Abbot’s Lea launches innovative Positive Behaviour Support service and support hub

One of the largest specialist schools in Liverpool has launched a new Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) service and hub delivered by its multidisciplinary team of PBS experts. 

Abbot’s Lea School in Woolton delivers a high-quality holistic education for students aged 3-19 living with autism and other complex needs. 

The school has recruited a dedicated team of experts to run the new provision. 

The hub is designed to offer additional help to students who have become disengaged from education or require extra support with complex needs, including most challenging behaviours.  

The innovative analytical and therapeutic team works alongside school staff to improve attendance, behaviour and through both, success of the young people with autism and complex learning and social, emotional and mental health needs. 

The school proudly adopts a positive behaviour support philosophy, stating that: 

  • All behaviours happen for a reason 
  • There are four basic functions of behaviour 
  • Appropriate behaviour requires skills; we teach these skills 
  • We never give up on our students 

Rather than rewarding or punishing specific behaviours, the school seeks to understand the function of the behaviour. 

By assessing the social and physical environment in which the behaviour happens, it uses this understanding to develop support that improves the quality of life for the person and those around them.  

The school always keeps the student at the centre of its work, with their views and those involved in their education and care (including family) central to the programme of support. 

The PBS service and the support hub is led by the school’s positive behaviour support leader, Claire Welch.  

Claire is a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA), who has worked with children and adults with complex needs and challenging behaviour for the past 18 years, across a range of settings in the North West and North Wales. 

Claire’s vision for the hub is to ensure that every child leaves school with the skills to lead a full and meaningful life, reducing the risk of crisis behaviours and possible intrusive support or incriminating social sanction. 

Six positive behaviour support assistants have also joined the team and provide support to assess students’ needs and support class teams in creating positive risk-taking, skills’ development and relationship-building, as identified in the function-based analysis. 

The hub is located on site of Abbot’s Lea School and is split into two main functions. 

The first space supports students to reengage with education where they struggle to attend school, and the second space supports students with highly challenging behaviours when these lead to dysregulation and disengagement from their class-based programme of study. 

Claire Welch said: “I was attracted to the role initially due to Abbot’s Lea School’s ambition to be the best school specialist school in the world.  

“Alongside this, having met the headteacher and the senior leadership team, I was excited at the prospect of being able to create a resource that provides bespoke support for the students with most complex needs who don’t always get the help and understanding they deserve.” 

Headteacher of Abbot’s Lea School, Mrs Ania Hildrey, said: “Our school never gives up on students. We aim to operate a non-exclusion policy and yet, over time, like many other schools, we have found ourselves in a place where “nothing worked” for some of the most complex of our youngsters. 

“Rather than give up, we have worked hard to come up with an innovative solution. Having piloted, over the past two years, a nurture provision approach, we learnt a lot. Some of the strategies used worked well and many did not add value at all.  

“This led to a refined project: a truly multi-disciplinary approach that blends various schools of thought and methods of working to best support the ever-growing complexity of our population. 

“The creation of our PBS service and the support hub has already transformed lives of some of our students and we have only just begun. Furthermore, the insertion of new expertise into the staff team has reinvigorated us all – after all, if teachers stop learning, the learning stalls, too! 

“We understand that all behaviours happen for a reason, and we have taken it upon ourselves to delve deeper into what the most challenging behaviours might mean, so that we can find the right solution for each individual young person in our care, and ensure they have access to the best education and, more importantly, life’s opportunities, possible.” 

Mrs Hildrey added: “I have every confidence that Claire will continue to successfully lead this new provision, supported capably by our amazing positive behaviour support assistants and the entire school team.” 

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