The Outdoors School FAQs

When is it opening?

We have now received our Ofsted approved report which has been submitted to the Department of Education and we are now awaiting our Ofsted registration number. This will lead to a commissioning process with the 0-25 team at Devon County Council, after which we will be accepting learners! We anticipate this process being completed in time for September 2019.

What age ranges do you accept?

We will be accepting learners from Key Stage 2 and 3 (ages 7-14) initially, although there are future plans to extend the provision into other key stages as we grow.

Is it full time?

Yes we will be a full time officially registered Independent Special School operating 5 days a week for the Devon County Council term time dates

Who is it for?

Our provision is specifically for SEMH and ASD provision, those learners who struggle in mainstream settings due to behavioural issues or high anxiety. We will always have a chat about the learners needs and ensure we can effectively cater for their needs before we accept a placement. We aim to break the cycle of failure many of these learners experience so making sure this is a good fit for them is really important to us.

How do I get a place?

All our places are commissioned from the 0-25 team, so learners previous settings or parents/carers will need to get in touch with the 025 team for commissioning processes. We are happy to help where we can with this process.

How much does it cost?

As places are commissioned with the local authority there will be no direct costs to the parents, however, contributions to events, trips and other things may still apply as they would with other school settings.

How do I know if the school is suitable for my child?

We will have a conversation with parents/carers and other agencies involved, as well as reviewing paperwork to help make a decision as to whether we can offer a suitable placement. We also encourage learners and others to visit the school site and see what we do first hand to make sure they know what the setting is like. It is very different from a mainstream school setting!

What does the school teach?

We have a specialist curriculum that provides first and foremost for social and emotional needs. We operate the same 3 year programme for all learners who start with us regardless of age which focusses on: Myself, Myself and Family, Myself and the Community, Myself and the Global Community, Myself and Work and Myself and Progression. After the first three years the curriculum is project based with longer and more in depth projects and qualifications as the learners progress. All the curriculum elements are assessed but are not taught separately but are incorporated into the projects meaning all learners can access all curriculum areas without fear of failure.

How many places do you have?

We are registered for 150 places

How do the sites work?

WE have 5 sites around Devon that are all registered as one school. The main provision will be in Exeter with 90 places being allocated to this site, and to Tiverton where 30 places are allocated. Tiverton will operate as an ASD specialist site although we will have ASD learners across other sites as appropriate. The other three sites, Exeter, Exmouth and Okehampton will operate as small group or 1:1 areas to help with gradual integration of learners who may not otherwise cope with larger groups or busier sites.

What are the staff ratios like?

WE will keep staff ratios high, typically we will be aiming for a minimum of 1:6 as a staff ratio to ensure all learners get the support that they need to progress and achieve. Where it is identified through the commissioning process for a place that a learner needs a 1:1 support this will also be provided.

How do I express an interest in a school place?

You can contact us directly to enquire about places and to talk further about any other queries you may have. If you want to speak to the 0-25 team about requesting a place you can contact them directly, the contact details are online, or your current school SENCo will be able to provide further details.

Is the school linked to Steiner principles in anyway? 
No. Our ethos is linked to the Forest School ethos of creating lifelong learners.

Who makes the decision for admission to the school?
The referral process will be commissioned by the 0 to 25 team, then in partnership with parents and the learner an assessment will be made on the suitability of a placement. The Outdoors school will not be suitable for every learner that is referred.

How many places are available at each site?
Our total capacity that has been agreed is 150 learners with 90 being based at our West Town Farm site, 30 learners being based at our Tiverton site which will be a dedicated ASD specialist provision. Additional places are available at our other three sites for learners who may require intensive specialist support.

Will the staff have particular training / experience with ASD / SEMH?
All staff are specialist within the field of education and support within the fields of SEMH and ASD. In addition, all staff have access to and are expected to continually develop their skills and training.

