Each month, a member of our team at Perseid contributes to our staff blog, sharing with our community different aspects of the Perseid School experience, ranging from teaching practise, therapies, the importance of enrichment and strategies used every day within the school.
January 2022: Kate Circuit, Becoming a Thrive Practitioner
Kate Circuit has worked at Perseid School for five years as a Class Teacher, PSHE Lead and now, a newly qualified Thrive Practitioner. In the first Staff Blog of 2022, Kate tells us about her new role, and how it will benefit not only her teaching practice, but her pupils too.
I always knew that I wanted to explore a career working with children, and working for a school like Perseid School felt like the perfect fit, as I wanted to support children with their learning and witness their development and progression. I love teaching Red Pathway and being able to adapt teaching styles to suit different children’s needs; being able to focus different aspects of their knowledge and seeing their learning progress over the year is always one of my highlights. I also really enjoy my PSHE role, and adapting topics to make them relevant and accessible for our pupils. I’m passionate about our focus on the pupils knowing their rights, and ensuring that we deliver this in a relevant way.
The Thrive Approach focuses on children’s emotional well-being. It creates an action plan for either a group of pupils or an individual which allows the adults working with them to develop and use strategies that support the pupils’ emotional well-being. If children have an individual Thrive programme, they have an assigned Thrive practitioner who liaises with the class teacher to support and provide advice.
This is embedded across the school and our pupil’s emotional wellbeing is a priority. All staff are trained in Thrive and understand the importance of it in supporting our pupils. Staff knowledge means that pupils are fully supported in a holistic way and that staff understand that if the pupils are struggling emotionally or are dysregulated they will find it difficult to learn. Staff have strategies that they can use with pupils to support them, which means that pupils feel safe and secure within the school.
In order to become a Thrive Practitioner, I engaged in weekly afternoon session over Zoom (due to Covid). There were practical activities that could be used with the children that we work with, as well as learning the theory behind Thrive. This included brain development, attachment and areas of emotional development. There were activities that had to be completed weekly, as well as tests and longer practice based assessments. We were involved in weekly self-reflections, considering how we were developing as practitioners and how our practice was evolving.
I found the Thrive Practitioner very insightful and it had a big impact on my practice. I use Thrive strategies every day in my language and activities to support the pupils that I work with. My Thrive knowledge has supported the emotional well-being of my pupils, and I have been able to pass on strategies and ideas to my team.
December 2021: Olatz Lopez, My Experience Joining Perseid
"I joined Perseid Upper School in September 2021, with a mission to help as many children as possible. Between 2010 and 2014 Istudied for two degrees at UPSA University in Salamanca Spain and in 2015, I completed a further academic qualification and made the life changing desicion to come to England to study for my Master’s Degree as well as further develop my English.
When people ask me why I wanted to become a teacher, and specifically work at Perseid School, it is down to the positive impacts teachers can have on pupils’ lives, and my own first-hand experience of this when my own teachers were my greatest role models. It was from this moment, at a very young age, I knew I wanted to become a teacher and inspire and support as many children as possible.
I really enjoy witnessing every little step that pupils make and says hopes to help as many children as possible to learn. For me, it is a great privilege and joy to share in every child’s success and achievements. I hope to inspire a love of learning in every child and create a classroom where learning is enjoyed.
A child that is having fun is learning twice as much".
November 2021: Daniaal Effendi, My First Term Back at Perseid School
Daniaal completed his PGCE in summer 2021 with the Harris Federation Schools Direct programme, working in EYFS and we welcomed him back to Perseid Lower School, as one of our KS1 teachers.
With a passion for working with children and making positive impacts, Daniaal is dedicated to providing every pupil in his care with memorable and enjoyable life and learning experiences. When asked what his favourite aspect of his role is, he responded that it is the spontaneity of each working day: the excitement of knowing that no day will be the same and the chance to each day develop a new understanding for the pupils he works with, whether it be academically, self care and independence or simply just creating memorable moments together.
Daniaal’s motto is ‘Be the change that you wish to see in the world’.
“I worked as a TA1 at Perseid School from November 2019 to Summer 2020 and found the experience to be incredible. The training and support I was provided with was outstanding, giving me confidence in my own ability to support the pupils to the best of my ability. I knew that following my PGCE year, returning to Perseid would provide the support, training and opportunities to become the best teacher possible for the pupils I would work with”.
October 2021: Grace Leach, Why I Joined Perseid School
From a background of teachers across all sectors; culinary, the arts, music, dance and both primary and secondary education, Grace grew up with love for learning new things, and passion for sharing knowledge with others. Her career pathway was clear – she was seeking a fast-paced environment, the opportunity to work with children and a rewarding career. For her, Perseid School was the natural choice, where every day is different and puts a smile on her face.
For Grace, her favourite aspect of her role is teaching and engaging with pupils, developing new methods of teaching and learning within and beyond the classroom to ensure they enjoy their topics, and making progress towards their personal goals is a joy and reward. As a teacher to the school, she looks forward to sharing her enthusiasm and knowledge with colleagues, whilst learning from others and their best practise.
In the future, Grace hopes to study a Masters in SEND to improve her pedagogy, and see its impact in her teaching. For now, she is content with her ability to teach pupils across the school in the Pathways style of teaching, which allows her to interact with a range of pupils from Year 7 to Sixth Form; fostering the close-knit community that the school is so well known for.
