By Abbey School Principal Dr Katy Lee
At Abbey School for exceptional children, we believe strongly that all children with special educational needs deserve an education that is truly excellent and we have worked diligently over the past year to make this ambition a reality. The purpose of this update is to set out what has been accomplished in the last 12 months, despite the challenges imposed by Covid-19, and to say something about what we want to do next. Almost a year after refurbishment was completed of the Grade II* listed buildings in Chester’s historic Abbey Square, we remain committed to setting a new standard in special education.
Buildings and equipping
The completely refurbished school building was handed over in July 2020. The task of furnishing and equipping commenced soon after, and was completed by September. The building now provides 14 well-equipped classrooms, a number of specialist spaces such as teaching kitchens and a sensory room, a number of quiet spaces that are freely available for pupils, and a range of comfortable circulation areas and dining rooms.
The residential accommodation at nearby Abbey Green has been renovated and fitted out to an equally high standard, and stands ready to accept pupils in the Autumn term 2021.
The school was inspected and approved by Ofsted in September 2020, a necessary step before offering places. We now look forward to our first full inspection during the course of the current year.
We recruited some outstanding staff to our transdisciplinary team. In the first round, we appointed eight teachers, two therapists, 10 learning mentors, and two behaviour analysts. We are currently engaged in recruiting staff in a second round as more pupils join us. We are also actively engaged in recruiting staff to our residential provision.
Induction and initial staff training
All of our staff participated in extensive induction training, covering our core values and aspirations, as well as our approaches to teaching and learning. We are currently developing e-learning resources for future intakes and for in-house staff training and development.
Education and Research Alliance – ERA
Our partnership with two of the UK’s leading universities in special education is established. We are currently engaged in a programme of knowledge mobilisation – closing the gap between research and practice. Our present focus is on curriculum, literacy and numeracy, and pupil and staff wellbeing. We expect to shift gradually in the next year to include knowledge generation – which is all about discovery.
The Abbey School app
We live in a digital age and we utilise commercial apps to help ensure the school runs smoothly. We have also been working on developing an app to help teachers set clear learning goals that are time bound and to monitor progress against the targets set. The Abbey School app is about to be deployed for familiarisation training. We expect to have the app fully deployed by the start of the next academic year.
Taking our first pupils
The most significant development in the life of the school so far has been the enrolment of pupils. We are thrilled to say that our pupil numbers are growing rapidly and we are ready to welcome more children and young people into the Abbey School community in September. All of our pupils are making good progress and their families tell us they are happy, too. Almost daily we hear of learning and behaviour change at home. We want to extend opportunities to more potential pupils, and to make our residential offering available to those who need access to a waking day curriculum.
Progress on the Abbey School Model
At the start of our journey, we described the Abbey School Model. Now, we can confidently say it is in place and working for the benefit of the pupils attending our school. Our next steps are to develop and refine implementation of the model so that:
- Each pupil moves toward the components of BAGS – where B is for belonging and connection; A is autonomy and control; G is for gifts and talents; and S stands for speaking, listening and sense of self.
- We offer even more personalised journeys through our ever more bespoke curriculum.
- Our highly trained transdisciplinary teams offer up-to-date, evidence-informed teaching and behavioural support and provide a range of therapies in the right place and at the right time
- Behavioural and emotional support is the least restrictive and most effective possible.
- Information about goal selection and pupil progress is efficient and effective in the digital age.
Our entire team is thrilled with the progress made to date and committed to developing effective support for education and learning. If you would like to know more about Abbey School and how we can support your child’s learning, book onto one of our virtual open days – we look forward to meeting you.