed staff as highly skilled and consistent in their approaches.
  • From interviewing staff, it became apparent that they feel valued, are encouraged to be reflective learners and are supported to develop their knowledge and understanding further. There is a robust collaborative culture within the school where staff feel they can obtain help form colleagues and are keen to share information and ideas.
  • In conclusion, a high-quality programme of continuous Professional Development is in place. It ensures that staff have a robust specialist knowledge of autism specific best practice methods and approaches. Systems are in place to ensure that practice is highly personalised and maintained at a consistent high level throughout the provision.

 

SECTION 1: CONTENT

 

SECTION 4: PERSON CENTRED SUPPORT

Differences in Social Communication

 

  • The Autism Progress Communication Profile (B Squared) is completed on each pupil to assess their receptive and expressive communication and monitor progress.
  • The Autism Progress Social Interaction Profile (B Squared) is also completed.
  • Pupil files show evidence of progress made toward person targets e.g. ‘S can take turn in structured teacher led sessions’…’T is able to make himself understood in a variety of situations with familiar and unfamiliar staff’.
  • The academy’s Community Policy identifies good practice strategies which all staff are required to follow. It states that to ensure consistency:

 

 

“…the good practice strategies for communication will be audited by the Strategic Leadership Team.  Staff are also encouraged to monitor their use of good practice through Team liaison meetings and discussion with the in-reach specialist teacher and the speech and language therapist.  Specific training and support for staff on how to communicate with pupils with an AS is available through ongoing advice, in-service training and external accredited courses…”.

 

 

  • The assessment team can confirm that these strategies are embedded in practice.
  • Students understand instructions and information because staff speak at an appropriate pace and level.  Staff consistently use reduced, clear, simplified language across all settings, using the child’s name first before giving an instruction and allowing processing time. Key vocabulary is highlighted and reinforced.
  • Staff were heard to give ‘scaffolding’ instructions such as ‘playtime has finished, time for English’, ‘First job’, ‘Next job’, 
  • There is a strong understanding of the need to visually mediate verbal instructions and information with a variety or visual supports being seen to be effectively employed.
  • In all observations pupils were observed to be supported to socially interact with both adults and each other both informally and within structured group activities. Pupils were encouraged to take turns, share and comment on each other’s work.
  • Social Skills are explicitly taught using resources such as Social Stories and Social Scripts.

 

In conclusion, the support autistic pupils receive in communication and social interact is of a consistent high standard, is effective and well informed by an excellent understanding of individual strengths and challenges.

 

 

Self-reliance and problem solving

  • According to policy documentation, the Academy’s goal is ‘to optimise the opportunities for our youngsters to become as independent in their daily lives as possible’. It is stated that ‘teaching independence skills supports our children and their families in enhancing self-esteem, confidence, and the willingness to try new things’.
  • The Autism Progress Flexibility of Thought Profile (B Squared) is completed on each pupil to assess and monitor progress in Imagination and Exploration; Prediction and Planning and Awareness and Coping. Independence skills are also assessed as part of the Autism Progress Social Interaction Profile.
  • An Engagement Profile is also completed on each pupil reviewed initiation, persistence, anticipation, curiosity, investigation and discovery. This is part of a research project into developing meaningful pathways to personalised learning.
  • The Academy has issued good practice guidance for staff on how to promote independence. The assessment team can confirm that this guidance is reflected in practice.
  • The Academy provides a safe, secure and predictable environment in which pupils feel able to take risks and become more confident in their skills and strengths.
  • Activities are well structured and visually presented in keeping with SPELL principles so that pupils are confident and clear about what is required of them and therefore are better equipped to carry then out by themselves. Environments across the school are well organised and clearly structured.   Visual timetables, lesson schedules, symbol supports for key instructions are used consistently across all classrooms.  Equipment, storage and drawers are clearly labelled enabling pupils to easily find independently any tools they needed for tasks.  Work trays contained work clearly differentiated to meet the pupils needs and interests of the pupils for example during one observation pupils were observed to be working independently from their work trays, one pupil was connecting plastic clips, one pupil was threading super hero characters on a length of wool and one pupil was sorting through cards matching pictures to sounds.  Pupils were engaged and clearly enjoying their work
  • Staff allow pupils time and space to solve problems for themselves, making effective use of verbal and visual prompts to encourage independence and self-reliance.
  • When pupils get stuck and ask for help, instead of immediately resolving the problem for the pupil staff ask questions which enable the pupil to work out the solution by themselves. For example, they might direct the pupil back to a visual support or encourage them to think what they need to solve the problem. The assessment team was impressed with the level of consistency in this approach.
  • Pupils are encouraged and praised for making choices.
  • Pupils who were interviewed by the assessment team explained that teachers are ‘always there’ when help is needed but that staff also encourage them to be independent: “Teachers help me at the start but then after the start I have to finish – they say now you know how to do it, do it”.
  • At the start of each topic pupils are asked to think about ‘Things I would like to know’.
  • Thinking skills are explicitly taught within lessons.
  • The Academy actively promotes a ‘growth mindset’ ethos which praises effort, persistence and self-reliance.
  • Individual targets are written in pupil friendly language so that pupils can understand what they are working towards.
  • Initiatives within the school encourage self-reliance and independence. For example, the academy is a Scouting school which is affiliated to the Scouting Association. Classrooms operate as scouting packs and pupils work towards achieving badges often related to life skills. Some pupils have attended scout groups in their own area as a result.
  • In conclusion there is a strong and consistent commitment to promoting independence and problem-solving skills throughout the school to a very high standard.

