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School radio station develops SEN learners' communication and interaction skills

West Oaks SEN Specialist School and College in Leeds caters for learners aged two to 19 with a wide range of needs including profound, multiple and complex conditions, autism and severe learning difficulties. The school currently delivers the ASDAN SEND provision programmes and qualifications, including Preparing for Adulthood and Personal Progress, with a particular focus on literacy and numeracy. Teaching is focussed wherever possible on a real-life context and making learning meaningful.

In 2016, the school was awarded a grant of £3,000 from ASDAN to establish an in-school radio station to support learning for Key Stage 3 and 4 students and to coincide with the school’s specialism – SEN communication and interaction.

Shane Baker, a Class Teacher at the college, said: “The radio station equipment has been installed and students have already begun working together to explore the equipment, gaining confidence in recording their voices and interviewing their peers. Students have also been on an educational visit to Studio 12 in Leeds, a digital media initiative that invests in the creative talents of disadvantaged young people, to begin developing their understanding of media. They will return shortly to gain experience of professional recording in a purpose-built studio, with the possibility of recording their very own song.”

Learners have also visited Leeds University to explore their student radio station and discuss the stages involved in making a radio show. The school is hoping to build on this partnership, whereby the university students support West Oaks students to develop key transferable skills.

The first school radio broadcast, which will be available to parents, learners and the general public, will go live on the school’s website at the end of the spring term 2017, once learners have had the chance to undertake training and develop their skills.

“The opportunities for students involved in this project are endless for cross-curricular activities including exploring music, speaking and listening, English, mathematics, arts and computing,” Shane explains. “The radio station has allowed the school to tap into the students’ particular interests and has supported learners’ development in many different ways, from speaking to each other, to developing listening skills and enhancing their knowledge of computing. These can all be linked with the ASDAN modules in both Preparing for Adulthood programmes and Personal Progress. 

“The project has truly inspired learners and has led to students becoming much more confident in in using the microphone and recording equipment. We wish for the radio station to become fully established and utilised throughout our school and college community and will continue to look at other opportunities to bring learning to life using innovative methods.”