“Perseid School is an outstanding school whose reputation for their child-centred approach to learning is known within and across the boroughs. When looking for my first teaching post, I wanted to find a supportive school environment with a strong sense of community where I could grow and develop my pedagogy, and Perseid ticks that box. Working in a school where pupils enjoy coming every day, knowing they will be listened to and heard is a pleasure. Pupils love the exciting curriculum and creative provision and know that everything we do is for the benefit and with their best interest in mind”.
September 2021: Louise Tidey, Why I Came Back to Perseid School
Louise joined Perseid School 12 years ago as a Teaching Assistant, and now proudly takes the role as Professional Lead of KS4 and Sixth Form.
Inspired to learn more of how she could support children like those at Perseid to have their needs met and to develop enjoyable and exciting learning approaches and her knowledge of alternative methods of communication, Louise completed her PGCE, and came back to Perseid as a qualified teacher. Louise praises the school for encouraging and supporting her professional development, which has ensured she provides every child and young person within her care with an outstanding education.
Following eight years of teaching as a Class Teacher and Middle Leader, Louise moved to Thailand for two years, pursuing a career at an international kindergarten as an EYFS Phase Coordinator and Class Teacher. During this time, she deepened her knowledge of early childhood development and teaching through play. She was keen to return to Perseid, to use this knowledge to better understand the different stages of learning pupils are at, and bring new exciting play concepts to the classroom.
Now that she has returned and has been warmly welcomed back to Perseid School, Louise has taken on new responsibilities in her role. As she leads a bigger staff team, Louise encourages her staff to reflect on their practise an ensure staff have the knowledge and training they need to fulfil their roles to an outstanding manner. In addition, she liaises with the Senior Leadership Team to ensure children and young people have a broad and enriching curriculum, incorporating opportunities to develop their skills for their future, and make choices about their future.
Louise’s ambitions lie in expanding her knowledge: to build upon what she has learnt to better support our pupils in order to thrive. She hopes to continue learning through sharing best practise, reflect upon her own, develop her leadership skills and discover new and exciting approaches to education by engaging in CPD opportunities offered by the school.
“I love working within a highly professional, supportive, motivational school community. I am surrounded by highly committed and inspiring teachers, all with the same aim to provide the students with an exciting, play-based, motivating and outstanding education.
We are encouraged as teachers to find professional development opportunities in areas of interest and develop new knowledge which we can then share with others. There are always new challenges and new projects that we can lead on which encourages us to reflect, research, and act to bring about positive change. This is highly motivating and brings a sense of achievement and pride when you notice the positive impact this has on the students learning.
Pupils love their school experience because Perseid is an exciting, motivating and inspirational place to learn. Pupils are encouraged to use their voice to express their opinions, choices, needs and wants. Pupils interests are put at the heart of all their learning which in turn, provides them with a motivating way to learn”.
July 2021: Leanne Golightly, KS4 Performance
Performance and drama are key components of a full curriculum which all pupils are entitled to. Being involved in arts supports pupil’s well-being, self-expression and can support their exploration of personal talents and skills. At Perseid School, when pupils reach KS4, they get the opportunity to work towards a full-scale production where they will learn new skills, develop their relationships and explore performance.
I have thoroughly enjoyed supporting the pupils with their annual production this year. The pupils have grown and developed in confidence and have adapted to new routines extremely well. The best part of my role is watching the pupils on stage performing, whether they are dancing, singing or acting. Each pupil brought something valuable to the show and contributed in making it a great production.
As opposed to usual KS4 productions, we were unable to perform to a live audience. Instead we decided to make the production into a movie which we will screen in school and links will be sent home to parents. This way all pupils will be able to see and enjoy their work and to spend time with their families in the process. We are all very excited about the rest of the school seeing the movie too! The pupils from different key stages usually have the opportunity to watch the live production, so this year we will organise a cinema day where they can enjoy the movie in school with their friends.
The movie includes song, dance and incredible performances. Albino Barbosa took on the role of Victor Frankenstein and developed his acting skills well. He learnt to take direction and build on his performance. Fahima Noor played the monster and enjoyed using movement and voice to create a scary creature. Jack Marshall played Captain Robert Walton and used his iPad to communicate. All the pupils worked extremely hard to film all of the scenes and came on set with energy and enthusiasm. Well done KS4!
Pupils at Perseid experience many opportunities for self-expression within school. There are singing and music lessons, dance clubs and external and internal workshops. The aim is for all pupils to be able to experience being part of a live performance and to experience a live show.
June 2021: Josie Douglas, PE at Lower School
At Perseid School PE is an integral part of the curriculum, increasing pupil confidence, developing and promoting social skills, turn taking and sense of belonging through group games, aiding the development of communication skills, core strength and mobility and encouraging self-expression.
The school works in partnership with external organisations and individuals to enhance the PE curriculum, including:
- Working in partnership with Merton School Sport Partnership (MSSP) who organise competitions and activity days for pupils to participate in.
- Nick, a PE coach (MSSP) runs lunchtime clubs and works with individual classes
- Rebound Therapy, led by Nick, Morgan and Natasha, using trampolines, Rebound Therapy teaches a series of logical movement patterns designed to help the pupil continually develop in a stimulating manner that is fun for the pupil.
