Behaviour and safety at our school are an intrinsic part of our approach to life in school and The Wherry School curriculum. Students enjoy learning in a calm, safe and happy environment. Our staff are incredibly kind, build trusting relationships and model high standards of personal behaviour and friendship; staff are skilled in finding out what makes each student feel safe, happy and able to achieve their own personal goals.
Unconditional Positive Regard:
At The Wherry School, we value the idea of unconditional positive regard. This means, we aim to see our students in a positive light regardless of what they do or say from day to day. We know that everyone needs to feel understood and cared for in order to feel safe. Feeling safe is an important start-point in being ready to learn. So, by seeing the best in our students, letting them move on from mistakes and treating them with kindness and compassion every day we aim to help them feel safe and ready to learn here at school.
This value is echoed in our approach to managing challenging behaviour: we use a positive behaviour support framework across the school. This means we work hard to see situations from our students' point of view so we can understand why they might behave in a challenging way from time to time. This understanding allows us to make positive plans to support their needs and help them develop new ways to cope so they don't have to resort to challenging behaviour in the future.
Valuing the positives in these ways is not just an approach we apply to the children. We recognise that the adults who support them in school are working hard all of the time to anticipate the specific needs of lots of individuals. This can take more attention, concentration and energy than delivering prepared lessons to classes of students with similar abilities and typical ways of relating. So, as well as training our staff in autism and positive behaviour support, we offer all staff opportunities to participate in reflective practice by attending regular supervision sessions with our professional support team. This gives them a regular space to talk through challenges, learn from each other and value themselves.
Our school physical building and environment along with the daily structure, and our ASSK (Autism Specific Skills and Knowledge) Curriculum, which include individualised learning to learn behaviours, complement the positive behaviour strategies approaches to allow our children to become confident and independent learners and young people.
Rooms around the school are designed to reduce “environmental stress”, support the students’ sensory needs and promote social skills, social communication skills and opportunities to work, play and develop friendships across the school; and to allow the children and young people to develop both the Lifeskills and knowledge they will need for an independent life beyond the school, alongside their learning needs. The school day has structured routines so students are clear about what happens and when, these are supported by a number of useful resources such as visual information, signs and images as well as staff who provide support and challenge to lessen dependency.
We have small rooms and quiet rooms in each classroom learning space, and across the school, for the children and young people to use as needed; all classrooms lead into large shared spaces where children can safely gather. Specialist rooms and spaces around the school can be used for regulation, calming and to develop sensory regulatory activities with specialist clinical staff, such as the occupational therapy team, or with suitably trained support staff.
Behaviour Management Approaches:
All our staff receive regular training in Positive Behaviour Strategies and Approaches and positive behaviour management, using the Norfolk STEPS approaches, based on positive relationships and de-escalation techniques, underpinned by an excellent understanding of the roots of anxiety based behaviours and challenging behaviours. The staff, senior leaders, supported by the Clinical Psychologist within the school multi-disciplinary clinical team, monitor and analyse student behaviour and work together to develop Positive Behaviour Management Plans for students, as required – all students have a page profile which identifies triggers and anxiety areas and is developed with the child, family and a team of professionals.
Advice and support is provided by senior leaders across the school, including staff who are STEPS trainers and specialists such as the school’s Clinical and Educational Psychologists. We work closely with parents and carers in the development and review of these plans.
Our school aim is to provide an individualised curriculum and learning journey which allows our children and young people to become live successful independent lives.
Children and young people are encouraged to become as independent as possible as they move through the years and Key Stages across our school. Students have opportunities to take on roles and responsibilities within the school community, such as council members, identifying opportunities to explore their own interests and learning and as peer support for other pupils.
The Wherry School ASSK (Autism Specific Skills and Knowledge) Curriculum which includes a focus on Friendship, Social Communication, Self-esteem and Self-awareness teaches specific skills which help all students to manage their own behaviour in a range of everyday situations both in and out of school. We use the Zones of Regulation to help pupils understand their emotions and find the best ways to respond, alongside a well embedded sensory processing and physical regulation programme, which provides a series of activities and approaches for the children and young people to utilise to support their individual self-regulation.
You can read our Behaviour Policy and approaches to positive behaviour here.
You can find out more about our ASSK - Autism Specific Skills and Knowledge Curriculum here:
You can find out more about Zones of Regulation here