Tuesday, 21 November 2017

School for children who don’t fit into mainstream

A SCHOOL for children who don’t fit into mainstream or special needs education has opened in Hurley.

A SCHOOL for children who don’t fit into mainstream or special needs education has opened in Hurley.

Beech Lodge School works with children with social and emotional difficulties, attachment difficulties and mild learning difficulties.

The fee-paying school, which is based in a converted barn, has eight children enrolled with two more set to join in September, taking it to maximum capacity.

Daniela Shanly, who owns Beech Lodge, said: “What we’re doing is quite new and innovative and we’ve had enquiries coming out of our ears.

“All our children had difficulties at their mainstream school academically or socially so we give them a much more relevant way of learning. It’s not just sitting in a classroom.

“Some of the children have social or communication difficulties and haven’t made friends as they should do so they’re being helped through that.

“For others, their literacy or handwriting is very weak and they are given the extra input to bring that up.”

Ms Shanly, who has two adopted children, set up Beech Lodge with Emma Barklem, a mother of four, because they both had children who needed alternative education.

Ms Shanly said: “We both had sons who were struggling in mainstream education and we thought there was no school within a 20-mile radius that provided the right environment.

“We had the means, the time and the preparation we needed to get cracking with it.

“Our children are completely different but they need the same thing. The way the curriculum is delivered means almost nothing to them.”

The school, which is for children aged seven to 17, is currently based on a temporary site in Honey Lane and must move to bigger premises after two years.

The school is supported by the Shanly Foundation, a charity owned by developer Shanly Homes, which owns the current building.

It is registered with Ofsted and the Department of Education as an independent school.

Headmistress Lucy Barnes uses a mixture of outdoor learning and traditional classroom education.

She said: “Children who need more active learning can still receive the same curriculum input but they are given a programme individually tailored to how they learn best.”

Ms Barnes said the children participated in activities such as bringing pets to school and online research often without realising they were learning at the same time.

The pupils are organised into groups where they are educated according to the stage of their learning rather than their age. They won’t take SATs but will take vocational qualifications and selected GCSEs.

They will also build a portfolio throughout their time at the school.

The school has three full-time teachers who are supplemented by weekly visits from a dyslexia specialist, occupational therapist, music teacher, literacy specialist, educational psychologist and picture language therapist.

Beech Lodge has a kitchen classroom, where the pupils cook for each other and eat together as well as providing a space to learn science and maths through cookery.

There are also two classrooms, a hall, one-to-one room and a chill-out room, including big cushions and toys.

Pupils sit on ball chairs because some of them suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and these allow them to bounce while still concentrating.

They are each given educational laptops and tablets that include handwriting and voice recognition software and cameras.

Ms Shanly said: “They have yoga on a Monday and they also learn circus skills. It’s a rounded and colourful timetable.

“Our children have incredible talents which aren’t always recognised in mainstream schools. One child is a great artist.

“They can be who they want to be. We have no ethos, just that ‘it’s good to be me’, and there’s no uniform here.

“They were in uniform before and they never felt like they belonged or were part of what school was all about. Now they can feel part of something and can be themselves.”

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