Lucy has written about Year 1 Undergraduate’s visit to a special school. You can read more of her blog posts here: https://lucywatsonre.wordpress.com/
I was really excited to visit Rowan Park Special School, having had very little experience outside of mainstream schools. Prior to our visit, I had a quick browse of their website (http://www.rowanpark.co.uk) and so I had somewhat of an idea as to what to expect. There is even a gallery on the website, titled ‘School Tour’, which gives a quick glimpse into the schools layout and inside some of the classrooms.
Rowan Park accommodates ‘up to 133 pupils aged 3 to 19 years, with severe, complex, profound and multiple learning difficulties, ASC and sensory impairments.’ Our visit was both inspiring and instructive in equal measure, and so it came as no surprise to me that OFSTED rated it ‘Outstanding‘. Each classroom varied according to the age of the pupils and were adapted to their specific learning requirements – no classroom looked the same. As I had expected, classes consisted of small groups of around 7 pupils. In spite of this, each room had multiple TA’s, reflecting the very specific needs of individuals. I remember thinking, ‘this job requires the patience of a saint!’.
I loved the way in which the school had clearly made an effort to be as close to mainstream education as possible. It was clear that some of the pupils, who might eventually progress to a mainstream school, would not find the transition too severe a jump. In fact, it was interesting to consider that they often find that pupils who have become reliant on one to one support in mainstream schools, often find it difficult to adapt when transferring to a Special School. This is because Rowan Park encourages its students to be both independent learners and to work as a group.
The ‘Adventure Park’ and the playing areas were fantastic; as Fran commented, her niece would be ‘in her element’. Rowan Park really had thought of every child’s requirement, such as ensuring that a child confined to a wheelchair would still be able to enjoy the roundabout along with the other children. We were also informed that the parents of the pupils are given the opportunity to purchase a £60 pass, which enables them to access the park at all times, both inside and outside of school hours. This provides a safe environment for the children, where they can feel safe and not judged by others unaware of their disabilities. The playing area is quite clearly well loved as, during our tour, we overheard one of the children refusing to go back inside!
I can definitely see the appeal of working in a Special school such as Rowan Park; it is a very tight knit community, with some members of staff having seen pupils grow from the age of 3-19. The staff were truly inspiring and the school an invaluable place for young people to learn.
ROWAN PARK, N/D. Rowan Park School. [online] Available from: http://www.rowanpark.co.uk [Accessed 10/2/15]