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Positive Attention in the Education World: How Unusual

Guest blog from Mandy Lewis, Assistant Head at Peacehaven Community School

In November last year, our school was the proud recipient of the ‘Secondary School of the Year’ award at the Shine a Light 2012 awards run by The Communication Trust.

It was a great achievement for Peacehaven Community School to be recognised for the commitment that our staff contribute to supporting our students’ speech, language and communication.

Peacehaven is a mainstream secondary in East Sussex and we have a facility for 20 pupils with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). We adopted I CAN’s flagship secondary programme, Secondary Talk to help us improve pupils’ communication skills and increase their attainment in language and literacy.

Using Secondary Talk, we focused on developing vocabulary at Key Stage 4 with an emphasis on words such as ‘process’, ‘analyse’, ‘describe’ or ‘contrast’. These ‘tier two’ words have been highlighted as an important factor in academic success.

Professionals from the Learning Support and Development Faculty also worked closely with staff across the school, on how to ensure lessons and homework were accessible to all, as well as those with communication difficulties.

Through our work we have witnessed a definite increase in awareness and understanding of language and communication across the school. Our work was even included in Children and Young People Now as a best practice case study sharing learning with others.

Importantly, parents felt their understanding of language and communication improved. In the SLCN Facility, 35% of pupils showed improved attendance compared to the previous year and 53% reduced the number of points for behaviour issues.

These outcomes helped us with the Shine a Light award and it has resulted in a great deal of recognition and awareness amongst our local community. It was lovely to receive congratulations from a range of professionals working in education and health, including educational psychologists and key players from the Local Authority; we even received a letter from the Director of Children’s Services.

All of this positive attention has been encouraging and unusual in the education world! It has given us increased confidence in the quality of our own practice and most importantly parents, carers and students have been able to celebrate in the success too.

The legacy of our Secondary Talk work is hugely important to us as we continue to regularly review our whole school practice. We have embedded training on language and communication in our school’s continuous professional development (CPD) programme and invested in IPAD language and communication apps, which we are trialing with individuals and small groups of students.

It has been a fantastic start to 2013 but award glory aside, what’s important to us is regularly reviewing the impact of our work on academic achievement, attendance and behaviour and looking ahead to new information and new resources that will support the needs of individual students and develop communication across the school.

Mandy Lewis, Assistant Head at Peacehaven Community School