The Lower School building opened in January 2011. It is the base for our three Lower School classes; our Early Years Unit (Blue Class), and our primary classes (Yellow Class and Red Class).
In the primary classes we use specialist teaching methods including PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) and TEACCH (a structured teaching approach for children with autism). All staff are trained in positive behaviour management techniques (PIPS). We use a deep pressure “squashing” programme with our youngest children to help with sensory regulation. Speech and Language therapy (SpALT) is delivered according to need.
The children work in two teaching groups according to age and / or learning styles. As we all work on a whole school timetable, there is the flexibility for children to access lessons in other classes if the need arises, e.g. to gain access to higher level of phonics. The younger children have a large indoor and outdoor learning environment. All classes have access to our own enclosed forest area with our own mud kitchen. We benefit from having a specialist PE teacher, and we are able to access our own swimming pool once per week. Lower school has its own sensory room.
When children are ready they are encouraged to participate in group lessons using objectives from our own Medium Term Planning documents, developed termly across the three classes to meet the needs of our current cohort. Our curriculum is an adapted version of the National Curriculum and we follow a 6 year rolling programme to ensure pupils have access to a stimulating and varied curriculum. All of the work is differentiated to each child’s individual learning level.
Red Class currently has eight pupils ranging from Year 3 to Year 6. The children follow an adapted National Curriculum, promoting an academic approach to learning through a range of practical and creative learning opportunities. Small groups are given the opportunity to access the Dartmoor Ponies Heritage Trust, where they are encouraged to care for and build strong bonds with a pony and therefore develop self-esteem and confidence.
Interaction, communication and social skills are built in to every aspect of the daily timetable. Phonics, English and Maths are delivered through a carousel of activities to ensure tasks are short and focussed to promote concentration and attention skills. Children are supported in a calm, nurturing environment where structure and routine is clearly mapped out through the use of a visual timetable. Success and progress is celebrated in the children’s Learning Journeys and through both short and long-term reward systems.
Yellow Class currently has eight pupils ranging from Year 3 to Year 6. The children follow an adapted National Curriculum, promoting learning through play and exploration, alongside a TEACCH approach to English and Maths. We offer a range of sensory learning opportunities and access a variety of offsite activities that challenge our children to work outside of their comfort zones, such as joining with Blue Class to access Donkey Assisted Therapy.
Our learning environment is designed to be a calm and uncluttered space that promotes independence with communication through the use of PECS, Makaton signing, electronic iPad apps and visual cue cards. The children use schedule boards to inform their next activity and break down their daily timetable into meaningful stages. We benefit from a range of professionals that work closely with individual children to ensure their sensory and speech and language needs are met.