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School celebrates autism award

Published on Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A SPECIAL school in Leicester is celebrating after being awarded official autism accreditation from the National Autistic Society.

Oaklands School, a special school for primary-age children, has just been awarded the standard, which shows it is committed to understanding autism and demonstrating best practice.

To get the accreditation, the school had to show it was experienced in supporting autistic people. Staff first had to do a detailed audit of what they currently did, before formulating an action plan and, with the help of an advisor, showing how they would put further measures in place that help to support people with autism.

Changes to both the physical environment and teaching methods have had a significant impact on autistic pupils at Oaklands. For example, the curriculum is now built around a variety of learning experiences that enable children to cope in social situations outside the school, such as going to the hairdressers. These ‘Out and About’ lessons are highly valued by parents as they respond directly to the needs of children with autism, who can be overwhelmed by the noises, bright lights and crowds.

Children are prepared for these outside events and outings through language-building and interaction activities inside the school, so that they develop essential life skills they will need for the future.

The school has 100 pupils, 75 of whom have a diagnosis of autism and all of whom have communication and interaction needs, meaning all benefit from the approaches and changes to the environment introduced in response to the accreditation process.

Head teacher Sarah Osborne said: “I would like to emphasise that each person on the staff team, and the continued support of the governing body during the past three years, has enabled us achieve this.

“By working together and being clear about our purpose and vision for our school, the full team has been instrumental in making these changes happen. The school has certainly changed in many ways, much of which has been guided by the accreditation. This is significant confirmation that our journey has taken us in the right direction.”

Deputy city mayor Cllr Sarah Russell, who leads on children, young people and schools, said: “It’s great news that Oaklands School has been recognised for best practice in autism. It’s very important that every child is given the best possible chance to thrive and achieve their potential during their education, whatever their needs.

“I’m very proud of the work that our special schools do and I congratulate everyone connected with Oaklands for the hard work I know they have put in to achieve this accreditation.”

Parent Emma Green said: “My son has been at Oaklands for two years and, wow, how things have changed for him! Oaklands is an amazing school.”

Parent Sarah Daughton said: “My child adores the school and is making so many friends. He is learning in such a wonderful environment, which he is used to, and is really happy. He is thriving because the teachers are wonderful and really understand his needs.”

Connor Brown, in Year 6, added that he enjoys coming to school because he likes doing hard work, has lots of friends and his teachers are “amazing!”