- Curriculum skill focus changes every half term with each term focusing on a different sport type e.g. gymnastics, dance and games.
- Swimming, led by Karen which the children participate in weekly at our own pool at lower School.
Our PE Lead shared with us what she most enjoys about her role at Perseid School:
“Opportunities to plan special experiences for the children such as Sports Week, my favourite activity being the Moveathon. Parents and families made donations to the page and on the morning on the Moveaton we were already 314% over our targeted amount. I read every families message and it was so lovely to see the love and support our children receive. It has enabled me to spend time and get to know all the children across the school which I have enjoyed most”.
Themed weeks in school allow our pupils to fully immerse themselves within various topics. Sports Week aims to encourage a lifelong passion for sporting events; offer pupils opportunities to try new sports/experiences; encourage a physically active lifestyle; promote the physical benefits of having an active lifestyle encourage pupils to develop their physical skills; offer the opportunity to take part in group games and to work part of a team, encouraging teamwork and partnership; offering the pupils opportunities to succeed and feel a sense of achievement; for enjoyment/enrichmen and for classes to mix freely. We look forward to social distancing restrictions easing, when we will able to invite parents to watch the events and participate in MSSP competitions and activities outside of school with children from other schools and settings.
Find out more about Sports Week 2021, here: https://www.perseid.merton.sch.uk/News/Sports-Week-30062021131720/
May 2021: Stephen Pedley, The Growing Garden
The Growing Garden at Perseid Upper School was created to allow students to explore nurturing plants, from seed to plant and hopefully to the plate, as we aim to use some of the produce in students’ Enterprise Cooking lessons.
The garden is composed of x4 3M long raised beds, with x2 shallow suspended beds which allow pupils in wheelchairs to easily access. The entire garden is fenced off, ensuring the garden remains a safe learning environment for students to access.
Utilised mostly by the 6th Form Environment Group, students use the space to grow anything from potatoes to tomatoes, and classes throughout Upper School have their own space to grow plants and support their learning. Last term, KS3 pupils used the garden to support their kitchen garden work, working weekly to plant, tend and harvest the garden.
This type of initiative is integral to the curriculum and the experience that we offer students. Hands-on opportunities to see the life cycle of the food we eat moving from a seed to something on our plates is extremely valuable. We see genuine awe and wonder expressed by the students at times. An example of this would be seeing a tiny strawberry growing at the centre of a flower, or digging a patch of ground and discovering hidden potatoes. We grow plants which the students like to eat and are familiar with, as well as plants which we have a high chance of success in growing.
For many students, simply having opportunity to work outdoors can be inspiring. Having an outdoor space where we can explore growth as well as looking after a space and working together is invaluable.
Each year we hold a Growing Garden events in the Autumn term and we hope to welcome parents to the garden again so we can share some of the fruits of our labour.
To support the development of our Growing Garden, we have strong relationships with local allotment owners and in the future (post-Covid), we look forward to visiting these allotments on a half-termly basis to learn more about how we can nurture plants, and welcome both parents and allotment owners to the garden to support in our caring for the plants.
We welcome any plants donated from parents, particularly if their children have played a part in helping them grow. Our holiday catch-up project packs, for instance, included seed planting kits, which we know many families have enjoyed growing together.
April 2021: Diane Propsting, The Edible Garden + LOtC
The Edible Playground is part of the Trees for Cities initiative, which aims to transform areas of school grounds into educational, natural outdoor spaces. In particular, the Edible Playground will turn an under-used area of the school site into an outdoor classroom, with a focus on gardening, growing and eating healthy food in a multi-sensory and engaging way. It will be built by the charity Edible Playgrounds, which as well as focusing on healthy living aims to combat Nature Deficit Disorder by offering exciting opportunities to spend time outside.
Our Edible Playground has been designed specifically with our school and the needs of our pupils in mind. The designers have worked closely with the senior leadership team and LOTC subject leader to ensure that the garden is a motivating and engaging space, accessible for all. It will provide an outdoor classroom area, complete with wooden tables and chairs at different heights to accommodate all pupils across the Lower School as well as ensuring our wheelchair users can sit with their peers. The tables will include built-in trays so pupils can touch and explore the soil as well as plant and pot seeds. There will be raised garden beds again at different heights for growing vegetables and herbs, and fruit trees to provide multi-sensory experiences. There will also be a greenhouse with accessible trays to promote pupil independence in storing and collecting gardening tools, as well as a compost and an exciting wormery!
Research shows that by offering exciting, engaging, and multi-sensory lessons outside, the Edible Playground will not only support pupils in growing their own food but also develop children’s emotional health and well-being.
At Perseid Lower School, the Edible Playground Project will form part of the Learning Outside the Classroom (LOTC) curriculum. LOTC offers a range of half-termly topics such as ‘Rabbit Care’, ‘Outdoor Art’, ‘Wind Charms’ or ‘Minibeasts’, which are all delivered via a weekly session.
Our pupils have thoroughly enjoyed the topic ‘Rabbit Care and Growing Garden’, where they learn about caring for our school rabbit and exploring the Growing Garden. The Edible Playground is the next step for our students, supporting them to grow their own food and develop their gardening skills in a purpose-built area. As with all the LOTC topics, the Edible Playground will support pupils to engage with cross-curricular activities such as developing their understanding about the world, seeing things change and grow, use tools purposefully and all the time enjoying the activities and developing their communication. The outdoor sensory stimuli will support pupils to use all their senses to learn, and provide active and hands-on learning experiences, which is particularly appropriate for our pupils to access and engage with the curriculum. Furthermore, as we come out of the pandemic and move into our recovery curriculum, we know that providing lots of learning opportunities outside, such as in the Edible Playground, will be extremely supportive of our pupil’s mental health and emotional well-being.