If the learner requires 1 to 1 support, how will that be managed and how will they be progressed?
Should a learner require 1-1 support this will applied through the normal EHCP process and funded in addition to the schools’ annual fees.

If my child already has an OT in place, how will that be supported / integrated? 
If your child has an Occupational Therapist (OT) in place, this is separate to the school placement, this means that they will be able to continue to meet with their OT as before. If dates and times are discussed with The Outdoors School, we will do all we can to ensure these appointments can be met or rearranged to best suit the learners.

Which site will my child be placed at and how is it determined, by geography, staff expertise or learners needs?
Learners are predominately placed based on needs however travel distance will also be a factor when looking at appropriate placement.

Can a learner’s current 1 to 1 support worker move with them or support their transition?
Due to contractual constraints learners current one to one support in general would not move establishments with them however, we would provide an intensive outreach and handover period to promote smooth transition.

The schools current age limit is 14, are there plans to increase the upper age limit? 
Yes. We have plans to apply to deliver education within key stage 4 and eventually key stage 5. It has not been determined when.

What is your safe holding policy? Do you provide safe spaces?
During the first term all learners establish their own safe space as part of the curriculum which over the terms / years will develop into learning communities.
Our policy of physical intervention is that this must always be used as a last resort, all staff have received appropriate training and our grounds for physical intervention will be on the basis of safety, physical danger to self and others.

Is it possible for the learner to have a day visit or taster session?
Yes please contact our main email address to arrange a visit.

Will you aim to dovetail with mainstream schools to help identify the students that are suited the outdoors school?
As the school role grows, we will be able to provide consultancy and support to schools looking to place learners with us. But referral will always be through the 0-25 team.

When do you intend to open?
We are waiting for Ofsted to complete their independent schools pre-opening inspection, as soon as they have visited, we will update all those that have shown an interest.

Do you follow term dates?
Yes, we will follow the Devon County Council published term dates.

What happens if I request this school and they say no?
As the school places are funded directly through a commissioning process with the 0-25 team a refusal for a place is largely out of The Outdoors Schools hands. The local authority do have an appeals process and where appropriate The Outdoors School can offer signposting and advice to help with this process

My child is very aware of being treated differently, how is that managed?
The Outdoors School is a learning community and we are all different in many different ways, every learner will have access to the same core support, our community ethos will empower learners to accept differences and see these differences in a positive light.

What if each of the learner’s parents disagree with each other about the best provision?
We would be guided by the EHCP and the 0-25 team however, it is essential that all parents, carers and learners buy into out wrap around ethos and provision.

There is a very clear gender divide weighted to boys, how will that be managed?
With the nature of specialist provision often male learners will outnumber female learners. We will actively challenge negative stereotypes and within our staff team we have a range of female lead instructors who will be able to provide effective and positive role models.

My child has difficulty dressing etc and currently staff are not allowed to help. What will your policy be for this?
As with any provision our support is tailored for each individual learner, we as a company have an intimate care policy and should the need be identified for additional support we will ensure this is planned for by providing  training for staff and include details of support needed within the learners individual learning plan.

How will you keep everyone informed of progress?

We will be sending regular updates on progress to everyone on the mailing list, as well as through social media. We will do our best to keep you as up to date as we can throughout the process of opening the school.

I’m interested in further information about the process, its all so confusing! Where do I go?

If the whole process of dealing with schools, TAF meetings, EHCP and the 0-25 team is just too much, we are happy to help where we can. We can’t promise answers as every case is slightly different, but we have a lot of experience in this area and are happy to signpost where possible. Another really valuable source of information is DIAS who have an excellent website and some really top quality advisors.

I’m interested in working for you at The Outdoors School. How do I express an interest?

We will be advertising any vacancies for the school as and when they arise so please keep an eye on our social media channels and website for news of these. In the meantime, our Principal, Calvin Thain, has written a letter to all prospective employees, explaining his ethos and vision for the school. If you are interested in working for us, please read it before applying for any roles. You can do so here.


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