Trainee teachers in Dorset are being offered specialist placements at Wyvern Academy in Weymouth – five weeks to get a taste of what it takes to work with children and young people with complex needs, including autistic spectrum disorder.
Wyvern Academy was the first special school in the county to offer extended five week placements as part of the Dorset Teacher Training Partnership (DTTP) – a one-year route into primary teaching for high-calibre graduates.
Thirty partner schools share responsibility for management of the School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) course, with trainee teachers spending around 24 weeks on teaching placements, which must include two to three days in a special school.
Mel Lane, assistant director at DTTP, said: “Some of the trainees will be hoping to go into special needs teaching, others into mainstream, but a placement at Wyvern Academy is an invaluable experience for them all.
“Our colleagues at Wyvern are so generous in the support they give the SCITT trainees, all of whom have learned a huge amount there and been very positive about the experience. We are so pleased to be able to offer them these placements.”
The latest trainee, Sue Shirley, said: “I have never worked with children with disabilities before and it was quite an eye-opener. I really enjoyed working with a class with children without verbal communication and was impressed by the communication aids put in place, such as the use of ipads.
“It was wonderful at Wyvern School. They have a really supportive team who work very closely to get the best from the children in very challenging situations. It is a very special school and I will never forget working with the children in the swimming pool and in the nursery room, which were so different to any other school situation.”
David Tomlinson, deputy head of Wyvern Academy, said the school benefited enormously from being involved in training the teachers of tomorrow.
“The trainees we host are committed and motivated, and really passionate about what they do. This enriches classroom activities no end. Stepping up our involvement is a real winner for all involved.
“The mentoring process is very rewarding for our staff, and pupils benefit from interactions with a wider variety of professionals.”
As well as the extended placements, Wyvern Academy is also assisting the SCITT programme by contributing two training presentations for all trainees, delivered by the academy’s own Kelly Stinton and IT specialist, Nobby Cranny.
Nobby has been using iPads as a teaching tool for over four years, and has already proved a popular visitor to other regional educational establishments, training their staff on the benefits of using iPads in the classroom.
David Tomlinson said: “All our classrooms are equipped with the latest computer technology, including tablet devices and communication aids, and we find them invaluable for creating resources and assessments, delivering lessons and keeping records for evidence and evaluation.
“Nobby really know his stuff and is an enthusiastic and engaging presenter. He’ll give the SCITT trainees plenty of practical, useful and straightforward advice that they’ll be able to put into practice the very next day. We’re confident the trainee teachers will get a lot out of his sessions.”
The majority of pupils at Wyvern have substantial global developmental delay, emergent communication skills and are highly dependent. Some have additional disabilities including cerebral palsy, sensory impairment, autism and/or complex needs including challenging behaviour.
Wyvern Academy is a specialist school for cognition and learning, providing highly individualised education for up to 86 pupils aged 2 – 19 years with complex learning difficulties, including Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Wyvern is accredited by the National Autistic Society. For further details see www.wyvern.dorset.sch.uk