Learning Outside the Classroom (LOTC) is defined as ‘’The use of places other than the classroom for teaching & learning. It is about getting children and young people out and about, providing them with challenging, exciting and different experiences to help them learn.’ (Council for LOTC).
Educational visits and Learning Outside the Classroom (LOTC) are an integral part of school life at Perseid School. We consider it vital that learning experiences are motivating, relevant and functional to the needs of individual students and inspire them to learn. This includes providing hands-on experiences as well as opportunities for activities to take place outside of the classroom. We are dedicated to increasing independence and developing the functional communication and vocational skills of our pupils and we recognise the value LOTC can have in supporting that.
Opportunities for LOtC are important for pupils to practise tasks in ‘real world’ situations and learn to accomplish tasks required for everyday life. Opportunities to leave the classroom, whether to use the school grounds or travel further afield, provides pupils with experiences to promote independence, decision-making skills and the ability to function effectively in the community as well as bringing learning to life. Interacting with new people and environments can also give pupils a valuable chance to practise and develop social skills, adapt to new situations and become more aware of the world around them.
During the pandemic, LOTC has had to remain on the school-site to ensure the pupil’s health, safety and well-being. This has emphasised the importance of having a dedicated on-site outdoor learning environment for our pupils, which the Edible Playground project will facilitate.
Outdoor educational opportunities have been shown to have a positive impact for children with special needs, particularly regarding their social, mental and emotional well-being and behaviour. Research shows that LOTC supports development across a range of academic and broader educational outcomes, including communication, language, self-esteem, relationships, behaviour, self-regulation, mental health, emotional resilience and social interaction. Additionally, going outside provides children with further opportunities to apply functional skills and explore and engage with the natural world. According to the Green Schools Project, the Edible Playground has a significant impact on pupil’s real life and practical learning opportunities, positively impacting upon behaviour, well-being and pupil engagement.
Unfortunately, due to the Lockdown and impact of the pandemic the building of the Edible Playground has been delayed. However, we are hoping this will start in the summer term and we cannot wait!
March 2021: Jenny Smith, RWInc
The Read Write Inc mission is to teach every child to read and write, and keep them reading.
Following a systematic approach to teaching reading, comprehension and writing, our pupils are given the best chance of learning to read, for both their enjoyment and to improve their independence.
RWInc is the central Literacy curriculum in the Red, Blue and Purple pathways and is also used in the Orange and Turquoise pathways. As a school, we have explored ways of making reading as accessible to our pupils as possible, adapting the same teaching steps delivered in all RWInc schools to support our learners. As with all our teaching, we deliver it in a very personalised way, which has proved successful in teaching many of our learners to read.
All of our teachers, HLTAs and TA3s receive 2 days of RWInc Phonics training at the Ruth Miskin regional training centre, and internal training is given to TAs in termly sessions or in class as needed by the RWInc Reading Leader, to ensure we are delivering to the highest possible standard. All of the training, both regional and internal has lots of practical activities, we practise each of the teaching steps on each other before bringing it to our pupils in the classroom. We regularly meet to discuss ways that RWInc can be further adapted for individuals so they can make good progress.
As a result of implementing the programme at Perseid, pupils make progress in reading and writing; they are able to read and comprehend what they are reading and develop from early writing pre-requisite skills to more formal writing. Access to stories and reading positively impacts our pupils’ wellbeing, improving their access to learning, offering a hobby and increasing their safety in the community.
In the future, we look forward to including RWInc Induction in our own CPD and training schedules, in addition to an annual develop day with a specialist Ruth Miskin (RWInc) trainer. I am thrilled to share that Perseid School has been selected by Ruth Miskin Ltd. and RWInc to have our pupils and teachers filmed for their regional training for the past 5 years. It is great for us to be able to share our good practice and showcase our pupils’ amazing effort!
February 2021: Rosie Lawrence, An Introduction to the Curiosity Programme
The Curiosity Programme is a strategy used to help teach individuals to develop the skill of curiosity, form positive relationships with others and to learn to engage with a wider range of stimuli.
Pupils will start by exploring something they enjoy, for example, glitter. The teacher, such as I, will put glitter in a tuff tray, and explore the stimuli with the learner. Teachers must be alongside the learner and engaging with the learner’s interests. They are sharing the good times together, whilst using the principles of Intensive Interaction (teacher responding to the learner’s actions and vocalisations). For example, if the learner sprinkles some glitter, the teacher will also pick up some glitter and sprinkle it and vocalise ‘wow!’ Joining in and validating the pupil’s actions.
Next time, the teacher will present the stimuli in a container, so that the learner has to start thinking more deeply, developing the skill of object permanence, and curiosity. The teacher will put the tray out, but instead of having the glitter already loose in there, the glitter will be in a very easily obtainable container e.g., in a little open draw string bag. The teacher will model picking up the bag, and seeing the glitter fall out. As the learner develops their curiosity, the teacher will gradually put the glitter in containers that require more steps to access, or where what’s inside them is less noticeable. Perhaps next, the glitter will be in a transparent container that the learner has to lift the lid off of, and then perhaps in an opaque container.
