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Dedicated Care and Improving Outcomes: Residential Services at Dawn House

Giving our children with speech and language communication needs (SLCN) the best care and education possible is our number one priority. Rebecca Baxter, Residential Services Manager at our Dawn House School, writes about why residential care is so important and the innovations they use to improve all areas of their children’s lives.


In recent years, the number of residential placements at Dawn House has steadily declined. However, the school is striving hard to reverse this.

Dawn House provides specialist education, therapy and care for children and young people with the most complex speech language and communication needs (SLCN) and we’re making a concerted effort to raise the profile of the residential provision.

We are proud of the impact that it’s had and we’re determined to deliver on I CAN’s vision of a world where all children have the communication skills they need to fulfil their potential.

The current residential provision comprises of two adjoining houses; housing 6 students with the capacity for an additional five young people. Rufford is home to the pre-sixteen students from Monday to Friday and Newstead houses their neighbours from the post-sixteen provision.

The weekly boarders are also joined at different points throughout the week by peers accessing extended days and occasional overnight stays.

After school clubs for day students include a drama group that showcase their talents with performances at Christmas and at the end of the summer term, as well as ‘play dates,’ 1:1 guitar tuition and a weekly aqua-fit/swim party. The impact of after school clubs has been significant.

Firstly, they have facilitated friendships across the school and given students the confidence to try new things and to access leisure opportunities independent of their family members. For one student who follows an individualised programme in the quieter educational setting of Chimes, attending drama club enabled him to participate as part of a group in the main school building for the first time.

The Residential Service Manager is consulting with students and parents to develop additional extra-curricular activities to meet specific interests and needs, and can offer guidance on the application process to secure funding for short breaks. Parents can pay directly for an evening’s activities and may use childcare vouchers or personal budgets to do so.

The residential team contribute to the delivery of a 24-hour curriculum that builds confidence, resilience, self-esteem and positive attitudes towards life and continued learning through life-skills activities, daily routines and a wide range of leisure pursuits on site and in the local community.

Individual programmes of care are planned and implemented that support young people to pursue their own interests, develop increasing independence and to achieve personal goals. Learning in this area is underpinned by the completion of ‘Aim Award Modules’ for which external accreditation is achieved.

Recent external verification saw the following achievement for our residential students, three of which have since moved onto further education.

One student achieved 4 credits and three achieved 7 credits respectively, securing Aim Awards in Skills for Education and Further Learning (SEFL) at Entry Level 3 or above. A further 3 students achieved 10 credits and gained An Extended Aim Award.

All Sixth form residential students achieved accreditation, alongside one pre-sixteen student who already has one completed unit in their Aim Award Portfolio.

This year the progress of all residential students will be measured against Aim Award assessment criteria. Areas for focused work include: Domestic Cooking Skills, Domestic Skills, Using Public Transport and Responsible Road Vehicle Ownership and Use.

The residential team work closely with parents, teachers, therapists and members of the well-being team to support students to overcome the challenges individuals might face in accessing educational opportunities and new experiences, and to manage transitions and relationships; in person and with the use of technology.

Ofsted reported that residential staff “know all pupils very well” and “care for them as a good parent would.” They concluded that at Dawn House “Residential provision enhances pupils’ education and their recreational and social lives. Educational outcomes improve because of the impact of residential care.”

Since the Ofsted inspection in October 2018, an extensive programme of refurbishment to the residential building has been planned, and began with renovations to the Kitchen in Rufford residence.

All areas are to be upgraded to this standard which we hope will help us regain an outstanding judgement at our next inspection. It has certainly made students and staff very happy, and got them excited about next steps.

These include a garden make-over to the Quad that leads to the approach to both houses, as well as redecoration throughout. Residential students have been consulted with regard to colour schemes, and have been involved in sourcing and choosing new furniture for their bedrooms and living rooms, which will be updated as part of a rolling programme.

They have also made a wish list of added extras which will make things feel extra special. This includes a swing seat, recycling bins, which have inspired a whole school initiative and a cereal dispenser!

Our students are invested in the residential provision and parents have said that the opportunities it provides their children have made them flourish; daily living skills, opportunities for increased independence and the chance to practise social interactions in a supportive environment is key to helping them to achieve their potential, with the ultimate goal to be happy, confident individuals that contribute to society.

It is a privilege to witness and to contribute to their development and achievements.

Find out more about the Residential Services that Dawn House has to offer here.

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