 

Sensory Experience

 

  • The décor of the school is maintained to an excellent standard. For example, walls are kept smooth and free from cracks or marks. Everywhere is kept neat and free of clutter. Displays are very attractive and effective use of photographs and pupil quotes are made to reinforce the school’s culture of celebration and pupil voice. Colour schemes are employed effectively to achieve a balance between ensuring environments are attractive and engaging whilst still low arousal. SPELL strategies are employed consistently to ensure that the environment is presented to pupils in a way which they can access and navigate.
  • Transitions are exceptionally well managed to avoid sensory overload.
  • One area of practice that stands out is how outdoor spaces have been developed as places where sensory exploration and learning can take place. The Academy is a Forest School and has achieved the Learning Outside the Classroom mark. The school gardens which pupils help to design and maintain have won the Royal Horticultural Society’s School Gardening Award and the East Midlands in bloom best school garden award.
  • The school’s Autism Policy explains that staff ‘adjust our approach when sensory stimuli are obstacles to learning and gradually work on desensitising the children and teaching them the necessary skills to overcome them. We aim to reduce these barriers to learning and work towards the children spending increasing amounts of time in a more inclusive learning environment’. 
  • The school’s Sensory Integration Policy expresses the academy’s commitment to promoting sensory integration as ‘: a vital aspect of our work in helping our pupils to be ready to learn’.
  • A Sensory Profile is completed on each child to evaluate their sensory processing pattern in the context of home, school and community-based activities. It is employed as a tool to identify what classroom strategies or specific interventions would be most helpful for them.
  • All classes participate in Activate sessions at registration time morning and afternoon. This is a programme of progressively staged, repeated patterns of movement with a range of physical and sensory benefits.
  • All children are assessed to determine if access to sensory circuits may be beneficial. Sensory Circuits take place in the hall, each morning. They are organised and led by an experienced TA who has received specific training in Sensory Integration work and who receives on-going supervision from a specialist Occupational Therapist. There is a strong focus in these sessions on pupils being in control, making choices and developing self-regulation.
  • One session was observed in the Sensory Pod. The purpose of the Sensory Pod session is to enable pupils to explore different strategies for self-regulation.  Equipment included, jumping tyre, wobble boards, aerobic ball, mats and fiddle cube.  Pupils were observed to be playing on the equipment, jumping on the tyre and climbing up a small pole, one pupil was being ‘squashed’ with a large peanut ball by a member of staff.
  • A wide range of sensory support approaches were observed to be used independently by pupils across the school.  Pupils were observed using, ear defenders, fidget toys, weighted shoulder blankets, plastic squishy cushions.  It was evident through observations that pupils habitually used sensory toys and approaches to aid self-regulation.
  • A particular example of good practice was that sensory toys are kept in storage boxes in the corridor and are easily accessible to pupils. This encouraged them to take responsibility for their own sensory self-regulation rather than being dependent on a member of staff to hand them an item.
  • Interviews with staff showed that sensory issues were considered part of everyday classroom practice rather than something only requiring specialist input or interventions.
  • Within classroom observations, pupils took part in a range of stimulating multi-sensory experiences within a safe and secure context, directly with or in close proximity with other pupils.  At no point during the assessment did any pupil exhibit the signs of sensory discomfort or overload because of the strategies in place.
  • In conclusion, it the support autistic pupils receive in their sensory processing is of a consistent high standard, is always effective and is well informed by an excellent understanding of individual strengths and challenges.

