Queensmill is specialist school for children and young people (CYP) diagnosed with autism from 3-25. The majority of CYP’s autism is at the complex end of the spectrum but the school places at its heart, learning that is child/young person centred with an emphasis on accepting the child for who they are and helping them understand and cope with the world around them. From this starting point, we are able to help CYP make progress in acquiring academic, communication, social and life skills.
Staff at Queensmill are highly trained in autism and the school commits a significant proportion of its annual budget to training and maintaining staff knowledge and resources so that CYP with autism learn in an environment that understands and is suited to them. The school is proud of its effectiveness and ability to personalise learning so that CYP have unique programmes so that they are motivated and thoroughly supported to make progress. When this progress occurs, we are committed to creating and adapting provision to ensure it can continue. This is evidenced in our four resource-bases, located within mainstream and other settings as well as our soon to be opened short break children’s home.
The school is grateful to the local authority for its sustained financial and philosophical commitment, over many years and culminating, most recently, in a purpose-built, state-of-the art building for children and young people (CYP) with autism. The school meets the needs of CYP across the tri-borough (Hammersmith and Fulham; Kensington and Chelsea; and Westminster) and a small number of children diagnosed with autism from other boroughs.
The school has well-established, highly effective practice embedded throughout. Ofsted have judged the school as ‘Outstanding’ in the past three inspections of 2007, 2010 and most recently in 2014, in the new build. The school has been accredited by the national autistic society and awarded the status of ‘cutting-edge’ practice in its most recent moderation, also in 2014. Other notable awards include Investors in People (Gold Award); Inclusion Quality Mark in 2012, 2014 and National Training Award, 2008. In July 2015, the school was the national winner for our use of pupil premium funding.
Without question, the school is highly effective, not only in enabling children to progress but also in training and empowering staff to work successfully with CYP with autism. In the summer 2016 the school achieved ‘Flagship Status’ for its Inclusion Quality Mark and the Princess Royal Training award, as validation of its commitment to staff and student development.
The school participates in research to draw from the very best of the practice and resources described above. The aim is to create an environment that mirrors the overarching philosophy of being CYP led, ie, we as practitioners tailor learning and activities to best meet the accessibility needs of the CYP. Where there are difficulties we observe carefully, using our expertise in functional behaviour analysis to determine the purpose of behaviour.
To develop and enrich communication we use familiar resources like PECS (picture exchange communication system), TEACCH and other strategies and resources. Our firm belief and positive experience of the efficacy of sensory integration approaches mean that CYP will have frequent and structured access to sensory interventions like sensory circuits and more.
The school is committed to embedding the SCERTS framework which enables CYP to develop and consolidate core skills in social communication and emotional regulation, in settings and situations within and outside the classroom, which is an integral aspect of the SCERTS methodology. Our aim, using the SCERTS approach, is to extend the communication, independence, problem-solving and social abilities of our CYP.
We are committed to supporting parents and carers understand and support their child with the most applicable and up to date knowledge of the condition of autism and evidence-based interventions. We offer an extensive range of training courses to enable this. Equally, we support colleagues and professionals in other settings to deepen their understanding of autism and effective methods of support.
In keeping with our ethos of providing an environment where CYP are able to express and manage their autism in the company of highly trained staff who value them, the school’s policies on child protection and safeguarding, positive handling, equal opportunities, health and safety and assessment place the CYP, at the very centre, so that they are able to feel safe, can express themselves, develop skill s and become independent.