The early years phase at Arbour Vale School caters for pupils with a range of complex learning needs, providing early years opportunities for children from 2 – 8 years of age.
Class groups consist of an average of seven pupils and support ratios vary depending on the learning needs of the children within each class. There are currently 41 children across the five classes in the early years phase. Three of the classes in early years are specifically for children with Autism, one is for children with complex medical needs and profound learning difficulties and the other has children with a range of complex learning needs, some of whom have Autism but are beginning to engage in social interactions with their peers.
The early years’ staff team support parents and pupils in the transition from home, preschool or other previous setting into Arbour Vale School and work closely with parents to ensure there is on-going carryover of learning between home and school. Staff also work closely with a range of professionals to integrate a wide range of therapeutic interventions into daily activities. Physical development is a core focus within the early years’ curriculum and teachers liaise closely with physiotherapists and occupational therapists to ensure that children are making progress against their developmental milestones. Other specialists provide input for children with visual, hearing or multi-sensory impairment and adaptations to the curriculum are made to accommodate these. For some pupils, hydrotherapy, massage and sensory workouts are a part of their individual timetable.
The Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum is adapted to meet the individual needs of all pupils and allows for child led learning, as well as adult supported learning through play. Children engage in exploration of a wide range of activities that are well planned to match their developmental stage of learning and capture their interest. Particular focus is placed on developing children’s personal, social and emotional development through focused work on turn taking and learning about positive relationships and interactions which are modelled by staff.
The early years phase places a great emphasis on developing children’s communication skills, using various methods appropriate to their level of understanding, motor function and oral motor skills. These methods include: Tactile Signing for Sensory Learners (TaSSeLs), Makaton, alternative and augmentative systems, tracking, developing speech clarity, encouraging vocalization, symbols, photographs, pictures and objects of reference. Choosing is a key focus and children are supported to express yes/no, likes/dislikes and to make a preference.
The early years phase teach children to celebrate their learning and feel proud of what they can achieve; building their resilience and confidence as well as helping them to acquire core skills. This provides a solid foundation for children to build upon when they move into the primary phase of their education.