The Curiosity Programme encourages you, or I, to add singing, and rhythm in to your play and exploration. For example, when exploring the glitter, the teacher may make up a simple repetitive song to encourage exploration and engagement from the learner. Rhythm and movement have been found to be important both before and after speech develops. Using rhythm and songs in your play, helps to develop timing to communicate. It helps the learner to know when their turn is, and where sounds and words go.
The programme is designed to support children who are not quite ready to attend to the Attention Autism Strategy, which may be for a variety of reasons, such as being at a very early level in their development of attention, or do not yet have the tolerances for group working. Through building relationships between teachers and learners, this promotes the child’s development further, as it suggests that communication and social interaction flourishes when activities are shared, and interaction is reciprocal and motivating for all.
The strategy aims to create curiosity about the world, nurture communication and foster interaction through shared joyful times together and the teaching of shared attention.
Like Attention Autism, it is a nice starter activity for a lesson as it introduces the learner to their environment and connects the learner to their teacher through the practicing of shared attention and the teacher following the Intensive Interaction guidelines. The programme can be delivered daily to pupils; and is taught to staff during the induction process, under the umbrella of Attention Autism.
January 2021: Liane Walker, Our Curriculum
At Perseid, we take a unique approach to the curriculum. Focused on Pathways and a Creative Curriculum, we believe our truly holistic approach engages every learner and best supports their learning and development.
Every morning, pupils start their school day in their year or class groups. Pathways were specifically developed for Literacy and Maths, to better meet individual needs:
- Purple Pathway: Follows a curriculum designed to meet the needs of learners who are working at early levels of the National Curriculum (typically Years 1 and 2) and may have an additional diagnosis of autism. This is our newest pathway.
- Blue Pathway: Follows an Autism specific curriculum designed to meet the needs of learners with an additional diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder.
- Turquoise Pathway: Follows an Autism specific curriculum designed to meet the needs of learners with an additional diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder who require additional sensory regulation input.
- Green Pathway: Follows an Autism specific curriculum designed to meet the needs of learners with an additional diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder who require significant sensory input and are working at early development levels.
- Red Pathway: Follows a curriculum for pupils with Severe Learning Difficulties, who are working at a level of higher developmental levels (typically 2 to 5 years).
- Orange Pathway: Follows a curriculum for pupils with Severe Learning Difficulties, who are working at a developmental level of between 15 months and 2 years.
- Yellow Pathway: Follows a curriculum for pupils with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (typically up to 18 months developmentally).
By utilising Pathways, teachers are able to tailor teaching styles to effectively meet the learning needs of the class. Pathways take place daily, during which time pupils participate in a whole class session and small group work led by an adult and ending with the class coming back together again to celebrate their achievements during the lesson. In afternoons, children work and play alongside peers from their class group for PE, creative curriculum, PSHE and LOTC lessons.
In addition to Pathways, our curriculum takes a creative focus. Based around a different theme each term (e.g., dinosaurs, bright lights, big cities, transport), this engages pupils in an exciting and relevant curriculum, and enables them to learn about what is around them. Through subject focus, storytelling, sensory play, cooking, and craft pupils explore their theme, further supported by cross-curricular links in Maths and Literacy. The creative curriculum also gives pupils opportunities to practise their communication and occupational therapy targets through the Arts activities, cementing our emphasis on a holistic approach to learning.
Alongside our academic curriculum, enrichment plays a vital role at Perseid. Pupils are able to access different areas of the school including soft play, sensory studios, the rabbit area, and playground, in addition to structured sessions horse-riding and swimming. These are utilised to develop social and communication skills, engage in intensive interaction, practise gross motor skills, and encourage responsibility and independence.
As we navigate through these unprecedented times, our ways of learning has changed to ensure pupils safety. The current home learning programme is designed to mirror as closely possible what the pupils are learning in school. Home learning consists of resources from various online and school resources including from the National Oaks Academy and White Rose Maths, alongside support from our teaching staff. Our intention is to ensure children are stimulated at home to develop some of the learning and skills they experience at school, to minimise the impact of time out and reducing gaps in learning. Additionally, teachers regularly communicate with families to offer advice and support, to adapt programmes of learning if necessary. As pupils have been unable to participate in Learning Outside the Classroom, staff have encouraged children to explore their outdoor spaces and generalise their learning in different environments.
Our curriculum was specifically developed with the child in mind. We believe that it offers pupils the opportunity to practise and develop communication, social and occupational therapy skills, whilst broadening their experience and knowledge of the world, in a motivating and engaging way.
December 2020: Nicola Woodward, Why I Wanted to Work at Perseid
For as long as I can remember, I have always felt passionately about the teaching profession. Before becoming a teacher and whilst at university, I volunteered in a number of different environments, including a school, art therapy and speech and language settings and with my creative background, I wanted to be able to combine my two passions to make a difference to each child’s journey.
I began my career at Perseid School in September 2020, following several years spent in mainstream settings and non-school settings for children with special educational needs. Perseid School seemed like the perfect fit for me: I wanted to move into a specialist setting to expand my knowledge and I felt ready for a new challenge in my career, and I wanted to work alongside a multiciliary team with Occupational Therapists, SALT, CAHMS and Physiotherapy teams. In addition, I was inspired by the values at Perseid School. The wellbeing of children is so important here and pupils are offered a huge range of fantastic opportunities to support them in their school journey, such as swimming, music sensory rooms, soft play, trampolining, LOTC, outdoor gardens and Thrive.
