A key part of our approach to curriculum delivery is using different spaces around the school for different areas of the curriculum. This is an approach more familiar in secondary schools, however we believe it delivers significant benefits to our children. The use of specialist spaces for each area of the curriculum allows each space to be carefully designed to enhance each area of learning. Individual spaces focus a child on the idea of a particular area of the curriculum, this in turn breeds comfort through familiarity with the expectations of the activities associated with each subject and space. In using the whole school children truly develop a sense of familiarity and ownership of the school which promotes their confidence and comfort during their time at school. Furthermore, the physical movement involved in moving between classrooms provides an excellent opportunity for our children to expend energy throughout the school day, promotes independent movement around the school and provides a regular sensory movement break required by many of our children. For a child who cannot tell the time this movement around the school supports our visual timetables and a sense of time passing and the sequence of the day which our children need in order to make sense of their time in school.
THE JOURNEY ROOM
Our multi-sensory theatre which we call our ‘Journey Room’ is a particularly special part of the school. Having considered traditional multi-sensory environments, the journey room was designed from scratch to allow the same calming or stimulating functions such a space must offer, but in an active rather than passive manner. It also allows us to use the room for so much more. We call it the ‘Journey Room’ as the technology it uses allows us to transport our children anywhere, from The Amazon to outer space. The only limit is our own imagination because in the journey room, for our children, adventure becomes reality!
Filled with all manner of state of the art (SpaceKraft) technology, all five senses of vision, sound, smell, touch and taste can be used to take children on a truly interactive journey of our devising. This functionality is frequently used to introduce children to a particular topic or as the summary activity at the end of a theme. We find it helps them truly understand a particular topic through full immersion in ways that otherwise would simply not be possible. As well as a cinematic screen, coloured lights, spotlights, projectors, lasers, fans, surround sound and a smoke machine there is an interactive floor space. These, along with other physical prompts allow children to fully interact, making the activity a child-led, natural approach. Furthermore, we are able to bring experiences started within the Journey Room out into the wider school, as initial prompts for such experiences can be transferred to anywhere in the school with an interactive whiteboard. For example, rehearsed storytelling could be practised in the Journey Room and then eventually transferred to a performance downstairs in the main hall as the sensory prompts are removed one by one.
We are also able to use the space as somewhere the children can be desensitised to particular prompts they find upsetting, such as the barking of a dog or thunder and lightning. The children are able to experience such sensory experiences, but brought under their control in a space where they feel comfortable and safe. Using the journey room facility encourages development of the children’s cognitive and affective domains. The activities greatly assist with many developmental goals for the children, these include development of both gross and fine motor control; growth in self-confidence and personal adequacy through mastering a particular activity.
‘There are specialist facilities for science, physical
education and food technology. There is a library and
an excellent sensory room.’ Ofsted Report 2011
While our school library on the top floor has the same aesthetic feel as a traditional library, it also accommodates all the best features to be found in a children’s library. We offer beanbags and custom built furniture that promotes groups of children to read or listen in an enjoyable space.
We have four classrooms on the ground floor. All are large and bright and equipped with inter-active white boards which are height adjustable so can be personalised for each child. Mood lighting which can be optionally used according to each activity enhances the learning experience within the classrooms. All classrooms have specially designed semi-circular ‘cubby corners’ built on hidden wheels that can be easily moved and used for reading areas, role-play and dressing up areas, break away speech groups or a place for a quiet sensory break within the classroom. All classrooms have specially designed and crafted ‘jigsaw’ tables that can be pieced together as one whole table allowing pupil’s to work as a whole group, or tables can be pulled away to allow pupils to work in smaller groups or one-to-one.
Our sound-proofed music rooms are comprehensively stocked with instruments including a piano and an electric drum kit. As well as group and individual music lessons, music is a fundamental part of our curriculum. Music is frequently linked with literacy – for example, making particular noises helps form specific sounds in speech or sentence fluency. One of the school’s core aims is to develop skills in which children show a particular interest, or for which they display an aptitude. In such cases, we delight in bringing in a peripatetic teacher to work with these children.
The physiotherapy room, in common with the other sensory rooms on the first floor, has all the state of the art equipment to offer best possible support to the children. Suspended equipment, soft play and a variety of interactive games allow children to embrace and enjoy a range of physical activities and exercises to maximise their physical potential and independence.
SPEECH AND LANGUAGE THERAPY ROOM
At first glance our speech and language therapist’s room appears to be the plainest in the school in order to minimise distractions and help children to focus on their language and communication. However, the magic is in the cupboards. This room has an entire wall of hidden storage so is well equipped and allows the speech and language therapist to create a space that is personalised and motivating for the individual child she is working with. The space is also big enough for one-to-one or group sessions to take place comfortably.
OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY ROOM
The occupational therapist’s room really must be seen to be appreciated. In the centre of the room are hooks for suspended equipment. A wall of hidden storage houses the swings and bolsters which are used for sensory integration programmes as well as a variety of stimulating games which promote learning as well as generalising fine motor skills which are practised in tailor–made hand programmes designed by our occupational therapist. White boards and mirrors allow children to practise handwriting in a variety of ways including writing their names in shaving foam.
THE SCIENCE LAB
The science lab is an integral part of a traditional sensory room, promoting concepts of cause and effect. Science is where the entire curriculum collides, numeracy meets literacy with knowledge and understanding of the world. The science lab will grow with the children, developing as the needs of the curriculum grow. Science lessons are highly enjoyable and stimulating activities where children have the opportunity to generalise and apply skills learned in other areas of the curriculum without even realising it.