The Outdoors School is an independent special school that accepts learners onto places that are commissioned by the local authority. In order to have a place commissioned it is likely that your child will have gone through a difficult time in mainstream school and will also have an EHC Plan. Places are commissioned for learners who are at high risk of permanent exclusion from a mainstream setting, or who have already been excluded and are being educated in alternative provision currently. It is also possible that your child has no formal education at present or that they are being home educated. For those wanting advice on EHCP for home education learners please see our advice page on this topic.
So what would a journey to a place at the Outdoors School look like?
Your child has been struggling at a mainstream setting, possibly they have had several fixed term exclusions or are at risk of permanent exclusion because of their behaviour, possibly they have a diagnosis for a learning or other disability which is contributing to the mainstream setting not being able to support them effectively or meet their needs. It is likely this process of exclusions or behavioural problems has triggered assessments and an EHC Plan. Hopefully it has resulted in funding for 1:1 support or other alternative provision help for your child, although this is far from guaranteed.
If it is identified at this stage that the school are not able to meet the needs of the learner then this should be reflected in the annual review of the EHCP, which could lead to identified action in the form of additional support, alternative provision such as forest school, play therapy, THRIVE or others, as well as targeted help for speech and language or other SEND provisions. It may also fund 1:1 support within the school.
If these measures have not been successful it is likely that the school is not a suitable setting for your child and does not meet their needs effectively. If the Educational Psychologist or other professionals involved in the EHCP review process agree that mainstream provision is not suitable then the 0-25 team will begin to look at other independent school settings for your child. More likely however is that the interventions have not helped sufficiently and your child is permanently excluded and will be placed in a Pupil Referral Unit or other similar setting whilst a more permanent alternative setting is found for them by a local authority.
It is at this stage when alternative settings are being explored that you as a parent are able to name the setting you would like them to consider. If that is the Outdoors School then a meeting with us to look around and discuss your child’s needs can be arranged and help and support through the process can be offered should you need it. This process of finding a school placement suitable for your child can be a long and stressful one so be prepared to have to dig into some reserves of resiliency to get through it all.
If the local authority agree with you that the placement is the right one for your child then they will complete referral paperwork and commissioning procedures with the Outdoors School to secure a place for your child. We have three intakes a year with an interview and induction process at the end of each term leading to the start point the following term. During any waiting period between acceptance and starting at the school we try to work with the parents the schools and the local authority to provide as effective a transition period as we can for your child, and we have the option of providing 1:1 intervention days at our setting to help familiarise learners with the school and the staff as part of the process.
Of course there are no guarantees that these steps will be smoothly taken one after another and the process can be a long, frustrating and distressing one. There is help out there so make the most of the support where you can. DIAS is a great first point of call for any issues or advice and guidance, and specialist solicitors like Douglas Silas are on hand should you need to go to tribunal at any point during the process.
Outdoors School staff will also be on hand to help as much as possible through the process and will be as supportive as they can at any point. Please feel free at any point to get in touch and we will do our best to help where we can.
Find out more information about the school by visiting the webpage
Author: Shevek Pring, Director of The Outdoors Group
Date: 15 May 2019