From the moment I stepped through the door for my interview and met with staff and pupils and learnt that the school and curriculum is pupil centred and witnessed the knowledge, expertise and support of the rest of the staff body for one another and every other pupil, I knew I wanted to work at the school.
When looking back at why I most enjoy teaching and particularly at Perseid School, credit is due to the staff body. Every member of staff is positive, passionate, dedicated and supportive, they are a strong team, full of ideas on how to better improve the provision for our pupils. Most of all, I appreciate how much I am learning myself and take great pride in the ability to respond to a child’s interests and needs and helping them to thrive through various strategies, an emphasis on pupil wellbeing and having the opportunity to inspire and motivate pupils in their learning.
As such, it is clear to see why pupils enjoy their school experience so much. From the individualised learning, which is tailored to every child’s needs, exploration within the curriculum through LOTC and sensory to feeling safe and supported and the positive environment. All of which, contribute to why I love working here so much.
Since joining Perseid School, I have benefitted from many training opportunities as part of my induction, which has helped to expand my knowledge and experience and as a result I feel confident that I am delivering the highest standard of education to every pupil. I look forward to building upon my knowledge and experience through more training and delivery of lessons and learning more about The Thrive Approach and pupil wellbeing. Working in a school that puts the child’s best interests at the heart of all that they do is incredibly rewarding, and I hope to provide every child in my care with an outstanding experience and education: to support the development of the whole child.
November 2020: Kate Circuit, Enrichment
At Perseid, we understand the importance of children having access to an enriching environment, therefore we try to include as many opportunities for play and active learning as possible. On a daily basis, every child at Perseid has access to play-based activities, which are adapted to suit the needs of the individual or group, similarly all staff respond to children’s individual needs and adapt their approach to suit the child in question.
What I feel sets Perseid apart from other schools or education settings is that fact that children are at the core of all that we do, e.g. if we feel that children would benefit from play, sensory or a movement break at any time during the day we ensure that this is provided and through our Thrive approach we understand that “every child is a unique person, constantly developing and learning in different ways and at different rates, each with their own abilities, talents and potential to be fulfilled”. We ensure that we use enrichment activities to support the children’s development, learning and wellbeing.
The enrichment programme at Perseid is broad. Pupils participate in PE weekly which covers games, gymnastics and the development of other skills, swimming, music and horse-riding lessons delivered by specialist teachers, opportunities for Rebound trampolining with a dedicated coach, access to sensory studios and soft play, play embedded in the curriculum and extensive playground equipment across both sites. In addition to providing pupils with a range of experiences and opportunities, I believe enrichment supports pupil learning and development.
From our Thrive approach, we understand that “children thrive in enabling environments where children’s individual development, learning experiences and needs are understood, responded to and supported”. Using our enrichment programme, we respond to children’s emotional and social needs and by doing this, we ensure that children are in a calm-alert state which supports their readiness for learning. As we believe in a holistic approach to education, we understand that children’s access to enrichment opportunities is as important as their access to ‘core’ subjects. By including enrichment activities on a daily basis, we ensure that children are ready for learning and that their emotional wellbeing is supported.
The Thrive approach also notes that “children flourish when they are confident, self-assured, capable and resilient”. By making time for enrichment opportunities we provide children with the opportunity to develop their confidence and resilience. Enrichment opportunities allow for children to solve problems, try new things and adapt their approach. These skills can be transferred to other situations and areas of learning.
Personally, I think that having opportunities to experience new things beyond the classroom provides our pupils with lifelong memories, skills and prepares them for the future and I am excited to see how play based learning continues to develop at Perseid School and how it is included in all areas of learning across all pathways.
October 2020: Daria Wandzik, The Arts
After gaining a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Fine Arts, I began volunteering in schools by delivering art projects, which is how I got into teaching. Teaching art is my passion, as art is an expressive form that all people can access and I believe SEN children benefit from art a lot, through expression and communicating their likes and dislikes when it comes to working with various art mediums.
Art is used across the curriculum at Perseid School. At Lower school we engage in art activities during Creative Curriculum sessions, however, art can be utilised in any session of the day (e.g. making paint marks whilst counting, learning about a character of a story by making puppets/portraits of them). In order to enhance and increase the Arts provision at the school, I am currently trying to build up the provision and resources to ensure supplies are always in place and accessible, going over Creative Curriculum planning and looking at ways to differentiate all the art activities to make it easier for teachers to understand how they can teach art and working alongside a member of staff at Upper School to plan an art training day, to help support teachers deliver meaningful art sessions.
I truly believe that art activities are important for pupils at Perseid. It helps them to explore materials, skills, be expressive, creative and meet a lot of their sensory needs. Art allows the pupils to learn about the world around them and its different forms, teaching children to be more independent with their skills and expressive needs. Not only this, but the arts can help support pupil learning and development: many of our pupils struggle to communicate their wants and needs, but art can help build that skill, through expressing their likes/dislikes, making choices, using their fine motor skills, exploring sensory needs, aid pupils in focusing for longer periods of time as the activity is child lead and give a greater sense of freedom and independence.
