The three special schools involved with Learning Away partnerships approached their engagement in residentials in different ways with different benefits in mind:
Sanderson High School, a special school for 11-16 year olds, is a member of the Calderglen Learning Away partnership.
- Prior to Learning Away the school was already running a well-developed and integrated programme of residentials for their students; for some young people this was integrated with a school-based course on independent living, giving them a real life context in which to apply the skills they learned in the classroom. Identifying an ideal location – an adapted Scout Camp just outside Edinburgh – made residentials much more feasible, as did support from two specialist outdoor centres (see Overview).
- The inclusive aspirations of Learning Away encouraged school staff to explore how they might include students with the most complex learning needs in challenging residentials. This strategy proved highly successful in gaining the confidence of the students, their parents, and the teaching and support staff. Since joining Learning Away, the number of nights young people at Sanderson High School spend on residentials has extended significantly.
Hallmoor School, an all-through special needs school and part of the Pilot Partnership, set out to integrate students with pupils from the other schools on the residentials.
- Students were integrated on the basis of their learning ability rather than on age. This was thought to work very well. At the same time the school benefitted from the collaborative development of curriculum resources linked to each of the three residentials.
- The personal and social development benefits were also marked. Subsequently, new curriculum approaches experienced as part of the residential programme such as script writing and video making have been introduced into classroom work and new collaborative projects such as combined sports days with the primary schools have emerged.
Charlton Park Academy is a special needs school for young people aged between 11 and 19 and is part of the Thomas Tallis Learning Away partnership in south London.
- Through Learning Away the academy aimed to extend its existing residential offer to include more students, specifically those with more complex learning and medical needs. By doing so, the academy had particular success with increasing parents’ confidence in their child’s ability to both take part in activities they had previously viewed as too risky, and in their ability to be away from home.
- There were significant impacts on this group of students too, including helpful changes to sleeping and eating patterns as well as increases in confidence, willingness to try new things, and resilience.