PMLD learners’ success celebrated through Lifeskills Challenge
Lifeskills Challenge offers a flexible way to recognise and reward small steps of achievement, with a focus on personalised learning and progression. Arriane Munson, Head of ASDAN at The Milestone School, Gloucestershire, tells us how the programme boosts learners’ life outcomes.
“The Milestone School is for learners with special educational needs and is comprised of over 300 students aged 2 to 16,” says Arriane. “We registered as an ASDAN centre in September 2020 and began delivering ASDAN’s Lifeskills Challenge. As a school, we found that other routes for accreditation weren’t meeting all of our learners’ needs and weren’t recognising the achievements of our more complex young people.
“Last year we delivered Lifeskills Challenge to all our Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 learners. The activities complemented our curriculum topics and focused on developing learners’ life skills in preparation for adulthood.
“Lifeskills Challenge enables us to really celebrate the successes that we see in the classroom every day. It’s been fantastic to build a portfolio of work that we know the children have enjoyed being a part of,” says Arriane.
Offering flexibility and a broad range of topics
Lifeskills Challenge is an online bank of challenges for learners working from pre-Entry to Level 3. Challenges have been mapped to the four Preparing for Adulthood pathways and cover subject areas such as English, mathematics and PSHE.
“ASDAN’s Lifeskills Challenge has a huge variety of activities and also provides an optional resource for us to write our own challenges,” says Arriane. “Our staff really appreciate having this option to make the challenges even more specific to the learners’ needs, if required. It’s easy to include core skills and communications skills within the challenges.
“The Research a topic of interest Entry level 2 challenge was great, the learners created PowerPoints and presented their findings to our head of department and their peers.
“These presentations gave learners a sense of ownership. They really enjoyed creating such detailed research on topics of personal interest.
“Through delivering their presentations, our students learned how to present themselves and engage in debates fairly and calmly to demonstrate why they felt so strongly about their values. These are such great communication skills for young people to develop and they’ve learned that not everyone has the same opinion.”
Evidencing everyday achievements
Lifeskills Challenge provides a personalised curriculum for those facing barriers to learning.
“I have always worked with young people with complex needs and challenging behavior,” says Arriane. “There isn’t a standard framework or curriculum for learners with complex needs. Having taught ASDAN before, I have always found that the ASDAN programmes really embrace and celebrate the individual student’s successes, which is amazing!
“We build up a big portfolio of evidence with a timeline so that when pupils leave they can see where they started and what they have achieved. It’s really lovely to be able to show the parents the folder of evidence at the end of the year and proudly say that this is how much their young person has progressed and this is what they enjoyed. We all love it,” says Arriane.
Building sensory and social engagement
“The work for the Exploring and participating in a sensory story (stories told through a combination of text and sensory stimuli) Entry level 1 challenge has been just beautiful. It’s wonderful to see the learners engaging with the stories as well as exploring and creating their own resources. We have seen an increase in communication and interaction.
“We’ve also seen pupils develop their social skills, for example pupils have learned to wait their turn and to share resources. Students have also become more confident in exploring items through all their senses, like touch, taste and smell.
“Lifeskills Challenge has increased learners’ ability to engage with an activity for a longer period of time. The sensory story would initially run for about five to 10 minutes but by the end of the academic year we were able to deliver a story in which the students engaged and explored the resources for a sustained period of time and then would go on to complete activities linked to the story afterwards.
“All the learners were fully engaged, sitting down at a table together and waiting their turn, which is great progress!” says Arriane.
Clear framework for staff leads to student success
“Staff at The Milestone School have found the Lifeskills Challenge briefs and assessment criteria very clear and self-explanatory,” says Arriane. “We hold two standardisation meetings every term in order to moderate each other’s work and it’s really nice to see the consistency in evidencing. It’s also great to see that learners are producing such high-quality work because the structure of Lifeskills Challenge and the assessment criteria are so clear.
“I undertake the internal moderation and I can see that the learning is being adapted to each student’s interests and needs. I can see that there’s been an enormous amount of pride and enjoyment that students have taken from each challenge. Lifeskills Challenge provides a framework for us to focus on the skills we want to encourage our young people to gain prior to transitioning to post-16 education,” says Arriane.
Preparing young people with SEND for a positive adulthood
“Lifeskills Challenge has given our learners an insight into some of the skills they will need in preparation for adulthood. Pupils have experienced cooking simple meals, shopping in the community and work experience opportunities. Lifeskills Challenge has given our learners more independence and developed their life skills.
“I couldn’t recommend Lifeskills Challenge enough, it is has been fantastic for us” says Arriane. “The variation of topics is phenomenal and Lifeskills Challenge is brilliant at enabling us to celebrate the personal, everyday successes all our learners achieve, no matter their ability. It works for everyone.”
Arriane Munson, Head of ASDAN and Emotion Coach Lead at The Milestone School, Gloucestershire.