In the future, I would like to expand our current programme to include art workshops for parents and staff so that they can learn how to engage pupils in the arts, and make more staff aware of how art can be differentiated to deliver accessible art lessons that are fit for purpose, and create a clear guide that will help monitor the pupils progress in art. In addition, Upper School host an annual Art Exhibition for families and friends, which I would like to replicate at Lower School.
September 2020: Martha Davies, Online Safety
As Computing Lead for Lower School, online safety forms an integral part of my role. Working alongside the Computing Lead at Upper School, we feel it is one of the most important lessons we can teach our pupils due to their vulnerability, whilst also equipping them with the skills that enable them to use the internet independently, safely and successfully.
At Perseid, we strongly believe in the importance of training, to ensure our school is a safe place for our pupils to go online. Therefore, both myself and the Upper School Computing Lead are NSPCC trained in Online Safety, and recently undertaken NOS training, which is also offered to all staff across the school. As leader, I feel it is important for all staff, parents and pupils to understand the risks and issues associated with children and young people being online and understanding how to access advice and support to better protect our pupils.
Online safety is practised every day at school, through explicit computing sessions at Upper School and those who are able to navigate a computer and its programmes benefit from specific support from teachers, to make them aware of risks. In addition, websites which we feel are of risk to pupils are blocked, and only safe programmes, trialled by leaders are utilised in class. To further support this, we encourage our families to practise online safety at home. Parents are welcome to join our NOS training, a group of professionals including PSHE leads and Computing Leads, Associate Headteacher and Family Support Worker meet regularly to discuss safeguarding linked to computing and PSHE and our Safeguarding Team are on hand to support any online safety concerns at home.
July 2020: Stephen Pedley, Maintaining Communication During Covid-19
Maintaining Contact During Covid-19
Ensuring routine and continuity is vitally important in our role, for the pupils at Perseid School. The current pandemic and impacts of Covid-19 has altered how we are able to communicate with, teach and work alongside our pupils, meaning we have had to change how we work to continue delivering an outstanding standard of education.
Throughout this period of lockdown, all parents and pupils have been offered a weekly video call or chat with their teacher, if agreed that it would be beneficial to the child. In order to facilitate learning, we have developed an array of online activities that pupils can participate in at home, videos from teachers to pupils and implementing school events at home: by delivering arts materials and resources to engage in Arts Week activities remotely.
For both pupils and staff, this has been a very difficult time. Teachers, pupils and families maintain close bonds and strong working relationships, with all of our staff wanting to do as much as possible to support our learners throughout this period.
In addition to catch up calls with our pupils and families, we also take the time to check in with our family’s wellbeing and ensure they still feel they remain part of the school community, even when we have been kept so far apart. Having a friendly face express concern, listen and help feel they are not alone can be invaluable at this time.
Personally, I have loved having the opportunity to reach out to our pupils and their families. The reactions have all been ones of joy, which on a personal level really help me deal with the stress I have felt as a teacher during the pandemic.
As a teacher it can become easy to feel a little helpless during the pandemic. We are used to working face to face with the pupils, and whilst we can prepare home learning for pupils, this is no substitute for the interaction and wellbeing one gets through teaching; helping children develop and improving their life chances. At least through the video calls we get to enjoy the only thanks we ever look for, a smile on their face.
Stephen Pedley, Class Teacher
June 2020: Kim Bulman, Pupil Wellbeing and Positive Behaviour Support
The Importance of Pupil Wellbeing in Relation to Positive Behaviour Support at Perseid School
There is a link between promoting positive wellbeing, building resilience, good mental health and improved outcomes for children and young people. Children spend a large percentage of time in their school environment, it is vital to us that our school provides the ideal environment for promoting good emotional wellbeing and identifying early behaviour changes and signs of emotional distress. Evidence indicates that emotional wellbeing is a key indicator of academic achievement and improved quality of life, and therefore maintaining the positive emotional wellbeing of our pupils is of paramount importance at Perseid School.
Periods of distress experienced by our pupils are often rooted in anxiety, sensory regulation and processing difficulties, pain or discomfort. We can have the biggest impact on reducing distress by promoting wellbeing through a shared understanding of individual pupils’ lives, sensory experiences and the effect these can have on their ability to cope and tolerate the world in which we live.
Staff proactively meet our pupils needs and improve their quality of life by understanding what pupils’ behaviour is telling us. We develop functional communication, coping and tolerance skills and embed activities that promote positive wellbeing ensuring the curriculum and learning environment is fit for purpose. All strategies identified as essential in supporting a pupils’ specific well-being and behaviour needs are formulated into an individual Positive Behaviour Support Plan.
Pupil wellbeing is constantly at the forefront of our teaching, learning and targeted support; and a multidisciplinary, including parents, network is essential in managing this. Where necessary, professional input is sought from CAHMS, Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Health professionals and Educational Psychology services, and where required, an additional behaviour specialist from Loddon Training and Consultancy. This ensures a holistic approach to meeting our pupils’ complex needs.
For circumstances where emotional distress is significantly impacting pupil learning and/or emotional wellbeing, the Behaviour Focus Group intervention strategy is implemented. This network identifies key priority areas of concern that significantly impact on learning, agree the necessary fundamental skills the pupil needs to be taught so that they are able to engage more fully in their academic learning and devise suitable outcomes. The focus of learning may be on one or more of the following areas: Communication & Interaction (Relationships), Emotional Well-being, Transitions, Engagement and Attention, Coping and Tolerance Skills or Therapy Needs.
