Vicky Wadey

At Horizons Academy Bexley, we cater for students with a variety of special educational needs whose behaviour in school has resulted in a referral to our services for outreach and preventative support, twelve week respite programmes at primary and Key St and long term placements for pupils in Years 10 and 11. We also provide education in the short term for pupils who have been permanently excluded from mainstream schools, including those who have Education Health Care Plans. However, it is not regarded as good practice for pupils with EHC Plans to access our services as permanently excluded pupils when this can be avoided through the annual review process. Therefore, pupils with EHC Plans spending time at Horizons Academy Bexley is not a usual occurrence. Where a pupil is permanently excluded, they immediately have Fair Access status and are referred to the local FAP for placement once they have completed a programme of intervention with us. However, in the case of pupils with EHC Plans, FAP is not the forum for placement and, again, the Local Authority SEN Panel must look to name a school in a timely fashion as the PRU cannot be named on any EHC Plan.

Some of the pupils who arrive with us have undiagnosed SEN or are in the process of being reviewed through the EHC process. However, this is not the case for the majority of pupils and many of them come to us due to difficulties with boundaries and social issues which have impacted on their ability to engage appropriately in school. Our focus is to work in partnership with schools to identify the barriers to mainstream success and to develop a range of strategies within our Refocus Programme to support pupils in overcoming these and reintegrating successfully. Where pupils are in Key Stage 4 and have accessed a robust range of interventions previously, consideration may be given to a longer term place and we instead focus on facilitating the achievement of high quality accreditation to enable them to transition effectively into the Key Stage 5 element of their educational journey.

During their placement with us, some pupils clearly display behaviours and learning issues which alert us to possibly unmet needs. These are discussed with parents / carers and with the home school. Our SENCO will work collaboratively with school colleagues to make the necessary referrals and to advise on EHC applications. The level of support will be changeable depending on the confidence and experience of the SENCO in schools. However, it must be remembered that the ultimate responsibility for any referral or EHC application rests with the home school as we are providing an intervention and no pupil can be taken off roll or expected to remain indefinitely at the PRU pending the outcome of any assessment. We are mindful of the importance of not pre-determining the outcome of any assessment or referral and would always caution schools to bear in mind that all pupils are entitled to mainstream provision without an EHC Plan naming an alternative placement.

Where a pupil is permanently excluded, again the responsibility lies with the excluding school to initiate any processes or follow through on those in existence. We would always support and chase any referrals and contribute to documentation as part of this work. The Educational Psychology report for any pupil permanently excluded from school must be provided by the mainstream school. The PRU has a Service Level Agreement with the Local Authority for Educational Psychology support and this is, in the main, used to support statutory assessment applications. Support is time limited which can be a barrier to timely applications in some cases. However, this is not acceptable and we as an organisation will always ensure that we work closely with the Local Authority to overcome this barrier.

Once a pupil has an EHC Plan it is the responsibility of the Local Authority to name an appropriate school within a reasonable timeframe. It is not acceptable for any pupil to be left “in limbo” at the PRU as this would not be meeting their identified needs and can impact negatively on their self esteem and mental well being.

At Horizons Academy Bexley we can make provision for every kind of frequently occurring special educational need without a statement of special educational needs / Education, Health and Care Plan. Although not exclusive, this includes dyslexia, dyspraxia, speech and language needs, autism, Asperger’s syndrome, learning difficulties and behaviour difficulties. There are other kinds of special educational need which do not occur as frequently and with which the school is less familiar, but we can access training and advice so that these kinds of needs can be met. We also work closely with our mainstream colleagues to share expertise mutually.

The school also currently meets the needs of pupils with a statement of special educational need / Education, Health and Care plan on a short term basis where a child has been permanently excluded from a mainstream school. Pupils who have accessed the PRU sometimes present with the following kinds of special educational need: SEMH; ASD; ADHD; Oppositional Disorder; Conduct Disorder. Decisions on the admission of pupils with a statement of special educational need / Education, Health and Care plan are made by the Executive Head Teacher in conjunction with the Local Authority on a short term basis whilst a new school is identified. It is highly unusual for any pupil with an EHC Plan to access the PRU as it is an expectation that schools should use the emergency annual review process appropriately rather than resort to permanent exclusion.

The admission arrangements for pupils without a statement of special educational needs / Education, Health and Care Plan do not discriminate against or disadvantage disabled children or those with special educational needs. All pupils access the same induction and assessment processes, although special consideration may be given for a child whose SEN makes adjustment to new environments challenging. This does not mean that attendance can below national expectations but that staff working in the PRU are skilled in engaging and supporting pupils with anxiety and anger issues as well as pupils displaying ASD behaviours. For students who access the Refocus programme, we offer targeted in class support in literacy and numeracy lessons to ensure that withdrawal from the classroom is minimal and to promote that students are accessing quality first teaching with their peers.

For students that are on a long term placement, we offer a range of interventions which take place both in and outside of the classroom. These are delivered by a highly skilled team of which include a specialist teacher and a team of HLTA’s. 1:1 interventions include work around: social use of language, speech and language communication needs, specific learning difficulties, social skills, managing emotions and developing skills in both numeracy and literacy. For those assessed at the lower reading and spelling ages, daily "Toe by Toe" sessions are utilised in conjunction with home support and these can be followed by the "Stairway to Spelling" and "Stride Ahead" programmes. Full details of the interventions offered and assessments undertaken internally alongside referral routes are contained in our SEN Policy.