RE at Edge Hill

Tag: SEN

SEND at Harrop Fold

You may have seen the television series Educating Greater Manchester.  The Director of Inclusion at the school Miranda Rathmell is a former PGCE RE trainee from Edge Hill.

We were delighted that she was able to give up a day to help our Year 1 QTS Undergraduate RE students understand SEND and spend some time helping pupils at the school with additional needs.

We were also able to tour the school and meet a few od the stars (both staff and pupils) of the TV series, which is returning for a second series later in the year.


We arrived on a snowy day in Salford, at Harrop Fold School. Miranda Rathmell,  the school’s SENCO met us and explained a little of the school’s background: there are around 100 children on the SEN register, with 16 of those having an Educational Health and Care Plan. There are a large number of pupils who are in receipt of free school meals: 69%.

We did a quiz in SEN acronyms, and learnt that what used to be called a statement is now called a Educational Health and Care Plan. We then tried to match some conditions with descriptions of difficulties. Miranda discussed how the school ‘expands the parameters of what’s normal’ to accommodate pupils learning needs, such as pupils with Autism, or with Operational Defiance Disorder.

Miranda then gave us some more input about the policies surrounding SEN, and some of the types of support that schools can give, before thinking about how we as teachers can make text easier to read. We were then given case studies and asked how we might as class teachers differentiate a lesson to support these pupils .

After a buffet lunch, Miranda spoke about how her career had progressed from her time at Edge Hill, work as an RE teacher, to being SENCO at Harrop Fold. She described how to meet the needs of the most vulnerable and challenging Year 7 pupils, the school had created a special group. We were then invited to think a little more deeply about ADHD. This is often co-morbid with other difficulties, can lead to challenging behaviour. It was stressed that all behaviour is communication.

We finished with a tour of the school including the link room, the behaviour room, the SEN office and the Student development team. This was a great day in school and all students are now better equipped to understand SEN on their first school placement in May.

Questioning RE

Our final year Secondary RE undergraduates are are a fantastic group of students and their three year degree has prepared them to teach high school pupils of all ages and abilities.  Recently they had chance to show off their skills when a group of pupils from Savio High School’s Bosco Unit visited Edge Hill for a morning of questioning RE.

The Edge Hill students had worked in groups to plan and prepare for three sessions each focussing on enquiring into a a big question.

The first topic was ‘Does God Exist?’ which included  a Philosophy for Children (P4C) styled activity examining an image on the board of the Auschwitz ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ sign and an Auschwitz inmates’ photo. Each pupil had to then choose a question they would ask in response to images presented, and finally (as a group) choose one of their questions to lead the enquiry. By allowing the pupils to take responsibility for this task ensured that they were engaged and made the task feel more relevant to them. By planning a task which focused on pupil led learning with an emphasis on discussing/debating ensured that behaviour was managed effectively as they had something to do at all times. This task produced excellent prior knowledge and discussions regarding the images on the board which contributed to the pupil’s opinions on the lesson focus of whether God really exists.

The second session was helping pupils to think about how people make the ‘right’ decisions, including a real dilemma for the pupils to grapple with as they began to get an understanding of Situation ethics. Pupils were able to articulate their answers and acknowledge other points of view.

Finally we looked at what it means to be religious in the 21st century, thinking about everything from Scientology to Roman Catholicism.

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The pupils were superb and engaged with the questions in a mature way, and left us looking forward to a lunch in the hub!  One of the students reflected on the morning, noting the well mannered behaviour and attitudes of all pupils present. He wondered if this was mainly down to the change of learning environment that the pupils were able to experience, which shows how this could be an effective tool in managing/helping pupils.

A Very Special School

Lucy has written about Year 1 Undergraduate’s visit to a special school. You can read more of her blog posts here:

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 ( 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.

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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!’.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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ROWAN PARK, N/D. Rowan Park School. [online] Available from: [Accessed 10/2/15]

A Very Special School Visit

Year 1 Undergraduate Students spent a very worthwhile afternoon in a local school for children with Special Educational Needs.  Rowan Park School is an Outstanding School, meeting the needs of up to 126 pupils aged 3 to 19 years, with severe, complex, profound and multiple learning difficulties, ASC and sensory impairments.

Students studying to be Secondary RE teachers at Edge Hill were met by the Deputy Headteacher, Cathy Harley.  She gave an overview of the work of the school before leading students on a tour of the school.  We started at the youngest end of the school, where the butterflies, who may be as young as 3 spend their school time.  We finished up at the Oldest End – where the 6th Form students have their common room – and heard about the plans for expansion. In between we saw all manner of brilliant teaching going on, with specialist rooms for children with syndromes such as Autism, the hydrotherapy pool, and the dark and light sensory rooms.

We were struck by the patience, dedication and skill of the staff, and were challenged to think how this form of education could help us to become outstanding teachers.  A number of students expressed a desire to have a placement – or some enhancement time – in a school like Rowan Park.  This is something that we will endeavour to arrange; we have had RE students placed at the school for the last couple of years who have had a wonderful experience with fantastic outcomes and gone on to secure employment quickly at the end of their course.




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