For all of us at Perseid, it is essential that these strategies are put in place to promote positive pupil wellbeing. We recognise the importance and impact of this for children and young people on behaviour, emotional regulation, engagement in learning and the ability to successfully be part of the school and wider community.
Kim Bulman, Assistant Headteacher/Behaviour Support Lead
May 2020: Leanne Golightly, Masters Study
Studying a Masters Degree at Perseid School
At Perseid School, we are lucky to have supportive and visionary leaders who invest a great deal into the professional development of staff. As a class teacher, I have benefitted from a range of training opportunities, including external courses, shadowing and mentoring, but the most profound development prospect has been studying my Masters’ degree in Autism, via London Southbank University.
All teaching staff are offered the opportunity to undertake a fully funded Masters’ degree in their first year of teaching, with a specialism in special educational needs and disabilities. The achievement of the degree enables teaching staff to support pupil learning and development to the highest level, gaining an understanding of research, pupil experiences and practical knowledge of how best to deliver teaching. As Online Safety Lead at the Upper School campus, I decided to focus on my research computing and online safety.
In order to support my studies, I undertook research at school. Utilising questionnaire feedback gathered from parents and pupils, I gained an insight into what online safety looks like for our pupils and their families and teaching colleagues at Perseid School. Within my role, I have found it is vital to work together in supporting young people with their understanding of online safety risks and how to stay safe.
Throughout my research, the leadership team at Perseid have been incredibly helpful and offered advice when needed, as well as supporting initiatives I have designed to enhance our role in protecting our pupils online, including online safety booster groups, questionnaires and developing our website to incorporate advice from external agencies.
Since beginning my course, I have found the practice, knowledge and experience gained to be valuable within the classroom. I was required to read appropriate literature and research which can be used to support teaching and learning within the school. Keeping abreast of new research is paramount in enabling our pupils to be supported in the best way possible and as my dissertation focus is computing and online safety, I have been spending time with a group of pupils to develop our online safety lessons within the curriculum.
I have written research pieces on transitions, education health and care plans, communication and classroom practice. It has enabled me to reflect upon my own practices and access research-based knowledge to support my decision making. I look forward to continuing to apply what I have learnt to my teaching, in order to continue to improve our offer for the development of pupils.
Leanne Golightly, Class Teacher
April 2020: Surita Meyer, The Thrive Approach
Implementing the Thrive Approach at Perseid School
The Thrive Approach is a therapeutic approach to help support children with their emotional and social development. The Approach teaches you how to be and what to do with childrens’ differing and sometimes challenging behaviour. As a result of these interventions, children are more self-assured and readier to engage with life and learning.
Thrive training provides a targeted intervention. All practise is underpinned by Thrive-Online, an assessment tool and extensive action planning resource that charts progress and measures outcomes, offering practical strategies and techniques to identify emotional development and action plans for individual needs.
As Thrive Lead for Perseid School, I am qualified to deliver Thrive Practitioner Courses and the approach has since become part of every teachers’ training, with whole school induction taking place in April 2018 and now as a routine part of induction programme for all new teaching staff.
At Perseid Thrive is a key development area which will continue to be further utilised over the foreseeable future, and we are thrilled that, as a result of whole school efforts, Thrive has now been embedded within our pupils’ routines, with the organisation officially recognising Perseid School as ‘Embracing the Thrive Approach’.
At Perseid School, we chose to utilise the Thrive Approach for its specific way of working with and supporting children, drawing on neuroscience research, child development and attachment theory and evidence based research into the role of creativity and play in developing emotional resilience. In addition, the approach supports the school in planning experiences, activities and opportunities at the appropriate level for each child.
For senior leaders at Perseid School, The Thrive Approach helps to identify development areas and strategies to support the emotional and social development of every child.
The Thrive approach underpins through everything that we do at Perseid. Each class and pathway have a group action plan, identifying which key strand the group is focusing on and highlighting activities and strategies used within lesson planning/ delivery. Pupils have their own dedicated thrive areas, where they can take part in wellbeing activities, or talk to an adult about their feelings, and can Feed Their Worries – to the fairies at Lower School and Worry Monster at Upper. In addition, as Thrive Practitioner I offer support and guidance to staff when needed.
Within our school setting, we have been thrilled to see some of the following impacts as a result of introducing The Thrive Approach to our school:
- Attuned staff supporting pupils’ physiological regulation, with pupils’ “being” needs met across all areas
- Pupils have key staff “safe circle” within which they have secure trusted relationships
- Some pupils increase in confidence and vocabulary to talk about their feelings
- Specific targeted support for identified pupils
- Pupil feelings are attuned to and validated, i.e. “it is ok to feel…”
- All class and pathways have group action plans, identifying key actions and strategies for pupils in the class/pathway to support pupils to become more emotionally resilient
- Development of Emotional Wellbeing reports contributing to identified pupil’s ehcp reviews.
For me, the future of Thrive and Perseid School is expressed by working together to achieve the Thrive School of Excellence Award, meaning that our efforts and excellence are recognised by Thrive.
Surita Meyer, Assistant Headteacher Upper School & Thrive Lead