Oaklands School is a very special place; from the majestic oak tree outside the school building to the spinney at the back, it is full of nature, open spaces, and opportunities to learn. Our school building is unusual: built in a square with a garden and playground at the centre. All of our classrooms have outside space and look out onto trees and play areas. This ‘inside-outside’ aspect of the school building perfectly reflects the ‘inside-outside‘ way of living and learning at Oaklands for every member of our community, whether staff, parent or child.
The majority of pupils have a diagnosis of ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) and all have communication and interaction difficulties, which can mean the wider world is a very over-stimulating, confusing and challenging place to be. Our classrooms and whole school fabric are therefore controlled and calm, a low-arousal space to enable our children to relax and become more open to learning.
Our ’inside-outside‘ curriculum: We want all of our pupils to be confident happy children who know they have value and who have a sense of their own abilities, so a core aspect of all learning is for self awareness and awareness of others. From this self ‘inside’ knowledge, we want to engage children with the wider world outside of themselves and within our school and local community. We want our pupils to be able to communicate in whatever way or ways they are comfortable with; to have a voice and be listened to; to know that they have rights and responsibilities, and that they are entitled to learning that is fun, challenging and meaningful whatever their abilities or starting points.
The ‘outside’ aspect of our curriculum is an extensive and progressive set of ‘Independence & life skills’ learning units. These practical skills are complemented by ‘Out and About’ trips, which are
highly valued by parents and carers as we take children to parks, shops, businesses and public places on a regular basis on foot and on public transport. These are not ‘one-off’ visits but well planned outings that are repeated several times so that our children can become better acclimatised to the social and sensory challenges of particular places and activities. They are prepared for these outside events and outings through visuals, roleplay and language building inside the school so that they get the most from the experiences and develop skills that they will need in their lives.
Another ’outside‘ aspect of the Oaklands curriculum is our Spinney Sessions run in the woodland area behind the main building and in 2021-22 this will be complemented by a new programme of growing herbs, fruit and vegetables as part of our Food for Life award project.
Our ‘inside-outside’ staff team: At Oaklands we are very keen to share our expertise and to keep learning new things that we can use with our children. We share good practice and teaching & learning ideas inside the school through regular class meetings and in-house CPD. We also look outside school for inspiration and work very closely with CLASS (the City of Leicester Association of Special Schools), the local authority, the National Autistic Society (NAS) and partner schools in our Inclusion Quality Mark Centres of Excellence network. We are active members of the Challenge Partners network which is a pioneering school-led school-improvement organisation. Each year we both invite reviewers to evaluate our school and send our reviewers to assess other schools, an inside-outside system that ensures best practice is always flowing in and out of Oaklands.
We also support many schools in the city and wider a field who have autistic children in their settings. We try to include as many staff as possible in these school partnership and activities so that we are all learning all the time. On our staff, we also have a Specialist Leader in Education (SLE) Vicky Bland who was recruited by the local authority, because of her extensive expertise, to be an advisor to city schools about SEND matters.
We also work to support parents and families, both inside the school (through regular parent workshops, our Parent governor-led programme of talks, and more informally on a day-to-day basis) and outside the school through running Early Bird Plus parent courses for the local authority.
Emotional Regulation & Wellbeing
Communication, Interaction & Social Skills
Independence & Life Skills
Science & environmental education
Creativity & the Arts (includes RE)