Abbot’s Lea School transform Key Stage 5 provision

Woolton’s award-winning specialist school has announced it has transformed its Key Stage 5 provision for the new school year starting this September.

Abbot’s Lea School, which specialises in the highest quality education for students with autism and a range of associated learning needs, has reviewed its curricular offer for students aged 16-19, and recognised that there needs to be even more preparation for independent life and work as the leavers enter the big wide world.

Headteacher, Mrs Ania Hildrey, together with the new deputy headteacher, Mrs Emily Tobin, and other members of the leadership team, have developed a unique curriculum that focuses entirely on the transition to adulthood.

The innovative school has devised a multifaceted approach, which explores how the young adults can strive towards independence, and live a healthy and happy adult life.

Over several months, students will take part in a range of modules that cover: team building, mindfulness and wellbeing, personalised independent travel, budgeting and career planning.

The curriculum will, unsurprisingly, concentrate heavily on the world of work. Students will be supported to create a personalised career plan, based on their talents, strengths and what they would like to do after they leave school.

No plan will be seen as too ambitious, as the school believes that an autism diagnosis is not a barrier when it comes to future life opportunities. Quite the opposite – each person is cherished for what they bring to the school, society and the potential workplace.

Specialist staff will help students work out which path is right for them, whether that is progressing onto a further education college, exploring options for entry into higher education, or entering the workplace via a programme such as a supported internship or an apprenticeship.

Mrs Tobin said: “The new Key Stage 5 curriculum will be completely unique and personalised to our students. This year, we will have over 40 young people entering this Key Stage, which is a ringing endorsement for the popularity of our school, and the parental trust we are graced with. It is also a sign of the fantastic relationships students establish with our staff and the continuity of support and guidance we provide to our young people.

“All that said, however, our approach must be increasingly outward-facing. We must work together with the students to help them move on from the safety and security of the school onto their next steps. The key is creating a transition plan with our students; not for our students and gaining family support for the next phase of increasingly independence.”

Mrs Hildrey added: “Education is lifelong and it neither starts when a child enters school, nor ends when a young person leaves it upon graduation. Equally, some students are ready to leave school at 16, whilst others benefit from another year, two, three at school.

“Through this more flexible approach, we hope that we will depart from a current (often unhelpful for the students’ progression) assumption that, once you enter Key Stage 5 at Abbot’s Lea, you stay until you reach the age of 19. Instead, we want to work really flexible, dynamically and in a truly person-centred way to accelerate the readiness for progression out of school and onto the new pathways of learning – be it at college, work-based learning or, indeed, the school of independent adult life!

“I am confident that this new approach will engage young people more and provide them with a more self-determining and therefore, empowered, educational model”.

One parent said: “This yet again confirms how Abbot’s Lea views my son – as a success, someone who will live an independent, contributing and rewarding adult life. I would be lying if I said the thought of moving away from Abbot’s Lea School doesn’t worry me a little – as much for me as my son, but I know it is the right next step for him.”

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