A positive impact

Published

Bexhill High School delivers CoPE Level 1 to a group containing three students with autism and only two students that are not eligible for Pupil Premium.

At the beginning of the course learners would not communicate with each other, were disengaged and one would not even attend the Skills Centre due to the change in environment and the minibus journey.

Early on, very strict boundaries were set with lots of rewards and incentives. Students had to complete an hour of work to receive a 10-minute bonus break. It made a real difference to their attitude, as their lesson was split into manageable chunks of learning with a reward.

The most surprising strategy to assist their learning was Student of the Day, where students receive a postcard and a chocolate treat. Their teacher, Eleanor Anderson, realised quickly that this would completely change their behaviour during the lesson and used it to change their manners and attitude to one another.

“A month ago I praised one student for being the only one to thank the minibus driver and he received Student of the Day,” she said. “Every week now the whole group say thank you without prompting. These students will offer to carry heavy bags, hold the door open for one another and support one another with their learning.

“Their folders are proof that they work every lesson and they constantly comment on the size and weight of them. I really feel that they are proud of their achievements, which they may not experience in other lessons. I would say the biggest difference CoPE has made to these students is their confidence levels and being able to work in a team.”

For one challenge, students organised an open day when they managed stalls together, welcomed visitors and staff and raised money for the National Autistic Society. One particular student even ran his own stall showing visitors how to make origami cups.

The international module was also helpful for students to break down barriers; they prepared and cooked an international breakfast for the principal and headteacher.

“It was quite refreshing for the headship team to see these particular students in a completely different light – positive, helpful and showing their wonderful manners taught in ASDAN,” Eleanor said.

“Our next project on communication is to design and make their own Mr Men book and read it to a group of primary school children. If I had asked them in Year 9 to complete this task I would have received no volunteers.

“The change in these students is clearly evident and is due to the commitment of staff and the mutual respect that has developed within the facility. I know this course is having a positive impact on these students as I frequently return from break and find the group already sitting down and working independently on their project.”