 

 

 

 

Emotional well-being

 

  • A strong sense of community exists within the Academy.  The foundation of this is a commitment to a ‘rights and responsibility’ culture inspired by the academy achieving the UNICEF Rights Respecting Schools Silver Award. According to the academy’s policy on well-being, the school strives to put the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child at the heart of its curriculum:

 

“Within our community, children’s rights are actively taught, practised, respected, protected and promoted.  Children’s rights are promoted during all aspects of daily life”.

  • The Assessment team found evidence that pupils are given the space to be themselves and are encouraged to celebrate their differences and personal achievements. At the same time, high expectations are set for them in terms of how they should interact with others with respect and good manners and contribute to a calm, purposeful environment.
  • Throughout the assessment, pupils presented as happy, relaxed and content. Signs of anxiety or stress were not observed.
  • Pupils were supported to carry out tasks that gave them a sense of completion and success.
  • Pupils are actively encouraged p celebrate their personal achievements with adults and each other. Pupils clearly take pride in themselves and their school.
  • Visual tools are employed to help pupils understand and regulate their emotions and behaviour e.g. worry wiper; 5-point scale; RAG behaviour chart;
  • Relationships between staff and pupils are excellent.
  • If pupils exhibit behaviours that cause concern, staff are encouraged to ‘reframe the behaviour; to understand it from the perspective of the child.
  • The Academy’s Positive Handling Policy explains that the school employs a Team Teach approach with the emphasis on ‘a range of de-escalation, diffusing and diverting strategies’ with physical intervention only employed as a last resort and under strict controls.
  • The school employs creative ways to make learning fun and engaging for the students and to invest them with a sense of pride and achievement. There is a willingness to take on new challenges and initiatives such as Scouting schools and Forest schools.
  • In an internal survey carried out this year, 83 per cent of parents strongly agreed that their child was happy at school and 94 per cent of parents strongly agreed that their child feels safe at school.
  • In conclusion, the support autistic pupils receive in their well-being is of a consistent high standard, is very effective and is well informed by an excellent understanding of individual strengths and challenges.

 

 

SECTION 5: CONSULTATION AND WORKING

With autistic people

  • Ten pupils completed surveys. 9 out of 10 stated that the support they are given, and the understanding staff have of their needs is good. 1 out of 10 felt that the support they are given, and the understanding staff have of their needs is only sometimes good.
  • One pupil stated that if they had a problem staff would help them but never rush them. Another pupil said they love going to Gosberton House because they are able to learn better than they did in mainstream school.
  • As part of the assessment, a focus group of 6 pupils were interviewed. They were full of praise for the staff and how they were supported to overcome any difficulties they might experience. They were clearly very proud of their school.

 

 

With the families of autistic people

 

  • The school makes effective use of Tapestry an on-line interactive learning journal enables the school and families to keep in ‘real time’ contact. School and families use Tapestry to share the journey of a child’s social and cognitive learning, to celebrate special activities, to exchange information and to keep up to date with forthcoming events
  • An impressive initiative has been ‘Learning at Home’. This has empowered parents to appreciate their role as educators of their child and provided a means by which parents can celebrate and value their child as a learner.
  • The School has won the Leading Parent Partnership award. The following is a quote from the report:

 

Parents are extremely happy with the level of support they receive from the Academy.  Numerous responses from parents show that the school communicates very well and that parents are a valued part of the team enabled effectively to support their children…   Communication is excellent and parents feel confident to contact the Academy and know that their concerns are acted upon.  Communication via the Red Books was also mentioned frequently as an effective tool to support home to school links together with Tapestry .Courses and workshops are provided to support parents as partners in learning and also in relation to their children's development and again this is very much on a needs-led basis. 

