At least 1 in 100 people in the UK have autism. It is the case that indifference and hostility towards autistic people and their families leads to social isolation, mental illness and unhappy lives. It is also clear that raising awareness of this condition and helping young people to understand autism as they grow up equips them to accept and empathise with autistic people. For this reason, the National Autistic Society supports schools across the UK to take part in World Autism Awareness Week, this year from the 27th of March to the 2nd of April.
At Monteagle our Additional Resource Provision (ARP) provides an education for twenty-five children, aged 4-11, with autism spectrum conditions. The children in our ARP are on different levels of the spectrum and have an array of needs. The specialist teachers and support staff in the ARP aid every child’s progress, academically and socially, by putting developmental plans in place that are tailored to individual need. They work with external professionals such as Speech and Language Therapists and Occupational Therapists, who contribute to each child’s plan. Learning and teaching takes place not only in the ARP classrooms on our main site and those in the separate building next to the school campus, but also in classrooms and shared areas across the school alongside children in our mainstream classes.
It is true therefore that children and teachers across our school already have a developed awareness of autism and an understanding of this condition. However, we strive to know more, and in order to deepen our understanding during Autism Awareness Week, teachers and children:
- learnt about autism in lessons and activities in class and in whole school assemblies;
- planned and took part in fundraising activities; and,
- helped to spread the word about why it’s so important to understand and accept autism.
In learning about autism we found the following videos particularly useful and thought we would share them. The first gives an insight into one of the sensory challenges of living with autism.
Please be aware: this video may be a trigger for those on the spectrum.
The second video created by BBC Newsround introduces children with different levels of autism. It introduces their families and their day to day experience. This video can be watched here.
During the week, the children and adults in our ARP held an awareness raising and fund raising afternoon. This magnificent event invited children, parents and teachers to enjoy delicious homemade food and games in the sunshine in the playground belonging to Phoenix Class. We were joined by Ges Smith, the headteacher of Jo Richardson our local secondary school that also has an ARP for young people with autism spectrum conditions.
The event certainly raised awareness: it also raised £400.
All at Monteagle are passionate about the work done in our ARP. We believe that a truly outstanding school is one that enables all children to achieve their best. One where academic attainment is high and the academic progress of individuals is maximised. It is a place where all children acquire the character virtues that lead to success in school and university, in work and life beyond. We believe this no less for the children who attend our ARP.
We are very proud that our ARP was recently described as ‘outstanding’ in a report written for the Local Authority following a visit from a serving Ofsted inspector with specialist knowledge in the area of Special Educational Needs. In her report she noted:
- ‘pupils make very rapid progress in their development. Children who join the ARP as non-verbal, generally leave able to communicate orally and so are very well prepared for the next stage of education or training’
- ‘accommodation is excellent. The learning environment and resources are very well managed. Funding is on a par with that in special schools’;
‘involvement with parents is very effective. The open-door policy helps parents to help children at home’; and
- ‘ARP staff are excellent advocates for the children with other agencies … [and] … staff know the children extremely well’.
The report concluded with the assertion that: ‘this is excellent provision that can be used as a model for other provision’.
We invite anybody who is interested in learning more about teaching, learning and development in our ARP to contact Rehana Talaimojeh (Assistant Headteacher with responsibility for Inclusion) or Alison Bakhshipour (the teacher in charge of the ARP) via the school office.