Pupils were able to share information on how the Academy supported and involved their parents and families in their learning, both at home, on site and also in relation to general school life.  They provided information on communication links between home and the Academy and how Tapestry worked to enhance this...  Information was also shared on other ways that the school communicated with their families including telephone calls and invitations to celebration events including Easter Fayre and Summer Funday.  Pupils provided information about the curriculum and how their parents could help them with this as well as taking part in sporting events and forest schools.  Anyone from their families that wanted to be involved could be and parents were also viewed as integral to setting up and supporting events by helping with funding etc. 

  • 48 family members provided feedback to the assessment team by returning completed questionnaires. The full results are shown as an appendix to this report. 46 family members stated that the support their child is given is always good whilst 2 stated that it is ok but could be better. All comments received were exceptionally positive about the work of the school and the impact it has had on their child. For example:

 

  • Gosberton House Academy is a wonderful school and serves the complex needs of all children with autism.
  • GHA has been a godsend for all of us.
  • We are so grateful to the individualised education Gosberton House provides for our son. It is unrivalled within the special schools in this county, in our opinion. He can be very challenging, and they constantly reflect and adapt in order to enable him to learn and progress in all areas.
  • Fantastic school. Great attitude, Understanding and Teaching. Very Caring and welcoming place. Staff go above and beyond for pupils and relatives.
  • Support and understanding and no regression. The people at Gosberton House Academy are well trained, the environment supports all levels of Autism and the academy is very specialized it what it does.
  • This is a brilliant school and has a real understanding of autism.
  • … he’s learned to talk better and play with people nicer and not be nasty
  • ... he has received an excellent amount of support. And loves to go to school.
  • Couldn't ask for a better setting for my child. Always goes over the top to cater for the child and family. They have worked extremely hard and are committed and dedicated.
  • This is the best School that I have ever known… I can safely say that the help he has received has been first class and I couldn’t have had any better.
  • GHA have been a saviour when it comes to my son. He was excluded from mainstream … GHA have built him back up and gave him confidence to be happy within himself and make friends and thrive in school work! There are no amount of words to describe how thankful I am to that school and every single member of staff there.
 

 

With the wider community

 

  • Gosberton House Academy is actively involved in its local community. 
  • The Academy has won awards for its commitment to human rights and the environment.
  • The Academy is considered a centre of excellence. It set up the Lincolnshire Working Together Outreach team- supporting all of Lincolnshire Schools. This highly effective team were Winners of the Autism Accreditation Professional Awards in 2014 and were winners of an Autism Accreditation Commendation in 2017.  The Working Together Outreach team provide Autism Education Trust training across the county.
  • The Academy delivers. Healthy Minds, Early Bird and Early Bird [Plus] programmes.
  • The Academy played a key role in setting up the Lincolnshire AIM4Lincs – Autism Friendly Schools Award.
  • The Academy are partners to the Lincolnshire Autistic Society’s Reasonable Adjustment Mark Awards
  • The Academy is trialling the ‘Hard to Reach’ families project with Lincolnshire County Council
  • The Academy is part of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) Mobilise Project. This is a county wide initiative which aims to develop the skills of teaching assistants in making effective use of evidence to improve practice.
  • As an academy run by the Lincolnshire Educational Trust which is linked to the University of Lincoln the school has been involved in a number of research projects:
  • University of York Sleep Success
  • University of Durham Sensory Classrooms
  • University of Lincoln Pets as Therapy; Visual Scanning; Impact of Family Functioning when raising a child with Autism; PAWS; Moral Dilemmas and children with an AS diagnosis
  • National research EEF Mobilise- lead by Kyra Teaching School
  • Specialist Schools and Academies Trust The Complex Learning Difficulties and Disabilities Research Project- Engagement Profiles

 

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SECTION 6: SUMMARY

 

Gosberton House Academy is an excellent school that offers high quality specialist education and care for autistic pupils. The Academy has rightly achieved a range of awards. It is not complacent but is constantly seeking to improve and build upon good practice.

 

 

It is very clear from reading pupil records and comments from family members that impact that the academy has is nothing less than transformative. Pupils make significant gains in their communication, social skills and ‘readiness to learn’. They thrive from being part of a caring, supportive community and their confidence and self-esteem are boosted. The benefits offered by the Academy are difficult to overstate and set a foundation for autistic children to lead a more fulfilling, productive and happy lives.